Age-Worthy Wine


Under the right conditions, great wine will only improve with age. How much improvement, how long to age, what will appear, what will disappear, are all mysteries. To some this is infuriating, but to others it is all the more exciting. When everything comes together, it is like an orchestra performing in prefect unison. Aging wine requires old-fashioned values: patience and delayed gratification.

My dream is to buy all the great wines, age them for you, and have a retail shop filled with past vintages long gone from the market. Trouble is, it requires an enormous amount of cash up front, a decade or so with no revenue, and then cross your fingers and hope customers want what you’ve set aside for them.

In the meantime, the best I can do is set a few things aside for a future you, and encourage present day you to set some things aside for yourself. Let’s forget the collector’s angle and the people you read about in the news selling their cellars for millions of dollars. We should be aging wine to drink - to enjoy! I’d like to point out solid wines from great producers with long legacies that will stand the test of time…. And you can afford them!
This will be an on-going series where we discuss what is required to age wine, what one should expect and of course, many of the great and affordable wines from our inventory. Here is an obvious place to start:

2011 Domaine de Fontsainte Corbiéres Rouge “Réserve la Demoiselle” $17

This Languedoc red comes from an ancient vineyard, quite literally the thoroughbred of the Corbiéres. I first heard about the Demoiselle vineyard in Kermit Lynch’s 1988 memoir Adventures on the Wine Route:

“The twelve-acre Demoiselles vineyard rolls down like a carpet from a hilltop crowned with forest much like Le Corton. It is 80 percent Carignan, 10 percent Grenache noir, 10 percent a mélange of ancient varieties, including Mourvèdre The entire vineyard consists of seventy- to eighty-year-old vines!”

Those eighty-year-old vines in 1988 are now nearly one hundred-years-old. Imagine the extraordinarily low production of such ancient vines, and then imagine the concentration of terroir, the complete expression of a place in the bottle. Demoiselles is rich without being overwhelming, spicy without feeling one bit artificial or over-oaked. Perhaps I’m simply having a craving for a plate of mole negro, but as I write and swirl the Fontsainte in my glass, beautiful aromas of dried red ancho chilies, garden fresh tomatoes and a very real presence of fire-roasted meat, like when the rendered fat drops onto the hot coals and flares up.

It is pure pleasure and I am personally grateful to the stewards of this historic site because of the joy it delivers every vintage, and it is a serious bargain! This wine will age nicely over the next ten years, and you can actually afford to collect a few of them to enjoy in the future.


Rosé & Paella


Today’s high remained safely below 100 degrees and from this point forward our local climate looks to be improving each and every day. All the more reason to drink rosé. When the rest of American is downing rosé, I personally avoid the great outdoors, but by October I can’t seem to stay inside. One must not drink rosé exclusively outdoors, but it does improve the experience.

Many retailers and restaurants around town will begin to deplete their rosé offerings, but we’ve actually increased them at French Grocery. We know that many of you are like us, and are reemerging from your summer hibernation to cook over an open fire, dine al fresco, and watch a sunset - hopefully with a glass of rosé in your hand.

Below is a list of some new offerings you would not have seen if you last shopped for rosé for the 4th of July or even Labor Day. But before that, I will whet your appetite with some food talk.

My favorite meal to cook outdoors is Paella. There is little better pairing for rosé, and cooking over an open fire not only enhances the experience, but the smoke subtly improves the whole dish. Its descendent from Louisiana, Jambalaya, is a favorite version of mine from back home. I like to cook Paella with those familiar Creole spices and cured meats (andouille and tasso), but I prefer the Paella pilaf-style of rice cooked shallow over a large surface area, rather than piled high in a cauldron, which finishes sticky like Jambalaya. The result will be a blend of crispy browned rice at the bottom and fluffy rice on the top. I’ll give you a rough outline and you can fill in with your preferred spices and ingredients.

Start your fire early and preheat your great big paella pan. Brown cut-up chicken (skin-on) in olive oil with Spanish chorizo or other sausage. Remove the meat after it’s nicely browned but before it’s fully cooked. Sautee onions, celery, red bell pepper and lots of garlic in the oil and bits left in the pan. The aromas will really be getting the neighbors’ attention now.

Add rice and stir to coat each grain in the oil. There are traditional Spanish varieties, but don’t worry too much; Basmati and Jasmine are great, but any variety you have will work. Deglaze with a bit of that rosé you’re drinking and then add chicken stock or shellfish stock. It’s best if you’ve steeped some saffron in your stock ahead of time, but if not add saffron at this point. Add your meat back to the rice, bring to a light simmer, and add shrimp and mussels to the top. Green peas are traditional, and green onion and lemons make a terrific garnishment as well.

Cover, wait and drink more rosé.  Serve the whole pan on the table and let your guests dig in. Bon appétit!