During 2011 I wrote a number of posts for the project called The Art Of Life Magazine – of course talking about my favorite subject, wine. The project closed and even web site is down, but as I still like the posts I wrote, so I decided to re-post them in this blog. Also, in that project, posts were grouped into mini-series, such as “Best Hidden Secrets” you see here – I will continue re-posting them from time to time.
Also note that the series was written for a slightly different audience – I hope none of my readers will take offense in the fact that sometimes I’m stating the obvious…
Continuing our “Best Secrets” series, we are going to … France again. However, we are going all the way down south, to the region called Languedoc-Roussillon (in most of the cases it is simply call Languedoc).
Why France again, and moreover, what is so special about Languedoc? First, don’t worry, we are just getting started in our “experiences” journey, we will be going all over the world, I promise. Now, to answer the question “why Languedoc”, let me simply give you some facts. Languedoc-Roussillon is single biggest wine making region in the world! It also produces one third of all the wines made in France. I think this is not bad for the beginning.
One of the great things about Languedoc wines is that while many other regions in France are strictly limited in the grape varieties used in the winemaking in that particular region, Languedoc is not. All white wines from Burgundy are made out of Chardonnay, and all the reds are from Pinot Noir. Red Bordeaux are predominantly made out of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes – yes, with the addition of some other grapes, but in any case you will not find any wine which proudly specifies Bordeaux on the label and made out of Pinot Noir or Syrah. Languedoc is different – a lot more grapes can be used in the wine production throughout the region. Red wines can be made out of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Cinsault and Carignan, whites can be made out of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne, Viognier, plus many other red and white grapes can be used in the wine production (for more information about the region, you can always look into Wiki page).
If you are surprised that you didn’t know about Languedoc wines before – don’t be, I’m sure you had Languedoc wines unknowingly. How come? A lot of it is in the labels. Have you seen “Vin de Pays d’Oc” on the labels of wine you were drinking? “Vin d Pays” literally means “Country wines” – level of quality which is one step above “vin de table” table wines, but less than level of AOC wines. But if Vin de Pays can be used with many wines, when you see “d’Oc” added to that it squarely points to Languedoc (last two letters of the region’s name) – if you think about it, I’m sure you had those wines before. There are other well known appellations within Languedoc, such as Corbieres, Minervois and St. Chinian, plus a number of other lesser known appellations. I want to point out that we already discussed one of the Languedoc wines in this “secrets” series of posts when we talked about French Sparkling Wines. That Blanquette de Limoux is produced in the Limoux appellation which is part of the Languedoc region (by the way, if you still didn’t give that Blanquette de Limoux a try, you should do it quickly!).
So what is so “secret” about Languedoc wines? Languedoc is one of the most dynamic wine making regions in France – new appellations created, rules are changing. Languedoc winemakers have more freedom to create, and they are making more and more of the high quality age-worthy wines. And because those wines are not as well known to the public as many others, they happen to represent a great value. Let me give you few examples.
Let’s start with white: 2009 Domaine de L’Olivier Chardonnay Pays d’Oc. If you like Chardonnay, this is the wine to try. Very nice and very clean, great fruit expression – tropical fruits, touch of grapefruit, all with balancing and refreshing acidity and barely noticeable tannins. Great wine which delivers a lot of pleasure. To put things even in a better prospective I would like to note that retail price of this wine is about US $10 – you would have to get to the $30-$40 price range for Burgundy or California to achieve the same level of experience.
Another example – 2008 Black Sheep Le Grand Noir GSM blend from Minervois. As label suggests, this wine is made out of Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvedre grapes (which is a classic combination of the Rhone grapes). Again with the price tag of about US$10, this is a great deal. Very soft and gently layered fruit, soft tannins are present, but unobtrusive. Good acidity complements this wine well, delivering nice and pleasant experience. Again, considering the price, this is the wine to look for.
Now that you learned yet another secret, it is time to put that knowledge to the practical use. Did you have Rioja wine yet, or may be tried some second label? Now you know about Languedoc wines, so “to do” list just got longer. Go find the bottle and experience this wine tonight – and let me know if your experience was worth reading this article. And just to tell you about what’s ahead, the next time we will talk about something else – will take a break in the secrets series. For now I can only tell you that this “something else” is quite rare and almost forgotten – and I will tell you more the next time we meet…
Yesterday, I was doing my usual search for the bottle to open – happens every time if I don’t have a plan upfront. May be this one? No, probably too young. That one? That’s a last one, may be not now. Ahh, this one? No, not now – need a special moment. Then I finally reached out and grab a bottle of 2005 Castelmaure Grande Cuvee Corbieres Rouge – one of the two bottles I had. I was thinking about opening it many times before, but somehow the decision was always to wait until some other time.
This wine is a blend of mostly Syrah and Grenache (45% each) with addition of Carignan. Opened the bottle, and the wine is beautiful from the get go – deep, concentrated, showing good dark fruit, some cedar box, nice peppery mid-palate, great acidity and very balanced overall (Drinkability: 8). Next thing I’m going on Twitter to post the message about this wine and there I catch a glimpse of something while scrolling through the updates – Languedoc? #LanguedocDay?
It turns out that on November 10th, the world of social medial celebrated a Languedoc Day – Languedoc is a wine region in the South of France. The wine I opened, Castelmaure, comes from Corbieres, which is one of the appellations within Languedoc! Great thing about Languedoc wines is that the appellation rules allow making of the wide variety of wines from wide variety of grapes, and due to the fact that the region is not as famous as Bordeaux or Burgundy, lots of great wines are available at a great QPR. I even wrote a post about Languedoc wines at The Art Of Life Magazine in the “Best Hidden Secrets of the Wine World series”.
Now, let’s go back to the subject of the post. At any given moment, I have about three hundred bottles of wine in the house, very few of those are from Languedoc (may be 2-3 bottles at the most). I had no idea about #LanguedocDay before I selected the bottle. What is the probability of opening a bottle of wine from Languedoc specifically on that particular day, considering that we drink wine literally every day? I believe it is very (did I say “very”?) small. I don’t know how this worked, but somehow it did, so we happened to enjoy right bottle of wine on the right day.
If you got any good “coincidences” stories, please share them! And no matter what was in your glass yesterday and what will be in it today, I hope you enjoy it. Cheers!
P.S. Don’t forget about PJ Wine Grand Tasting, which will take place next Friday, November 18th – if you want to taste Dom Perignon, Cristal, Krug, 2006 Cheval Blanc, 2000 Chateau d’Yquem, 1990 Mouton-Rothschild, 1985 Chateau Haut-Brion, 1952 CVNE Vina Real Gran Reserva and many other incredible wines, all in one night, click here to get your tickets and don’t forget to use your $10 discount code Talk-A-Vino.