Saturday, July 17, 2010

Stage 14, July 18th: The Languedoc-Roussillon to the Pyrenees

The Tour continues south towards its rendezvous with the brutal mountain stages of the Pyrenees today, passing through the vast wine region of the Languedoc/Roussillon and climbing to over 2000 meters above sea level up the Hors Category Port de Pailheres. It is a huge region, producing one third of all of the wine in France, and as of 2001, more wine than the entire United States. For years it was best known for the oceans of inexpensive wines it produced, with quantity over quality the rule of thumb. Today there are still problems in the region with overproduction, but in the last 20 years or so there has been a big shift towards smaller production, high quality winemaking resulting in some truly stunning wines that span the range from good affordable everyday quaffs to cellar worthy, almost cult status collectables.
The Languedoc/Roussillon stretches from just west of the Rhone all the way down to the Spanish border, and in general shares a similar climate to the southern Rhone, with its own unique variations of terroirs throughout. It includes the regions of Coteaux du Languedoc, Montpeyroux, Faugeres, Pic St. Loup, Banyuls, Corbieres, St. Chinian, Minervois, and Colliure, as well as Vin de Pays D'Oc and many more. For a good view of the region, follow the link to a Map of the Languedoc.
Red grape varieties include the typical mix of southern French grapes: Grenache, Mourvedre, Cargignan, Cinsault, Lladoner Pelut, Picpoul Noir, and Terret Noir, plus international varieties like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. For the whites Roussanne, Marsanne, Vermentino (aka Rolle or Pigato), Bourboulenc, Clairette, Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris, Picpoul, and Maccabéo make up the locals, with Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc planted too. Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains Muscat of Alexandria grapes are also planted. The reds wines are typically pretty gutsy, sometimes a little rustic, often showing a sauvage "garrigue" gaminess that seem to capture the essence of this wild, raw countryside. There are also some inexpensive wines made from international varieties that seem to have little resemblance to the region, seeking a more homogenous, commercial style. Whites can run the gamut from crisp, light and clean to full rich and complex, with sparkling and sweet wines made here too, and again some of the same type international style low end wines produced too. Sunny warm climate, rocky outcrops, scrubby, dry and starkly beautiful, with some truly spectacular coastline, this is a beautiful area of France - watch today on Versus for a look at this great region. As for wines, here are a few favorites! To purchase any of the wines below visit us at 56 Degree Wine!

2008 Maison Andre Quancard Viognier/Muscat Vin de Pays Cotes Catalanes, Languedoc $12.50 - Fresh, lively, clean and aromatic, this wine is all stainless steel fermetned. The lovely fruit tones of the Muscat adds a rose petal perfumed character, and the Viognier adds peachy, apricot tones. Drink as an aperitif or with light fish or summer salads.

2008 Chateau Capion 1C Vin de Pays de L'Herault Blanc, Languedoc - $17.50 - While Chateau Capion has a rich history dating back to 1873, the Buhrer family from Switzerland purchased the estate in 1996 and the wines have been on the rise ever since. Organically grown fruit grown on limestone soils, there is no irrigation at play. Michel Tardieu is the talent behind this blend of 50% Chardonnay, 40% Roussanne, and 10% Sauvignon Blanc that is raised in new and old French oak for 8 months. Pungent lively aromas of sweet nectarines and honeysuckle give way to flavors of white peach, honey, citrus and wet stones. A delicious wine that needs only a warm day and the company of friends to show its stuff!
Region: L'Herault
Grapes: 50% Chardonnay, 40% Roussanne, and 10% Sauvignon Blanc
Farming: Organic
Winemaking: New and old French oak for 8 months
Cuisine: Meaty seafood like grouper, sea bass, swordfish, lobster or grilled shrimp too, or all on its own!
Drink: Now - 2011
ABV: 13.5%

2007 La Peira En Damaisella Deuslys Blanc L'Herault Vin de Pays - $51 - Lovely, clean and complicated with white flowers, perfumed. Even a stoniness. From two blocks next to the syrah, a little less rocky as the whites here seem to do better in the slighlty deeper soils otherwise seems to have drought stress. Light press, no added so2 at this point, just minimal amount at bottling, all indigenous yeasts and direct to barrel. Only 50 cases made.Region: Languedoc, France
Grapes: 65% Viognier and 35% Roussanne
Terroir: Warm summers, cold winters, poor stony soils
Drink: now 2012
Cuisine: poultry, fish
ABV: 14.5%

2008 Domaine de Subremont Vin de Pays des Coteaux de Peyriac Rouge Languedoc - $12 - Factoring the "tasty factor" coupled with the price and you quickly realize what a great value this little red from the Languedoc is. 100% Carignan shows dark berry fruit, iron, plums and garrigue notes on a frame of supple tannins. Rustic but never lacking for flavor, this wine represents a great Cellar Defender and one that I would drink today with tenderloin or lamb chops, simply seasoned with olive oil, rosemary salt and pepper. Bon Appetit! 
Grapes: 100% Carignan
Terroir: Warm summers, cold winters, poor stony soils 
Drink: now 2014
Cuisine: lamb, grilled or braised meats

2005 Domaine Salitis Cabardes Cuvee Premium - $18 - Suprisingly regal effort for a wine from the not-so-sexy appellation of Cabardes, this deft blend ot Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah & Grenache is really beautifully made. Rustic edges accent the supple flavors laced with red fruits, raspberry, pepper, game and solid length; this is made for red meat with with a sturdy framework of tannins and wealth of fruit. Fire up the grill!
Region: Cabardes (Languedoc) France
Grapes: Merlot, Cabernet Sauv, Syrah, Grenache
Drink: Now
Cuisine: Grilled Meat
ABV: 13.5%

2008 Chateau St Jean de la Gineste Corbieres Vieilles Vignes, Languedoc - $15.50 - ORGANIC - Located in Corbieres, just west of Narbonne, this organic estate sits on 54 hectares of well draining limestone. That is the genesis for this wonderful blend of 80% old vine (25 to 105 years) Grenache and 20% Carignan, which is vinified in old concrete vats for 12 months. Marie-Helene Becave now runs this picturesque estate with a serious commitment to the land, as well as the wine. All hand harvested, this deep black cherry, dried plums, smoke and meat dripping laced wine is long and lovely on the palate. Perfect with grilled pork, but big enough for red meat, this is a fantastic wine for summer sipping.
Region: Corbieres (Languedoc,) France
Grapes: Grenache and Carignan
Farming: Organic Practices
Vinification: Old Concrete vats for 12 months
Drink: Now
Cuisine: Grilled Pork or some Red Meats
ABV: 14%

2005 Domaine de la Grange des Peres - Grange des Peres, Languedoc-Rousillon - $94 - Famous for being clearly the best domaine in the Languedoc-Rousillon? Yes, itís unquestionable. But also fame comes in the form of the Laurent Vaille, the former physiotherapist turned wine wizard. His tutelage under Gerard Chave and Francois Coche-Dury gave him the tools to become the legendary figure he has now become. Starting in 1992, this winery has gone from "on the map" to "off the charts", wowing not only the wine press, but all who taste the wines. They are that spectacular! A big rich blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Mourvedre that defies logic with a balancing act of jammy dark berry fruit and savage, meaty, the same time. A wine that will age magnificently in a cool cellar, but is truly hard to resist right now.
2006 Coume del Mas Banyuls Galateo Languedoc 500ml - $42 - This lovely sweet red is from Grenache grapes grown in the Languedoc in the sunny south of France not far from Perpignan and the Spanish border. The steep terraced vineyards are worked by horse and hand, with natural viticulture and organic practices whenever possible. Vaguely Tawny Port like, with crush black fruit, lovely mouthfilling sweetness without be overy sweet or cloying. Perfect with chocolate!
Region: Banyul, Languedoc,, France
Grapes: Grenache Noir
Drink: Now - 2020
Cuisine: Dessert, cheeses and definately chocolate!

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