La Coquille 2009, vin de pays de l'Aveyron, Patrick Rols
This is definitely not a wine that you will find in your local shop, unless the owner of that shop is extremely adventurous and spends a lot of time in one of the more remote (and beautiful) regions of France, the Aveyron. The Aveyron lies between the Massif Central and the Lot regions, along one of the main former pilgrim tracks that snake towards the Spanish border and then on to Santiago de Compostello in Galicia. The symbol of this pilgrimage is a scallop shell, and is born on the label since this vineyard lies just above the magnificently austere medieval town of Conques, which is a major relay station along one of these routes, coming down from the Puy de Dome.
A few years ago, Patrick Rols decided to replant an abandoned hill that had formerly produced wine for the town, its monks and its pilgrims. It has been a rocky road for him since, as the area is prone to hailstorms, but we can be thankful for his perseverance when we taste a wine like this, with is lovely soft and yet wild-tasting fruit flavours, and its magical combination of joy and a certain stony austerity. It simply reeks of the place it comes from! The blend uses merlot and syrah, and in fact is tastes more like a southern Rhone wine than most wines I know from the South-West of France. It is soft, with lowish tannins, full of brambly fruit flavours that linger in a warm afterglow. It bears only a "vin de pays" appellation as the vineyard is planted where no appellation exists, but it is worthy of far superior status. A wine to warm your heart in winter, at a reasonable price (it retails in France for around 10 euros).
I should also thank Patrick Nayrolles of the excellent wine bistrot, Les Colonnes (65 Rue Général Leclerc, 92130 Issy-les-Moulineaux: just near the Porte de Versailles, Paris) who gave me the opportunity of tasting this wine. If you ever have to go to a fair or exhibition at Paris's Porte de Versailles, this is an address to be noted for lunch (Monday to Saturday) or dinner (weekedays only). Patrick and his wife Christine also come from the Aveyron, and take a lot of care with the quality of the suppliers of their food, as well as in its preparation. The food is wholesome and full of flavour, in the very best modern bistrot tradition. The wines are excellent and very reasonably priced, served in decent glassware and at the right temperatures. In fact entirely the opposite of that sinister bistrot I spoke about in my recent article "How NOT to sell wine" on this blog.