Part 2, Day 121, continues our visit to Nîmes: birthplace of denim (get it, de Nîmes). After last post’s Roman arenas and temples, we hike to the park. Amidst Fall’s colors, fountains, and walkways rests the Temple to Diana:
The ruin still feels lifted, intricate, delicate: much like the following wine. Although this is Southern France, it is November, and we buy the one wine that matters: Beaujolais Nouveau.
From Vignerons des Pierres Dorées, this 2012 “Terra Iconia” of Gamay Noir costs a mere and magical €6 at Nîmes’ covered market.
It looks a clear mild purple with a clear rim. Aromas present red apple, pink bubblegum, and clove. The palate is aptly dry, with 2012’s higher acid, forgotten tannins, average alcohol, and a delightfully lighter body. Flavors follow type, with red apple, pink bubblegum (like at Halloween) throughout and a clove finish.
What surprises is Terra Iconia’s medium plus length. This ratchets this otherwise frivolous wine to good quality (3 of 5). It has the character of the Temple to Diana: pleasing, light, it doesn’t belong here yet works. It also fuses unexpectedly with the local Romarin cheese.
After Diana’s Temple, we climb narrow paths to the Roman Tower, built around 12 BC, which overlooks all of Nîmes:
Rumors developed around its hidden treasure, so by the last century only its core remained. However, this phallus of Roman imperium provides a fantastic view:
On our way back to modernity, we sight a mythic red squirrel of destiny (we had read of these, and for the last 121 days hunted Europe but never saw them).
No, I won’t compare it to a wine (not yet).
We wrap around the city, past the Roman waterworks, and reach the museum. Aside from riding the city mascot crocodile…
…we discover ancient Roman vine cutters!!!
Ok…sure, they look like sad lumps of disappointment. But two millenia ago, these trimmed shoots, cut leafs, and lopped grapes from vines. The resultant ancient wine founded what we make today. Maybe one carved into a grave marker might help visualize it:
That hook would lop off clusters. Even brother Vallo here and his humble work mattered enough to be memorialized.
But how does the region’s wine taste today? Above Nîmes sits the newly minted region: Duché D’Uzes AOC.
We hold to the strictures of our EU Austerity Drinking Tour and grab a $9 red called “Orénia”. 2011’s Syrah and Grenache from Coteaux Cévenois were blended by Philippe Nusswitz, Master French Somm.
An inky ruby purple runs to the rim. Aromas converse in raspberry, blackberry, white pepper, and a mild dash of vanilla. The palate is dry. Adequate acid keeps it fresh. Tannins register mildly. Alcohol is a fine 13.5% as is the medium body. Approachable flavors of mainly raspberry and a bit of blackberry are followed by herb de provence, vanilla, and a chalk dust finish of medium length.
Orénia is soft, fruity, with dusty but easy tannins. It is neither Provence’s pinks nor the Languedoc’s or Rhône’s robust reds, but a region betwixt them all. The style is modern, approachable alone but will hold up to most Mediterranean dinner fair. A solid good (3 of 5).
We leave Nîmes happy. The city mixes modern and ancient beautifully. The Amphitheater bulls are adora-bull!
The grand boulevards slice town with their sand-colored apartments until a perfectly preserved Roman ruin halts them. Aside from getting no sleep in our dive hotel, getting lost here was delightful. The wines of the region present fantastic value and the food tastes brilliant.
But next Monday will find our EU Austerity Drinking Tour in the heart of the Rhône. See you then.