Saturday, December 4, 2010

It's A C&C Christmas

Did I mention in the last posts that the party season has arrived? If I didn't, I should have because this is like the third Christmas party this week. Hopefully (and I rather mean it), things are going to slow down soon. It's great to be able to continually add new bottles to The List, but I can't seem to find any time to actually blog them.

Oh well, no chance of missing the office party - particularly since I've been tasked with putting together some seasonal tunes for the evening. A task, I might add, that I took quite seriously (at 11 p.m. last night). But, as tempting as it might have been, I did not add "I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas" to the playlist. I do love that song.

Our party this year was held at one of the local French bistros. So, it's not too surprising that all the wines were French. The wines for the evening were four in number - two whites and two reds. I never did get to the whites. It may not have been a work night, but I still had to behave. All those stories about too much at the office party can prove to be somewhat embarrassing. Best to stay away from that in my humble opinion.

664. 2009 Domaine Gayda Three Winds Syrah (Vins de Pays d'Oc - France)

665. 2008 Maison Maurel Vedeau Les Cepages Pinot Noir (Vins de Pays d'Oc - France)

I couldn't find much information on either wine; so, it might make just as much sense to serve up a mini-post on Vins de Pays d'Oc seeing as both bottles were from the that part of France. Quality wines in France are largely regulated by the appellation - or Appellation d'Origine Controllee - system. Vins de Pays wines, or "country wines," primarily find themselves in a middle ground between AOC wines and generic table wines. The VdP system allows wineries to produce wines that can be distinguished as being made from particular varietals and from a specific region; however, they neither have to comply with strict appellation rules, nor designate their wines as basic vin de table.

There are five traditional Vins de Pays regions in France and, as such, the wines produced are still associated with particular areas; however, the regions covered are much larger than standard AOC districts and are, in fact, often broken down into smaller VdP districts. The Vins de Pays d'Oc is a good example in that the region encompasses the entire Languedoc-Roussillon, which itself contains over 30 separate AOC appellations.

An immediate example of the more lenient VdP regulations is that the Maison Maurel Vedeau wine couldn't have been marketed as anything other than a table wine since the AOC rules don't allow the production of Pinot Noir in the Languedoc-Rousillon appellations. Similarly, the labelling practices are also far less regulated. Typical AOC wines would never be labeled - like these two wines - as Syrah or Pinot Noir.

Originally, Vins de Pays wines were generally seen as inferior to AOC wines; however, the last couple decades have seen producers recognizing that they need to make make a higher quality wine to meet world expectations and the burgeoning competition coming from newer regions. Those producers have also recognized that most New World winemakers and most of the global market have taken to identifying wine by varietal - not by its place of origin. Not many of today's consumers know that red wines from Burgundy will be either Pinot Noir or Gamay Noir - let alone that the Cote d'Or is home to many of Burgundy's most famous vineyards.

The flip side of Burgundian restrictions is that, nowadays, there are thirty or more varietals being grown in Languedoc-Rousillon. It's, therefore, pretty much imperative that the wineries have the VdP freedom to label their wines by varietal - especially since over half of the region's wines are produced for export.

As much as there was a fair bit of red wine enjoyed at the party, I can safely say that we didn't spend the evening discussing appellation requirements or changes in the French winemaking scene. Rather, it was more of a chance to see folks all "dolled up" and talking about upcoming seasonal plans. The opportunity to leave the office behind was great fun - even if this year didn't involve any Bollywood dancing with the annual "turning the lightbulb and patting the dog." Must have been the guy in charge of the music.

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