WHAT: Many wine drinkers know about the famous French wines of Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Rhone. Unfortunately, the best of those wines carry hefty price tags that keep most of us from drinking them.
But that’s no reason to give up on French wine. There are great wines from lesser-known producers and great wines form lesser-known regions. You just have to be willing to try some new things.
I’m glad I tried the Cercius White because it is a versatile wine at a good price. You could serve it with a fancy dinner or enjoy it on the back porch with friends. It’s a bright, refreshing wine, loaded with flavors, including melon, citrus and a mineral taste that I love with white wines.
It’s a light straw color, produced from 70 percent Grenache Blanc and 30 percent Sauvignon Blanc. The wine is aged on the lees in large concrete eggs. I first saw such eggs at Chappellet in Napa Valley where they had brought one in from France as an experiment. Winemakers say the concrete produces a purer flavor than stainless steel or oak.
The wine’s name comes from the Latin word for the legendary mistral wines of Provence that sweep through the vines and out to the Mediterranean Sea. The 25-year-old vines are at the southern edge of the Rhone Valley near Nimes. The appellation is Costieres de Nimes.
The label also features a beautiful stylized drawing of a grapevine with roots going deep into the soil.
WINERY: Cercius is a project of Michel Glassier, Philippe Cambie and Eric Solomon. One good way to find French wines is to identify an importer who brings in wines you like.
Eric Solomon is one of those importers with a great reputation. He imports wine from Spain, France, Portugal and Switzerland.
After extensive work in the wine trade, he started his company European Cellars in 1989, focusing on wines of southern France. He was named Food and Wine Magazine’s top U.S. importer of 2007.
On the Web site of Eric Solomon Selections it says, “As an importer, we wish all our wines to speak distinctly of a place – that their expression is one of that particular locale, unobscured by winemaking interventions (but sometimes enhanced by them?).”
Solomon, who lives in Charlotte, told Charlotte Taste Magazine, “Being a wine importer is a bit like being a talent scout. You taste a lot of forgettable wines looking for that one that really moves you. But I loved the thrill of recognizing raw talent and bringing it into the marketplace.”
The Cercius white certainly is one of those rare finds.
GOES WITH: I served this with ginger garlic shrimp, sauteed in olive oil with parsley and red pepper flakes, served over pasta. The bright citrus fruit flavors calmed the heat of the shrimp perfectly. And the Sauvignon Blanc in the mix gave it just the right mineral zest.
This would go well with many kinds of fish, chicken, spicy foods and hard cheeses. It also makes a nice aperitif.