Tasting wine with Arnaud de la Chanonie by Andrea Ratuski

Tasting wine with Arnaud de la Chanonie"French people cannot think of wine without cuisine and cannot think of cuisine without wine."

Arnaud de la Chanonie is setting out a succulent dish of cabbage and duck while his wife, Isabelle, clears away the fresh salad of fennel, apple and thinly-sliced raw beets we’ve just finished. He has carefully selected wines to accompany each dish. Arnaud is a wine merchant in Provence, living in the tiny hilltop village of La Roque-sur-Pernes, and runs a wine shop in the lively Marché de la Gare in Pernes-les-Fontaines. He also represents a number of wineries in the region and distributes them around the world, mostly to Asia.

 

He elaborates on the relationship between wine and cuisine, on the wonderful combination of the culture of food and wine in France — of people enjoying a meal with friends and family.

 

"It’s something you enjoy and you savour," he says.

 

"It’s about creating a magical synergy that elevates the wine and the cuisine to a higher level, about emphasizing flavours and creating a beautiful combination."

 

This is the Ventoux area, a place that formerly put more emphasis on producing a large quantity of wine, rather than quality. But that has all changed. There are new, younger producers making exciting wines, mostly from Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre grapes — at affordable prices.

 

Tasting wine with Arnaud de la Chanonie 2

 

By contrast, nearby is the oldest appellation of France, Chateauneuf- du-Pape, celebrated around the world (thanks in part to well-known wine writers in America). The vines are more than 100 years old, pushing deep into the impossibly rocky soil, fed by rains from nearby Mont Ventoux and the sandy soil of the Rhône river, adding to the complexity of the wine. It’s a deep heritage, Arnaud affirms.

 

The wine is appreciated for its character, mostly based on the Grenache grape.

 

"It’s a generous wine. It’s a very sensual wine. It’s full-bodied, it’s very easy to combine with all sorts of cuisines. These are wines to cellar for years."

 

Arnaud loves travelling in the southern Rhône, visiting the winemakers, talking with them, and tasting, of course.

 

"You meet people with deep roots, or people who have recently invested in a property, coming from all over the world to beautiful Provence. It’s as interesting as tasting the wine."

 

We take his cue and tour the verdant region of the Côtes- du-Rhône-Villages at higher altitudes, with bottles bearing the names of the villages, including Gigondas, one of the most appreciated appellations d’origine contrôlée. In the adorable village with the backdrop of the jagged Dentelles de Montmirail, the town caveau offers tastings of dozens of local wines, includingolder vintages — and drinkable now — that are not even available at the wineries themselves. Nearby, Vacqueyras, Baumes- de-Venise, Séguret, Rasteau and Cairanne, villages perched on lush vine-covered hills, offer similar pleasures.

 

Arnaud loves giving advice to his regular customers, trying to please them, to find the perfect wine to accompany a dish, but also trying to help them make new discoveries.

 

"People have their own taste, they like their own styles of wine, but sometimes we shouldn’t think, 'what do I like?', we should just try to understand the story that the wine has to tell us."

 

Each wine region has a different climate, a different soil, different grapes, so the balance of the wine, the character of the wine, is going to be different.

 

"What really matters to me is the identity, how honest a wine is according to its region, its origins."

 

"Taste as many wines as possible, be curious and enjoy," he says, laughing.

 

And his passion really comes through.

 

"If I say to someone that I love this wine, I love this producer, I had so much pleasure discovering and tasting it, then they will try it and 90% of the people will love it."

 

"So it’s a very rewarding kind of work," he says with a smile.

 

But travelling and discovering other wine regions is also great. It’s the pleasure of diversity that you find in art, in music, in painting, in architecture, he says. In fact, he draws a comparison with wine tasting to appreciating a piece of music, its rhythms, its forms, its elegance or complexity.

 

Our discussion returns to the wines of the region.

 

"I love Rhône wines because I was born here and I feel many good things when I taste this wine, when I meet the people who make these wines."

 

"It is not just the style of these wines — of course there is the tasting part, the pleasure you can share with your friends, tasting these beautiful wines — generous, full-bodied, sexy wines — but there is also a cultural part. Wine is very much related to our culture."

 

www.avituswine.com/wineagency.html

 

Marché de la Gare
217 Avenue de la Gare
84210 Pernes-les-Fontaines
www.rhonegang.com