“The Sea Breeze” may seem a strange name for a wine. But, in the case of Château La Négly’s La Brise Marine (to give the wine its French title), it’s not just a piece of marketing, there is definitely a reason behind it. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that, without the cooling effect on the vines of the winds from the sea, this wine could never have been made – certainly not in the lovely aromatic, crisp style we found when we opened a bottle recently (available from Corks or Grape and Grind, around £16).
Let me explain. La Brise Marine is from vineyards near Narbonne in the Languedoc, that delightful, sun-drenched part of southern France. However, summer temperatures here can top 40°C (104°F); indeed, a couple of years ago, a new French record high of 46°C (close to 115°F) was set in a village not far to the east of La Négly’s vineyards. At these temperatures, vines struggle and often shut down completely to protect themselves. The one saving factor is often a cooling sea breeze so, having vineyards in the Appellation of La Clape, less than 10 miles from the Mediterranean, allows La Brise Marine to be produced and the unusual naming reflects this.
La Clape is an unusual limestone outcrop that was once an island (in fact, as recently as Roman times) and is quite distinct from the area surrounding. Unsurprisingly with the climate, most of the wines from here are reds – Grenache and Syrah dominating – but La Brise Marine is a white made from a blend of an ancient local grape variety, Bourboulenc, together with 2 imports from the southern Rhône Valley, Roussanne and Clairette.
Together they make a satisfying, quite full-bodied dry white with ripe pear and peach flavours and perhaps even a slightly saline tang – or am I just dreaming of the sea?
I’m continuing the theme I began last time in my Bristol Wine Blog: that, with a thoughtful choice of food and wine, you can bring back wonderful memories of places you’ve been, even when the present situation means that you can’t stray far from home. Today, my virtual trip brings us back from Greece to somewhere a little closer to the UK.
Temperatures in Bristol a couple of weeks ago rose above 30°C (close to 90°F for those more comfortable with that scale), so it wasn’t difficult to imagine ourselves somewhere overlooking the Mediterranean – the south of France, perhaps. The fish markets there always have the most amazing choice of fresh fish and we particularly enjoy tuna. So, when our local travelling fishmonger arrived this week with some tempting looking steaks in the back of his van, what else could I open to accompany them but a bottle of Côte de Provence Rosé?
M de Minuty (Majestic, £12.99) is that beautiful, delicate shade of pale orangey pink you find in so many southern French rosés and, although the flavours are quite subtle, matching the colour, the wine is in no way bland. It opens with an appealing, fragrant, floral nose and a real herby richness on the palate follows through – this is from a relatively warm climate and boasts 13% alcohol after all. Made with a typical blend of local grapes including Grenache, Cinsault and the much less well-known Tibouren, this is fresh and clean with lovely crushed strawberry flavours and a long savoury finish. Ideal for drinking on its own, well chilled, as an aperitif but with the body and fullness to accompany our tuna or other similarly flavoursome dishes.
Enjoying the combination outdoors on our terrace on a bright, warm sunny evening, we could easily imagine we were somewhere exotic. Sadly, even though there is a move to allow travel to certain destinations soon, our own caution means that foreign trips are still on hold for the present.
But we have our memories and tasty pan-fried tuna accompanied by a delicious Rosé from Provence help keep them alive.