Those of us looking for yet another excuse to celebrate independence will round out our July holiday revelry by observing France’s Independence Day equivalent, La Fête Nationale – aka, in the U.S., Bastille Day – on July 14.
The French among us (and the French at heart) look forward to enjoying some French food and wines to celebrate the storming of the Bastille in 1789 on that day.
In France, there will be firemen’s balls, parties and picnics at Versailles. And, of course, those parties and picnics will include wine. Here are some suggestions to help you enjoy your own celebration of French freedom this month – right on our own true-blue U.S. soil – with wine.
Many Frenchmen and Frenchwomen celebrate Bastille Day with red wine. But Washingtonians usually prefer something lighter in the middle of July. Any occasion instantly becomes a celebration when a little sparkling wine is served. Audrey Hepburn said, “Paris is always a good idea” – and so is something bubbly!
You can never go wrong with a bottle of true Champagne from France, like a bottle of Bollinger. If you want to take your celebrating to a higher level, go for a bottle of traditional vintage French bubbles like Bollinger Grande Année 2004. Bollinger always gets high marks from wine raters. (Most of the big Champagne houses usually do because of the high standards of quality and consistency.) Bollinger’s 2004 vintage doesn’t disappoint.
But if your celebrating gets a little out of hand – and someone decides he or she wants to celebrate the storming by shaking up the bottle and spraying it at your party guests like they have won the Tour de France – you might want to encourage use of a non-vintage bottle, one that costs less than Grande Année 2004 at $130.
If you want to try a French sparkling wine that is just as festive and delicious, as well as a little different, try Lucien Albrecht Rose Cremant d’Alsace Non-Vintage. The coral/light pink/salmon color will entice you. It’s made of 100% Pinot Noir, after all. But it is bursting with refreshing strawberry and red plum flavors.
I opened of bottle of it about two weeks ago and couldn’t finish it, so I put a stopper on it and put it in the refrigerator. Two weeks later, I remembered it and pulled it out for a taste, just knowing that it had since gone flat. Normally, Champagnes and sparkling wine turn flat after several days, even with a Champagne saver stopper on the neck. However, this bottle still had fizz and finesse – not sparkling like the day it was opened, but a pleasantly surprising amount. Longevity is a definite plus for a sparkling wine.
Go for Bordeaux…But Bordeaux Blanc
The Pessac-Léognan region produces some of the best dry white Bordeaux. Most whites of the region contain 70% Sauvignon Blanc, expressing a range of floral and perfume aromas and honey, citrus, lemon, grapefruit, mineral and spice flavors. The best white wines from the region can age for decades. Try Château de Fieuzal Blanc 2004, 2012 or 2013.
Party with Beaujolais…But Not Nouveau This Time, Please
Do you still want a red wine to toast independence here and in France, but even the thought of something heavy on the palate when it’s 90 degrees outside makes you sweat? Then try a traditional Beaujolais. Made from the thin-skinned Gamay grape, Beaujolais has the flavor profile of a red wine, with its red-berry fruit flavors, without the tannin or the heaviness of heartier reds.
I always think of Beaujolais as a teenager. The wines, like the kids, show some signs of maturing but don’t take themselves too seriously. They are great picnic, BBQ or outdoor party wines. The region is best known to Americans for Beaujolais Nouveau, but you will find more complexity and sophistication venturing beyond the fruity, banal Nouveau.
Producing wines since 1859, the House of Louis Jadot is almost as old as the French Revolution. The Morgon Ch. des Jacques 2011 shows promise for easy drinking up through 2015. And at approximately $19, you can stock up for your next year’s celebration. Tip: Get hold of some 2009 while you’re at it if you like this style of wine.
*Shari Sheffield is a wine, food and lifestyle writer as well as a Wine Educator and speaker. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on her website: www.sharisheffield.com*