Our local caviste (wine shop owner) knows we prefer looking off the beaten path for interesting wines. I continually search for non-French wine and Martin (pronounced mar-tah, above) continually steers me back to France. Yes his selection of less known French wines is vast and, well, fantastic. So again, our last visit, we left with French wine – two bottles from Côtes du Forez.
While Martin, in his animated passion, gave us the low-down on these bottles and the area, I researched them both once home. Let me tell you, the Côtes du Forez is anything but front and center.
This is a small appellation for red and rosé of about 150 hectares (370 acres) in the middle of France with just eleven wineries, half of which farm more sustainably. It gets confusing because it is sandwiched between the south eastern part of the Loire Valley, ironically called the Upper Loire (Côtes d’Auvergne), and the Loire River, just below Côtes Roannaise. You know those two appellations, right?!?
While it is lumped in with the Loire, it’s closer to the northern Rhone yet has more influence from Beaujolais just 80 kilometers (50 miles) northeast. All Côtes du Forez wines are 100% Gamay and usually bear all the hallmarks of classic gamay. But unlike Beaujolais where the soils are a vast mosaic, there are mainly two types of soil:
-basaltic mounds of volcanic origin (between 20 and 60 million years old) with a small amount of clay which helps with water retention;
– sandy granitic (resulting from the erosion of the Massif Central) with good water drainage.
Established on property with a bit of each of these soils in 1992, Cave Verdier-Logel now works with 18 hectares in an organic fashion using indigenous yeasts, their way of farming since 1997*.
La Volcanique, if you haven’t already guessed, is produced from grapevines grown on the balsatic, volcanic soils.
According to geologist Brenna Quigley, “Volcanic soils and terroirs can actually be highly variable from one another depending on their chemistry and climatic setting. But, overall, volcanic terroirs tend to be relatively young and produce shallow, acidic soils.”
Rézinet** is produced from vines on sandy granitic soils. Vine roots grow deep for water, as sandy soils have good drainage. Consensus from Plant Biologist Jamie Goode and Master Sommelier Evan Goldstein is wines produced on these soils are bright, precise, and have higher tension with layered aromas and flavors.
In Our Glasses
Le Volcanique showed a bit more up front fruitiness and overall, was fresher with a greater acidic arc (more acid in the structure). Although Rézinet showed less forward fruitiness, it had layers of fruit and earth, was more substantial on the palate, and the medium-tannins were chewier. With this vintage – 2021 for both – I say Le Volcanique is “an easy on its feet, elegant wine” and Rézinet “ fruity, earthy, chewy with welcoming depth in your glass”. Each cost just 12€ / about $14.
On Our Plate
Wanting something lighter, I threw together this vegetarian dish featuring polenta topped with sautéed zucchini, balsamic vinaigrette dressed arugula, burrata made with goat cheese, and finished with pesto Genovese. The richness of the polenta and cheese toned down the acidity in La Volcanique while that acid loved that same component in the dish – the vinaigrette. All components worked with Rézinet as long as a bite included polenta or burrata.
In conclusion, If tasting blind, I would have called Le Volcanique Gamay due to the intense fruitiness upon opening, yet not Rézinet. Both wines were lovely, paired nicely with our vegetarian meal, and we would share them with friends any day!
You can find them in the US via the following importers:
*Verdier-Loger grows additional grape varieties and makes wine under Vin de France and IGP d’Urfé, which surrounds the Côtes du Forez.
**Rézinet is the name of the area where the vineyard plot is located.