It may be a long time before many of us travel to Europe. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take a ‘trip’, exploring wine producing areas and countries.
Though the ‘international’ style of wine has taken hold in the ‘New and Old World’, the wines of many European regions still evoke a sense of place.
If you allow them to, these wines will transport you to places like the hills of Tuscany or France’s sunny Rhone Valley. I’m sure just mentioning these areas bring certain images to mind.
For me, it’s virtually impossible to look at a bottle of Rose without images of the French Cote d Azur popping into my head.
A glass of wine is a quick way to visit or re-visit some of the most beautiful places on the planet.
Let’s explore ways to ‘travel’ without having to pack your bags. Full disclosure – I’m writing this while enjoying a bottle of wine from Puglia, Italy. We’ve cancelled plans to go there this fall, but pulling up images of the region sent me on my way!
There a couple of broad approaches to consider; the easiest may be picking an area or region where you have visited. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve gone to their ‘wine country’ or not. You’ll get there virtually.
Alternatively, you could pick a place you want to visit. The wine ‘trip’ will provide some background you’ll find useful when you physically visit.
After you’ve decided where to go, the fun begins; choosing a bottle. Given both the popularity as a travel destination and the copious amounts of wine we drink from France, let’s run through an example with a French wine.
Let’s travel to the south, to a region known as The Southern Rhone. Zeroing further in, we’ll pick a commune known as Chateauneuf du Pape. It is one of the more well-known wines in America and is made from the grapes of the region – Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre.
A good place to ‘depart’ from is the name of the region itself. In the US, we tend to use a grape varietal to identify a wine; Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, etc. It’s useful but it tells you nothing about the place the wine comes from.
European wines rarely mention the varietal. The wines are labeled by the place the grapes are grown. A simple Google search of the name of the region will provide you with an idea of where it is on a map and a little bit of information on the place.
In this case, Chateauneuf du Pape, is interesting in a historical way. The name roughly means, ‘The New Castle of the Pope.’ When the Catholic Church split in the fourteenth century, the French popes took up residency in Avignon. (A picture of the walled city is above) The second pope to live there built a castle about seven miles away and the area became know as Chateauneuf du Pape.
You can pull up images of the area to get a visual of it and go as deep as you want. Or simply look at images of Paris and picture yourself sipping your wine at a sidewalk café as you people watch.
But don’t forget the wine! Look for images of the vineyards of Chateauneuf du Pape and get an idea of what the soil is made composed of.
You can use this ‘trip’ to improve your wine tasting ability as well. Look up the main flavor profiles, in this case, rich raspberry and plum flavors. You may notice the absence of an oaky flavor as most producers use concrete and stainless-steel vats for fermentation and old oak barrels for ageing. Having a cue on the flavor profile it may help you put into words what you’re tasting.
Another fun thing to do is to look at the year the wine was made and use that to bring up memories of a trip you may have taken that year. As we’re all aware, the internet is full of resources to explore a place. Just do it with a glass of wine!
Dan Petrosini is an international best-selling novelist. His most recent release is Dangerous Revenge.