This week I’m taking a snapshot of the Languedoc-Roussillon, easily the most unwieldy wine region in France and arguably the world.
This is a huge region comprising five départments in south-east France just over the mountains from Spain.
This is fairly wild country and has sunsets and rugged landscape just as dramatic as anything in Provence or Tuscany and can easily be visited from Ireland by hopping on a flight to Carcassonne.
What was once an ocean of basic (very basic) table wine is now the powerhouses of the French wine industry as it produces more than 90% of France’s varietal wine (most of which is exported).
Chances are if you’ve ever bought a French wine labelled merlot, chardonnay or cabernet it came from here.
These varietals are mainly from the IGP Pays d’Oc wine appellation (previously called Vin de Pays d’Oc) which produces around 14% of all French wine on its own.
At the upper level there are lots of complex reds from village appellations you will know such as Minervois, Corbières and St Chinian but also many that you probably don’t know such as Faugères or Cabardès (such as, Chateau Pennautier).
The Languedoc mainly produces red (75%) but there are also lots of whites and rosé around to try — the whites recommended below are delicious.
Mas de Daumas Gassac is the Languedoc’s only true Cru wine and is the only wine in the region that sells en primeur (last November’s release sold out in days).
Daumas Gassac is imported in small quantities by Red Nose Wines in Clonmel, Co Tipperary and Curious Wines in Cork and Naas, Co Kildare and ages for decades.
The region could do with a few more stars like Daumas Gassac to drive its fame and name recognition but this may come in time.
Meanwhile, watch for the Roussillon powerhouse that is Gérard Bertrand and also the Cazes family (see below) from Bordeaux.
Molloys Liquor Stores have a French wine sale on this month with some good value in Bordeaux and regional France.
I recommend their Limoux white below which also comes in a tasty red version.
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BEST VALUE UNDER €15
Delas Viognier Vin de Pays d’Oc 2015, France — €13.50-€13.99
Stockists: Food Store Claremorris, Jus de Vin, Kellys Clontarf, Coolers Swords
Given that few of us can afford Condrieu these days (the Rhone hillside vineyard that is home to Viognier), we should give praise to the Languedoc.
This region has almost single-handedly revived the grape and provides lots of fruity fragrant versions such as this peach and spicy lemon balm scented little beauty.
Chateau Beauregard Mirouze Campana 2015, Corbières, France — €14.99
Stockists: Bradleys, Le Caveau Kilkenny, Greenman Terenure, MacGuinness’s Dundalk
Marsanne/Rousanne blends are also more typically from the Rhone but remember the Languedoc can make you whatever you want.
Here there is also 20% Vermentino which gives extra citrus freshness to this apricot and peach textured and creamy white.
Chateau Martinolles 2015, Limoux, France — €11 (was €18)
Stockist: Molloys Liquor Stores
Limoux is better known for its fizz (Blanquette and Crémant) made from Chardonnay and local Mauzac.
This is Chardonnay and is whole bunch pressed and barrel fermented so has rich buttery and creamy passion-fruit aromas, and ripe pear and sweet apple flavours perfect for a winter seafood pie.
BEST VALUE OVER €15
Domaine L’Ostal Cazes 2012, Minervois La Livinière, France — €23.45
Stockists: O’Briens stores nationwide www.wine.ie
Made by the Cazes family of Chateau Lynch Bages in Pauillac this is a blend of 70% Syrah plus some Carignan, Grenache and Mourvèdre this has been aged in oak and has ripe blackberry and dusky plum fruit flavours and a fine silky texture.
Chateau la Baronne Les Chemins 2013, Corbières, France — €22.75
Stockist: Wines Direct Mulingar and Arnotts Dublin winesdirect.ie
Made from organic and biodynamic grapes on a small family run estate this is a blend of Carignan, Syrah and Grenache with a ripe full flavour and supple red and black fruits with a touch of black pepper.
The entry level red from this producer is under €14 and also good value if a little less concentration.
Gérard Bertrand Solensis 2015, Languedoc, France — €17.95
Stockist: O’Briens www.wine.ie
Gérard Bertrand is a strong advocate for biodynamic viticulture and has even written a book on the subject.
This Syrah-Grenache blend is his tribute to the solar system and has ripe fruits and not a little concentration with good lingering complexity.
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