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Bastille Day wine picks

(article, Kerry Newberry)

Francophiles — those of you who jump at any chance to revel in French food, wine, and culture — take note: Bastille Day is here! 

France's national holiday, celebrated on July 14, commemorates the storming of the Bastille prison in 1789 and marks the start of the French Revolution and the end of a monarchy. 

“It’s a huge celebration in Paris,” says Pascal Chureau, the chef and proprietor of Brasserie Montmartre in Portland, Oregon. “I used to ride the subway in, you pop out right at the Eiffel Tower Station, and it’s just a sea of people,” he says. 

[%image reference-image float=left width=400 caption="Bastille Day is a good day to tap your inner Frenchperson."]

The fête can be even bigger in the countryside, says Chureau, in small towns and villages. Hallmarks for Bastille Day celebrations include grand fireworks and traditional French music serenading crowds with accordions and violins.

In some parts of the country, the bal champêtre (a starlit open-air dance) and the bal des pompiers (a ball organized by burly firefighters) enchant with song and dance late into the night. A Bordeaux native who loves to share French culture, Chureau is one of the sponsors and organizers of Portland's Bastille Day festivities, reportedly the largest on the West Coast. 

“Anything you celebrate in France involves food and wine,” says Chureau. “Even if it’s the Tour de France — the sentiment is, let’s eat and drink.” 

[%image Pascal float=right width=300 caption="Pascal Chureau"]

Well, if you need an excuse to get in touch with your inner Frenchperson, Bastille Day is definitely a good reason to uncork a bottle of fine French wine, break a crusty baguette, eat pungent cheese, and hum '"La

But finding the perfect French wine can be overwhelming, as there are so many to choose from. I discover new wines in two ways: asking my favorite local wine-shop owners for suggestions, and seeking out wines from importers I’ve come to know and recognize. 

Importers travel the world’s wine regions searching for distinct, high-quality wines to fit their portfolios. Their focus can range from natural wines and under-the-radar boutique producers to comprehensive portfolios of Italian or German wines. They have longstanding relationships with the producers in their portfolios and are truly passionate about the wines and people they represent. 

To discover some new French wines, I asked a few of my favorite artisanal importers with thoughtful French-inspired portfolios for their top wine picks to toast Bastille Day. Representatives from each group filled in the blanks for us:

Scott Paul Selections
The wine: 2002 “Special Club” Brut
The producer: Marc Chauvet
The story: "Sister-and-brother team Clotilde (winemaker) and Nicolas (vineyard manager) Chauvet are the current generation in charge of the family estate, which dates to 1529. Theirs is the perfect bubbly for a special celebration — refined, elegant, rare, and flat-out delicious."
A favorite food pairing: "Crisp, hot French fries, liberally dusted with truffle salt, of course!"

The wine: 2009 Meursault Vieilles Vignes
The producer: Domaine Buisson-Charles
The story: "We have great memories of celebrating Bastille Day in Meursault with Patrick and Kate and three generations of the Buisson-Charles family two summers ago — watching the fireworks light up the sky over the vineyards, dancing in the village square, and enjoying the rich, minerally Meursault."
A favorite food pairing: "A simple roast chicken with morels. Yum!"

Jenny and François Selections
The wine: Château Tire Pé Diem
The producer: Château Tire Pé (David and Hélène Barrault)
The story: "No tricks of modern Bordeaux here — David Barrault is a maverick making natural country wines using no chemicals or additives. Pure, bright Merlot-based wine with juicy plum, sweet herbs, and a mineral backbone."
A favorite food pairing: "Great with picnic fare, grilled chicken or beef, or spicy pasta dishes."

Routes Des Vins Imports, LLC
The wine: Château Montpezat AOP Languedoc “Palombieres” 2007
The producer: Château Montpezat (Christophe and Laurence Blanc)
The story: "Christophe Blanc is one of the top producers in the Languedoc and one of the hardest workers as well. He practices organic viticulture and works his land virtually by himself. The Palombieres cuvée is a flagship wine of the estate and is composed of 50 percent Grenache/20 percent Carignan/20 percent Cinsault/5 percent Syrah/5 percent Mourvèdre. The wine is aged in both tank and barrel, and Christophe doesn’t rush to release the wine. Rather, he waits until it has come together and is ready to drink, much in the tradition of Rioja Gran Reserva. I adore the combination of power, finesse, and complexity in this wine. Its balance, that is, given the immense amount of material. The Grenache is so, so ripe, but it is presented in such an elegant, palate-robing manner."
A favorite food pairing: "I like pairing this wine with anything grilled, including fish on the fattier side (like salmon). However, it’s probably at its best with a grilled duck breast and roasted summer vegetables with plenty of olive oil, garlic, and herbs."

reference-image, l

Pascal, l