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How to Shop for Wine in the South of France

See Part 1 of Clarice's travel series: How I Learned to Bake French Bread in the South of France

One of the most fun things to do on a trip to Southern France is shop for wine. This visit my husband Howard, my friend Richard Perle, and I were lucky to be accompanied on this joyous task by Sheral Schowe, a wine educator from Park City, Utah, who is a certified French wine scholar and teacher at Wasatch Academy of Wine.

In my opinion, the lovely wines of the southern Rhone were long undervalued, though now more people are acquainted with some of the fine offerings of the region: Beaumes de Venise, Vacqueyras, Gigondas, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Rasteau, Cairanne, and Seguret.

But even if you’ve grown to appreciate these wines, you may not be as familiar with the wines actually consumed here in the summer. You won’t want to miss out should you visit or if you care to experience these at home in warm weather -- so please, let me take a minute to tell you about them.

It gets quite hot here and people tend to eat lighter food in summer than they do elsewhere in France — lots of fruits and vegetables, cold soups, the famous salad nicoise, and goat cheeses. Wine, which complements these foods, is rosé. It’s not the rosé of my youth — a sweet, unpleasant plonk. Rather, it is a light wine, served chilled. There are basically two kinds of it produced here. Vat pressed is a light wine produced much as champagne is in that the grapes are lightly pressed and then the skin and seeds are separated out before fermentation. Gigondas produces this kind using cinsault and grenache grapes. The second type is saignee, which is treated more like a traditional red wine in that the stems and skins are also crushed before fermentation, but the resulting juice is bled off before the skins turn the wine red. Domaine du Gour de Chaulé makes this type.

There is a certain bottle with a very tapered neck called a “skittle” in which much, but not all, of this wine is sold.