Monday, January 7, 2013

Take a Price Break After the Holidays—The Languedoc

January is here and we are all dealing with our credit card bills from the holidays, but have no fear—you don’t have to give up good wine! The Languedoc-Roussillon region of France offers up some affordable big, bold reds perfect for cold weather, as well as an interesting white to go with a healthy seafood dinner.

The Languedoc-Roussillon region spans the Mediterranean coastline from Spain to Provence. The area boasts 700,000 acres of vines and is the single largest wine producing area in the world. It accounts for over a third of France’s wine production, and as recently as 2001 produced more wine than the entire U.S. The region has been producing wines since the fifth century.

It is the hottest and most arid of France’s wine growing regions, which allows for full ripening and maturation of Syrah, Grenache, Carignan, Mourvedre, Mauzac, and Chenin Blanc. International varietals such as Cabernet, Merlot, and Chardonnay thrive there as well. The region is known for its fruit-forward, bold wines that are screaming values. Despite all this, it is probably France's least well-known wine region.

The Languedoc is divided into several appellations, the most well-known being Corbieres, Minervois, Limoux (the birthplace of sparkling wine), and Coteaux du Languedoc. The latter is further divided into several sub districts such as Pic St Loupe and Picpoule de Pinet. This results in a wonderful variety of wines.

Chateau Millegrand  Minervois 2010 is a blend of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, and Carignan. This barrel-aged blend is perfumed with dark cherries, black pepper, and vanilla spice. Hints of herbs and minerals add to a rich palate of dense dark fruits and subtle oak. Although medium-bodied, it is well structured with a good backbone of fine tannins and restrained acidity. All for $13.99.

Chateau de Vaugelas Le Prieure Corbieres 2009 is a blend very similar to the previous wine. This 270 acre estate lies in the hills of Lagrasse, reputed to be the best of the Corbieres growing zones. This estate was the preferred source of wine for The Abbaye Lagrasse in the sixteenth century. (This monastery was an instrumental outpost for the merciless eradication of the Cathars and suppression of other alleged heretics). There is a powerful ripe flattering nose of black fruit and spices. It is warm and velvety on the palate with rich black fruit flavors. The finish is full and rich, with hints of chocolate. Simultaneously exuberant and elegant. Again at a bargain price of $12.99.

Domaine L’Hortus Le Loup Dans la Bergerie 2010 is a wonderful wine resulting from an ancient reclaimed vineyard squeezed between two mountain peaks in Pic St Loup. A blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Merlot grapes that are grown organically and aged entirely in stainless steel, this medium-bodied wine is fresh and lively with cherry and plum fruit spiked with white pepper, black tea, stone, and spice. Hortus is Latin for garden, and the French name literally means “The Wolf in the Sheep Pen.” The price is $11.99

My suggestion for a white is one of the oldest varietals in France, Picpoul. Its name means “lip stinger” and refers to the grape’s high acidity. Picpoul de Pinet is a designation which may be used if the wine is 100% Picpoul and made only in the town of Pinet. It can be recognized by the tall slender bottle embossed with the Languedoc Cross. Gerard Bertrand's bottling is full bodied with rich, slightly buttery green apple and lemon flavors and has remarkable freshness and acidity for a warm weather wine. It has a bright clear finish. This wine sees no oak and is meant to be drunk young. The appellation covers only 1300 hectares overlooking a lagoon where mussels and oysters are farmed (fitting, as this is a perfect seafood wine). The wine costs only $13.99.

Try a wine from the Languedoc-Roussillon region today. You’ll likely uncover a new favorite...and still pay off your holiday bills!

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