As of June 21st, at 4:57PM, we entered into summer and experienced the longest day of 2023. The term solstice comes from the Latin "sol," meaning sun and "sistere," meaning to stop. This reflects the slowest-growing daylight period at this time of year. This astronomical phenomenon takes place when the sun is farthest from the equator, coinciding with the maximum period of daylight on Earth in the northern hemisphere. Most years, the longest day is on the 21st, sometimes it is on the 22nd, due to slight variations in the Earth’s orbit..
Perhaps the first to celebrate would be the Neolithic humans who observed the longest day as a marker for planting and harvesting crops. Stonehenge marks, perhaps, the most important Neolithic monument. For the Greeks, the day marked a one-month countdown to the Olympic games. For the Romans, the summer solstice was a religious festival to honor the goddess of home and hearth, Vesta. Later for the Christians, the solstice celebrations combined with St John the Baptist’s Day on the 24th of June, the date of Midsummer’s Day.
For France, there is a strong pull in having this double celebration between Pagans and the Christians since the 5th century. Either way, the celebrations start on the evening of June 23rd, with a big bonfire. Traditionally, the young people would collect firewood from houses in the community during the preceding week. Then the night of the bonfire, young unmarried people would jump over the bonfire as it was believed they would find their soul mates before the end of the year. Sort of a rites of passage and acceptance thing.
How does this relate back to wine, you ask? Well, as it turns out, this idea of celebrating the sun and celebrating love has resulted in THE MOST romantic day of the year being June 24th. And what do people do on the most romantic day of the year? They get married. Hitched, which is an English website to guide couples to their nuptials, has predicted that Saturday, June 24th, 2023, will be highest number of weddings in 2023. So let us pop some bubbly! Right? Champagne is sophisticated and quite literally sets the standard for celebrations worldwide.
So, for the rest of us NOT getting married on Saturday (and still wish to be romantic), we can still celebrate with the French with other dazzling summer wines. Beaujolais wines produced in both a rose and a red are great summer wine. It is a fun region that exudes youthful energy, producing unpretentious wines meant to be drunk at causal dinner (or bonfire) gatherings. Gamay is the grape found here, and is the bases of most wines. Like Burgundy just to the north, Beaujolais has a diverse terroir and expressions. The 10 Crus found here are distinctive. The first wine is a 2022 Domaine Saint-Cry La Galoche Gamay Rosé. Produced like the Provence neighbor, it is direct-press, allowing the juice to express strawberry, raspberry, watermelon, sour cherries, citrus, and orange peel. So, while that bonfire is going, put a sausage on a stick or grab some marshmallows and make yourself Nutella smores.
The other wine from the Beaujolais region this week is the 2019 Domaine Jean-Pierre Large “Les Delys” from the Morgon Cru region. Morgons are known to be very concentrated, structured wines with lovely acidity and ageability. A great departure from those nouveau we see around Thanksgiving. The “Les Delys” is a little love imp that shows blue fruits and florals on the nose to draw you in. Then on, flavors of red beet, wet earth, and clove show on the palate. The wine has stunning complexity and is captivating.
Coming from the Caudiès-de-Fenouillèdes, located in the oriental Pyrenees, or the larger region of Roussillon, is the 2022 Domaine de Majas L’Amourouse Rosé. Here we find the marriage of Merlot and Syrah. Perhaps an odd couple at first look. The merlot offers softness and acidity to the blend. The Syrah offers structure and floral notes. Together this is an engaging wine for wine nerds, but approachable for sipping on the porch.
The last one for you this week is the 2019 Michel Fonne Gewurztraminer from Alsace. Guys, if you forgot to give your lady some flowers, this is the wine for you. Classically, this wine shows roses and lychees with touches of passion fruit, mango, honeysuckle, honey, and spice. Boldly fruity and definitely a thirst quencher for a hot summer night. Anyone see the wolf with the red roses?