My father is no longer with us, but on Father’s Day I always raise a glass and thank him for many things… including introducing me to wine. Not just any old wine, mind you. He made a great ceremony out of opening a bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape on a Sunday afternoon, the smell of roast beef wafting from the oven. He, like many men of his generation, was a fan of the big and bold classics, and found a new favourite when I, in turn, introduced him to Amarone. Subtlety, restraint, delicacy: not part of the picture!
What I loved most about sharing a bottle of wine with my dad was his sense of occasion. It always felt special - every Sunday dinner, every restaurant meal, any old Wednesday evening we happened to be together - he always made it feel like this was going to be the best bottle of wine ever, and it usually was.
So, back to subtlety, restraint and delicacy. Not all men, of whatever vintage, like the big bruisers. At least, not all the time. The father of my own children discovered the joys of a lightly chilled Rhône red on a recent holiday in Provence, which we had with their wonderful Soupe de Poisson, turning the traditional pairing of white with fish on its head. My Dad, who left the red wine warming (cooking!) by the fire, wouldn’t approve.
Sunny French holidays aside, my fella does prefer his reds at room temperature, and this Fathers Day selection from Wines Direct has one of his favourites, Le Grenache de Jean from Chateau La Baronne. It’s one of my favourites too, not least because I have spent time with Anne and Jean at their vineyard near Narbonne in the Corbières region of France. I have always loved their wines, but when you see how they work, it brings the appreciation of their wares to another level. A husband and wife team whose natural farming and winemaking practices permeate every aspect of their lives. Walking through the vineyards, described by Jean as working in Paradise, the scents of wild herbs and flowers fill the air. Here I learned something new, well I learned many things, but this little nugget was wonderful: each grape has a film around it which absorbs all these aromas, and so the wonderful diversity of nature which thrives in this chemical-free environment makes its way into the wine. The perfume of this Grenache is testament to that. Not using oak in the winemaking ensures that those wildflower-enhanced aromas are not overshadowed and are left to bounce out of the glass. Aside from the wine, Jean is a master sourdough bread maker. I was sent on a mission to visit the Moulin a Vent where the organic flour he uses is milled in the ancient way, and took some of his bread making inspiration home with me.
This Fathers Day, I’ll be bringing all of the gifts of Chateau La Baronne to the table, pairing a southern French style cassoulet, brimful of herbs and fruity olive oil, a nice slab of sourdough (made by the experts, not by me!) with a glass of this aromatic and generous Grenache. I’ll toast my Dad, and remember how he celebrated all these little moments, making the ordinary seem somehow wonderful.