This is the first of two blogs on affordable wines from France.
The wines of Languedoc in the south of France offer complexity, diversity and value. The region stretches in a semi-circle shape around the Mediterranean coast from the Rhone River and Provence in the east to the Pyranees Mountains and Spain in the west. Tons of sun, diverse soils, low rainfall and dedicated vintners are making the world pay new attention to the wines. The region, also known as Languedoc-Roussillon, is the largest vineyard area in France and has a history of producing inexpensive bulk wine, but today the scene has changed with innovataive winemakers combining French tradition with modern practices and international wine styles.
The history: Winemaking dates back centuries, including the Middle Ages when wines made by monks were highly coveted.
The grapes: For reds, Carignan, Cinsault, Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah. For whites, Clairette, Grenache blanc, Marsanne, Mauzac, Muscat, Piquepoul, Rolle, Roussanne.
Here’s a tasting, courtesy of the Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins du Languedoc (CIVL).
Domaine des Deux Anes “L’Enclos” Corbieres 2008, $22: Husband and wife team Magali and Dominique Terrier follow biodynamic practices to promote healthy soils. This dense, intense blend of Carignan, Grenache, Mourvedre and Shiraz is a cocktail of blackberry jam with notes of spice, vanilla, dark chocolate and espresso. It’s aged in tank and barrels for added complexity. Tip: The Corbieres area of Languedoc-Roussillon is the largest AOC (Appellation D’Origine Contrôlée) in the region and is most-famous for red wines.
Domaine de Cantagrils Picpoul de Pinet 2010, $10: Picpoul de Pinet is the appellation, the largest white wine producing area of the Languedoc, located at the edge of the Mediterranean. Piquepoul is the grape variety, sometimes known as “lip stinger.” The wine is golden in color, and the personality is crisp and minerally, the perfect wine to accompany seafood. Winemaker Claude Jourdan works the estate her mother started in 1983.
Domaine La Tour Boisee Minervois Blanc 2009, $9: This dry white blend of mostly Marsanne and Vermentino offers floral, green apple, ripe pear notes. It is crisp-tart dry. Tip: Minervois is an AOC planted on hillside terraces that also are home to large plantings of olive trees.
Blanquette de Limoux Brut Esprit du Sud NV, $15: Vintner Gilles Louvet of Vignobles Gilles Louvet founded his progressive, modern winery in 1993, and is one of the earliest followers of organic, carbon neutal and sustainable practices. This sparkling wine, fermented a second time in the bottle like Champagne, is crisp and dry, with a rustic, yeasty, green apple and citrus personality and a minty finish. Tip: Blanquette de Limoux is a sparkling wine produced in the Limoux AOC from Mauzac grapes and is fermented a second time in the bottle like Champagne.
Rimbert “Travers de Marceau” St.-Chinian 2011, $14: Lift a glass to the nose and inhale aromas of cedar, blackberry, black cherry and black plum that are mirrored on the palate and framed in supple tannins. It’s a blend of organic old vine Mourvedre, Carignan and Grenache by Jean-Marie Rimbert at his elevated site on the northern edge of the Saint-Chinian appellation. Rimbert is another example of the forward-thinking, passionate vinters bringing new praise to the Languedoc. Tip: “Travers” is a local name for parcels of vineyards. Rimbert harvests off 40 diverse parcels.
Domaine Le Loup Blanc Le Petit Chaperon Rose 2011, $15: According to the winery Web site, “restaurateurs Alain Rochard and Laurent Farre founded the Loup Blanc winery in the tiny town of Bize-Minervois in 1993.” The wine is a blend of 40 percent Cinsault and 60 percent Chenanson. It’s semi-dry with notes of raspberry, cherry and spice. This wine is certified organic. Tip: The parent grape of Chenanson is Grenache.
This blog account is meant to open consumers’ eyes to the Languedoc wine region of France to discover the excitement, quality and value of today’s wines.