A neighbor down the road in the next village over, when we spent time at the cottage in the Aude, was a British expat named Mike. Once, when the subject turned to wine and he heard what we were routinely paying in the US, I thought he needed oxygen. I allowed as how we figured a ten-dollar bottle of wine was good for a no-guilt mid-week meal, but a nice California cabernet was going to be about twenty bucks. I thought he was going to pass out. Mike was completely ignorant of California wines. He had never tasted anything from California. His wine experience was completely French.
“Mate,” he gasped, “I never spend more than four or five euros, max. Never!”
I was skeptical. At the time, the exchange rate for a euro was about $1.10, so we’re talking four to five dollars a bottle. But he was right. There are wines that are never exported to the US, from regions of France the average American does not think of when talking about wine, producing perfectly drinkable wine that is ridiculously inexpensive.
The Languedoc produces more wine than any other region in France, but it is sold almost exclusively in Europe. What isn’t sold in France as vin ordinaire, by the carafe in restaurants as “vin de pays”, winds up being sold in Eastern Europe. It’s not grand cru by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s perfectly drinkable, especially with food.
On our next visit the following year, I wanted to bring a nice, representative bottle of American wine for Mike. I brought a California Cabernet Sauvignon–a big, lusty cab. Karen often describes the French wines she likes best, in particular bordeaux, as Audrey Hepburn, compared to Mae West California cabs. I gifted the bottle to Mike, who was appalled at the price, around $23 if I remember correctly. Next morning I got a phone call.
“WHOA, MATE! That wine was In-Your-Face!” I’m guessing he wasn’t expecting Mae West. What I wasn’t expecting was how good the wine here is for the price, which brings me to rosé.
I prefer red wines, Beloved Wife generally prefers whites. Neither of us would buy rosé in the US, because in our experience they are overpriced and don’t taste very good. Rosés will cost anywhere from twelve to twenty dollars a bottle, and they mostly taste anywhere from “meh” to “truly meh.” Yummy is not a word we’ve heard or said about rosés in the US, even the ones from France. Even our French friends living in the US have few good things to say about those rosés.
All that changed when we got here and I became a rosé slut. I discovered Rosé D’Anjou and Cabernet D’Anjou, two of the most delicious, enjoyable, dare I say it? yummy, rosés you will ever experience. It is the most delicious rosé I’ve ever tasted, and it sells for about four euros a bottle. Four euros! It is unbelievable.
We really go through a lot of it. At four euros a bottle, we’re saving money with every sip!
At the epicerie around the corner I buy so much of it that the other day as I walked past the shelf, Mauricio told me, “That’s the last bottle of the rosé you like.” I didn’t know if he meant it was the last one I’d ever see again, or just until the next delivery, so I didn’t take any chances. I grabbed it. He meant until the next delivery.
We have to take our glass, cans and paper to the recycling station here in the village. I have taken to going at night when it’s less likely I’ll be seen hauling all of the empty rosé bottles, lest they think the Americans are winos. It’s kind of embarrassing.’’