Breathtakingly beautiful, the French wine region of the Languedoc-Roussillon stretches from the south of the Rhône Valley all across the Mediterranean coastline to the Spanish border and the Pyrennées. It is France's largest and most diverse wine region. Red, white, rosé, sparkling and sweet wines are produced.
Such diversity can sometimes be confusing to the consumer. To help, the region has recently launched Sud de France, an umbrella brand that aims to help wine drinkers more easily recognize the wines from the region.
According to its Director, François Fourrier, Sud de France brings together the best and most interesting wines from the Languedoc-Roussillon region.
One of France's oldest winemaking regions, the Languedoc-Roussillon has over 30 different AOCs (Appellation d'Origine Controlee). The most well known in the United States are the AOC's Corbières, Fitou, Minervois and Côtes de Roussillon. In addition to these the region probably owes much of its international acclaim to its Vin de Pays wines, where innovation and less stringent wine laws are enabling winemakers to produce both modern, easy drinking, fruit forward wines, as well, as wines with great depth, concentration and aging potential.
The most important of these is the over-arching appellation Vin de pays d'Oc, which allows winemakers to source from vineyards all over the entire region. Over the past 20 years there has been dramatic improvements in the quality of wine produced. The new Sud de France branding aims to better market this quality jump, and especially emphasize the excellent price: quality ratio.
For the most part the red wines of the Languedoc Roussillon are blends. The most important traditional red varieties are Carignan, Cinsault, Grenache Noir and Mourvèdre. Today there are significant plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. For whites, the most important traditional varieties are Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Rousanne Viognier, and Ugni Blanc with increased plantings of Chardonnay.
I have tasted quite a number of Languedoc Roussillon wines over the past few months, and have found exceptional quality at budget prices. Additionally, these wines are extremely food friendly. Their diversity enables them to work equally well with fish and seafood as well as more heartier meat stews.
Here are some of the wines that I found particularly good:
• 2007 Domaine de St. Martin de la Garrigue Picpoul de Pinet $16 – 100% Picpoul Blanc. Wonderful, little known grape. Appealing lemony, sage aromas with lively, refreshing flavors of citrus and dried herbs. Great on its own or with lighter fish dishes.
• 2007 Laurent Miguel Viognier Nord Sud $13 – Lovely peach, dried apricots aromas and flavors with spicy, herbal notes. Medium bodied and refreshing
• 2007 Chemin de Bassac Vins de Pays de Côtes de Thongue "Isa Blanc" $15 – A blend of Rousanne and Viognier. Refreshing aromas and flavors of peach, ripe pear and persimmon, with an overlay of chamomile and hay notes.
• 2007 Domaine Rimbert Saint Chinian "Les Travers de Marceau" $17 – Blend of Mourvèdre, Carignan and Grenache Noir. Juicy wild strawberry, raspberry and cherry flavors with some mineral notes. Easy drinking, but with good concentration, ripe tannins and long finish.
• 2005 Domaine des Deux Anes Corbières "Fontainilles" $17 – Blend of Carignan, Grenache and Syrah. Concentrated earthy, bramble fruits on the nose. Lots of fruit on the palate and long length but a little rustic. Would be great with robust stews.
• 2006 Laurent Miguel Syrah-Grenache $9 – Appealing cherry, berry nose, with lots of red fruit and soft tannins on the palate. Light and easy drinking and excellent value.
• 2007 Chateau d'Oupia, Minervois Rouge $12 – Blend of Carignan, Syrah and Grenache. Full of juicy, jammy red and black cherries and berries. A touch of raspberry leaf and some earthy notes.
So, until next week, check out some of these great value wines from Sud de France.
Images: courtesy of Sud de France