You made it past the impossibly French title of this article. Congrats! I know how intimidating and confusing French wines can be, and I applaud you for delving into them. Truth is, French wines aren’t that difficult to navigate: you just need the right kind of map. And they certainly are worth the effort that you put into them: French wines are sophisticated, seamless, food friendly and–in my humble opinion-the sexiest of all wines. This Chateau Simard is no exception.
I was 17 the year this wine was bottled. That in itself was a trip to realize; as workers labored to pick grapes that fall, I was studying for Chem tests, going to football games, helping my tennis team become league champs (go Honkers!) and driving around in my awesome Chevy Celebrity. Good times. I had never touched a drop of alcohol, and I would have been shocked to hear that I’d become a wine writer someday. “Me? But I’m going to be a veterinarian…”
I guess both myself and the Simard have changed a lot over these last 13 years. I haven’t touched my tennis racket in ages (sigh) and replaced it with yoga (happy sigh), high school football games have given way to Padres games whenever I get the chance, and the Chevy Celebrity ran until it could run no more and has probably by now been recycled into a million toasters. And instead of taking tests at University, I’m now the one giving them to my lovely students… oh, how the tables have turned!
While I was spending time growing up, the Simard was doing the same. What was 13 years ago a harsh, highly-tannic wine has evolved into a supple, beautiful one. It exhibits the complexity and softness that comes with aging: fruits also round out and soften, as do the tannins. Yet age does not lead to a loss of structure or boldness; instead, it’s a boldness that runs alongside a beautiful complexity that is worth noting.
This wine comes from the region of Saint-Emilion. Like with Italian wines, French wines do not put the name of the grapes on the label. How can you know what grapes constitute the wine? You must know which region grows which grapes. Saint-Emilion mainly grows Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon, so you can expect a bottle from this region to include these grapes. The three varietals work together seamlessly: the Merlot provides soft, supple fruit; the Cabernet Franc provides a little pepper and a beautiful floral nose, and the Cabernet Sauvignon provides the tannins necessary for aging. Together, they make a delicious wine that asks to be held on to for a decade and then drunk on a Tuesday because…. well, because it’s Tuesday.
As I prepared to write this article, I was faced with a thought… and a challenge. I asked myself, “What defines a French red?” As I mentioned in the beginning of this article, French wines are (to me) beautifully put together. It is truly the only way I can aptly describe these wines. Reds from other countries can be fruity, earthy, soft, big, supple…few regions can produce wines that are all of the above. The French succeeded, and for this, I applaud them!
The other beauty of French reds? They are SO food friendly. Rather than overpowering subtle flavors on dishes, French reds complement them. This Simard could pair incredibly well with braised meats, grilled meats, hearty bean and lentil dishes and tomato-sauce based stews. Anything with herbs like oregano and dried basil would compliment the wine as well.
Like with all other wines, enjoy dissecting the flavors and characteristics of these wines and figuring out, as I did, what defines a French wine. And, as always, have fun doing so.