Terra d’Or Wine: A Great Discovery

As an Easter treat, my wife and I have just been to one of our favourite restaurants in Northern France: ‘Le Cygne’ in St Omer.

As usual, we were warmly greeted by Stephanie, who supervises front-of-house operations so charmingly and efficiently and also by her chef husband, Jean-Francois Wident, who was making one of his rare appearances outside the kitchen.

We never fail to marvel at the elegant ambiance of this restaurant, set in an old merchant’s house in the cobbled streets of historic St Omer; the constant high standard and the seasonal variety of its cuisine; the impeccable service; and, equally important, the remarkable prices. Our three-course dinner, with a couple of delightful ‘amuse bouche’ to whet the appetite, and a good bottle of wine, cost the sum of €65. Certainly this is excellent value for money!

Apart from the superb food, ‘Le Cygne’ offers a selection of very good wines from all over France, to suit all tastes and pockets. As part of their extensive wine list – often referred to as ‘the Bible’ (‘La Bible’) – there is a section of ‘discovery wines’ – ‘vins decouvertes’. And very interesting they are too!

We chose a wine from a part of France that we rarely buy or drink: Provence – perhaps best known for its roses. To be precise, the wine came from the Coteaux d’Aix en Provence. It was a 1999 ‘Terra d’Or’ full-bodied red, which was an absolute delight to drink by itself, as well as to accompany the food. This wine, produced by La Maison M. Chapoutier, and the 1999 vintage scores highly amongst wine critics with a rating of 95%! The wine is produced from a complex blend of grape varieties, including Grenache, Syrah, Cinsaut and Cabernet Sauvignon, and because of the latter could easily be mistaken for a bordelais.

The Syrah component gives the wine its spicy notes. The wines from Provence enjoy, on average, some 3,000 hours of sunshine per year and this would account for the high ABV of 15% of the ‘Terra d’Or’ that we drank.

The Coteaux d’Aix en Provence is a key ‘appellation’ of the wine region of Provence in the south eastern part of France. It is the region’s second largest ‘appellation’ and is produced in an area of some 10,000 acres lying to the north and west of the town of Aix en Provence, after which it takes its name. The wine was granted its AOC (‘Appellation d’origine controlee’) status at the end of 1985.

The ‘Terra d’Or’ from the Coteaux d’Aix en Provence is certainly a wine to be taken seriously by those – like myself – who particularly enjoy French reds. It is also a fine discovery for me, thanks to ‘Le Cygne’!