It’s certainly true that for decades, much of Southern France’s wine production resembled the vinous equivalent of factory farming. Unlike Bordeaux and Burgundy, a quantity over quality approach seemed to reign supreme. And, of course, remnants of the beast remain today. Yet, though, few regions have been so quick to evolve as the Rhône for example, where organic and biodynamic farming are spreading rapidly. And, despite the fact that farming according to these philosophies can be extremely time intensive, not to mention expensive, you can just as easily find it among small family domaines as you can at the best of the best producers. As such, we often feel that the Rhône can offer a ‘have your cake and eat it too’ situation for lovers of responsibly made wines at affordable prices. Enter Clovis, a project between one of our suppliers and their most trusted growers. With their Clovis Vin de France, they bring us a downright lovely, Syrah-based red with tons of Provençal character, farmed biodynamically, all for a great price. We think you’ll love it.
Let’s get specific, Clovis’ Vin de France represents a blend of Syrah, Caladoc, Merlot, and Alicante, sourced from biodynamically farmed vines in the Southern Rhône outside of all appellation lines (hence the Vin de France designation). Though this is a unique blend, the savory characteristics of the Syrah come through in force, with considerable freshness to back it up, making this big red also unusually drinkable for a wine from this part of France. It is unapologetically a table wine–wine meant to be enjoyed with food, without having to feel guilty about polishing off a bottle too quickly. Try it with our recipe for Roast Duck with Duck Fat Potatoes.
Different Clovis wines are sourced from different trusted estates, and the Vin de France comes to us from the Rhône’s Château Simian. Best known for their Châteauneuf du Pape, the estate also makes Côtes du Rhône and, of course, some humble Vin de France reds. The entirety of the estate, not simply the best vineyards, were converted to biodynamics in 2008. In the cellar, care is taken to avoid manipulation, with particular focus on reducing sulphur dioxide usage.
Roast Duck with Duck Fat Potatoes
*Rich, salty and savory; a perfect match with a dark and grippy Cotes du Rhone. Too many times people add a fruit sauce to duck, all it really needs is a sprinkling of flaky salt, the wine gives all the fruitiness you need.
2 duck breasts (about 1 lb each)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 lb medium-large potatoes, (Russets or Yukon Golds) peeled and cut into chunks
Duck fat, rendered from duck breasts
Coarse sea salt for serving
- Preheat oven to 400˚F. Pat dry the duck breasts with a paper towel. Score the duck skin with a sharp knife, making sure to not cut into the flesh. Season the duck breasts on both sides with salt and pepper.
- Starting with a cold and dry oven-safe skillet, place the duck breasts skin side down. Cook for 12-15 minutes over medium heat. Flip the breasts over and sear the other side for 1 minute. Flip to the skin side down, and transfer the skillet to the oven. Roast for 4 minutes for medium-rare, or 6 minutes for medium.
- While duck roasts, place the potatoes in a saucepan of cold salted water and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes or until par-boiled. Drain, then return to the pan and shake well over medium heat to dry out and rough up the edges (this will help them crisp up when roasting).
- Remove duck from oven, transfer to a cutting board and let rest skin-side up, tented with foil to keep warm while the potatoes roast. Reserve duck fat.
- Place the reserved duck fat in a roasting pan, then place in the oven for 5 minutes to heat. Remove from the oven, carefully add potatoes to duck fat and gently toss to coat. Return to the oven and roast, turning twice, for 30 minutes or until golden and crisp.
- Slice the duck ½-inch (1 cm) pieces and serve with potatoes. Give everything a generous sprinkling of coarse sea salt.