Cocktails are fun, but you can’t live on them alone. There’s also wine – the stuff we drink in between the pre-dinner cocktail and the digestif. Seriously, most of the alcohol floating around this household is a grape derived product. Two notable ones crossed the palate last week. Both were under $10. Worth seeking out: 2006 Cave de Saumur “La Réserve des Vignerons” blanc. This is the basic bottling from a cooperative located in Saumur along the Loire river in central France. Made from Chenin blanc it was crisp, bone dry, with light fruit flavors that held up just fine into the second night after opening (bottle recorked and stuck in the fridge). Saumur is one of Asheville’s sister cities, so you can bring that up. Greenlife has it, French section, bottom shelf, to the left. $8.99. This link should take you to a translated version of the web site: click here

The French wine cooperatives began at the start of the last century. They were formed by groups of growers who banded together to preserve and hopefully improve the value of their crops. They quickly began sharing equipment to make wine, therby further increasing the value of their farm production. Unfortunately many were driven by volume – the more grapes grown, the more wine made, the more wine sold – and quality suffered.  Now there are many cooperatives across France that have taken a step back to focus on improving the quality of their wines as the means of increasing value for their members. Good for us too. To the Caves de Samur, I would add the Société Cooperative de Castelmaure in Corbières. They have a really enjoyable red named Grande Cuvée that the Asheville Wine Market carries every year. Haven’t seen it yet this season, but they do have a lesser bottling (Clos des Vents) from the co-op that might be worth checking out.

Another treat for us this past week was the 2008 Domaine Houchart Rosé. This one is $10 at the Asheville Wine Market, $8.60 after we went a little overboard and got the case discount. It comes from Provence, the home of rosé. Another great one to drink chilled on a hot summer day.

Just an aside: I’ve noticed a lot of 2007 rosés on shelves around town. Rosé is (IMO) best when fresh. Use the vintage date as a kind of freshness dating and just buy last year’s wine. They begin hitting stores in late April. I never got into the Beaujolais thing, but I do keep an eye out for the arrival of south of France rosés each spring. The older ones may suffer from a dimunition in flavor, so they should be marked down to clear them out.


Update August 2009 – Greenlife now has the 2008 vintage of the Saumur in stock. Very consistent tasting notes to the 06 and still a keeper.