S and I joined Susan and the other cooking students after lunch on Wednesday for a Côtes du Rhône wine tasting. Susan introduced us to three whites, three rosés and three reds, and I took away three things — even with a spitting bucket you can get quite tipsy, I should no longer ignore rosés and most importantly, I have expensive tastes. (My favourites were the Domaine Font de Michelle 2004 Chateauneuf du Pape red and the Saint Péray Terres Boisées white ;)
The Côtes du Rhône region makes approximately 420 million bottles of wine a year, and about eight million of those are exported to Canada (2005/2006 statistics). Wines must be made from several grape varieties to get appellation status. Another requirement is that yields must be small to keep the grapes of good quality, so the winegrowers cut back their vines every fall.
From the car, I saw many vineyards with rosebushes growing in front of each row of vines. Susan told me roses fall prey to the same insect pests as grapevines, but show disease earlier, so the roses are a sort of early detection system by which the farmers gauge the health of their vines. The thicker the trunks, the older the vines and the finer the wine.