Sunday, July 21, 2013

Examining Vins de Soif

The opening post for the Langdon Shiverick blog got me thinking about the concept of vins de soif –one of those sublimely simple yet curiously nuanced French expressions that you know means more than just quaffable. What are vins de soif? When I first started to study wine about 10 years ago, the concept of terroir gave me just as much Kierkegaardian anguish; it took a couple years to understand that, like so many French expressions, the word’s meaning is plural: not only does it mean the soil’s geological composition, it also means the way the soil, and effectively the place, tastes as it renders itself through the wine. It’s an image and a concept and a taste and a way of life all at once.

I quickly went to work dissecting the expression: vins de soif, wines of thirst. Wines that you drink when you’re thirsty. Thirst-quenching wines. What is a thirst quenching wine? Intellectually walking through it, my mind immediately goes to Muscadet, and its high-pitched, briny flavors for hot days, or chilled rosé, dry with bright fruit. Aligoté with a drop of cassis (kir). Punchy Crémant de Bourgogne. Savoie Jacquères – like Evian with a kick. Yup – it worked: my mouth had started to water.

Moving through it, I imagine Christmastime in Boston, snow and wreathes and friends and laughs and a crown roast of pork in the oven, juices seeping into the air in the warm kitchen as we cook and congregate against the cold. Cru Beaujolais pops into my ken – volcanic Morgon, or limpid Chiroubles is what I want to guzzle, or a salty, dark, gastronomic little Barbera. What do all these have in common.  They are all under $20 – which means probably between €3-€6 a pop in their place of origin. Inexpensive, gastronomic, what else – firm core of acidity, good with food, not limited by color or bubbles.

Suddenly I’m remembering grabbing a bottle of anything off the shelf at the local alimentation in Paris to go with baguette and fromage. Cheap and cheerful, well-made, dry, wines that offer an excellent effort-return ratio. Then it dawns on me: this is precisely why I like the Shiverick book so much. 

- Lily Davis 7/21/13