Hippo Manchester
November 10, 2005

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Wine: Our French friends — really

French favors: Statue of Liberty, low cost Bordeaux

By Tim Protzman   tprotzman@hotmail.com

I drink French wine.

I know it’s not politically popular but don’t make me into a traitor because I sip a little Vieux Chateau Certan every now and then. What might be necessary for most Americans is a little historical perspective on the on-again, off-again Anglo-Franco relationship. Then perhaps we’d be amusingly dismayed, rather than hopping mad, about their quirky behavior.

• In 1704 French soldiers raided and burned Deerfield, Mass. (They were drinking rum, so wine is blameless).

• They attacked George Washington during the French and Indian War, killing his commanding general.

• Napoleon sold us Louisiana while on a Burgundy bender. He truly loved the wines of Chambertin.

• Then they gave us the Statue of Liberty. But we had to assemble it ourselves.

• In both world wars, we sent troops to France, where they were plied with champagne and cognac and treated as heroes.

The French are like your younger brother who takes you out to a strip bar and gets you drunk and then scratches your car on the way home. You’re mad, but hey, it’s family. In time, we’ll find ourselves amused with them again.

In the meantime, I take comfort in two things, the story of Martine and Joe, and the 2000 Bordeaux harvest. Joe is American. Martine is French. On Sept. 11, 2001, they were living in Paris. Parisians are not the easiest people to get to know, and aside from a perfunctory “bon jour,” they said little to Joe. But on that day, Joe and Martine found the hallway outside their apartment filled with flowers and candles. Baked goods and gifts of sympathy arrived for days. Like the candles and the Statue of Liberty, the phenomenal Bordeaux vintage is a gift. Plus, because of economic conditions, good Bordeaux is affordable. Not only was the 2000 harvest great, but there was an abundance of grapes, which found their way into second- and third-label bottles of the great wine producers. (France’s Appellation d’ Origine Controlle limits the amount of grapes a classified vineyard can turn in a certain wine, and the excess often ends up in the other labels.)

Here are some outstanding wines from the 2000 harvest.

• La Chenade- Lalande de Pomerol — This Denis Durantou-crafted wine presents full fruit with little tannins. A great blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, malbec and cabernet franc that is rich in elderberry and slight chocolate taste tones. $12.99.

• Chateau Menaut-Graves — I rarely drink white Bordeaux, and the smell of mold on the cork was overwhelming. But the flavors were fruity, plus butterscotch and pears; this wine delivered more than I expected. $10.49.

• Chateau Cambom La Pelouse- Haut Medoc — 50 percent merlot, 35 percent cabernet sauvignon and 15 percent cabernet franc. Tangy with softly nuanced fruit and the unmistakable approachability of merlot. $17.99.

• Chateau Potensac-Medoc — Dry, austere and full of might. Has all the dark, brooding power of a sea storm. Brandied cherry fruit with elderberry taste notes.$29.99

• Roc Du Bel Air- Bordeaux Superieur from Medoc — A merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cab franc blend. Jammy and low in tannins but not a great deal of depth; great price though, $11.99.