Watching the Euros has got me thinking about French wines so once again this week I’m back in the Languedoc.
This is a vast region and was once responsible for oceans of uninteresting wine but since the 1990s it has upped its game considerably, and is now home to a range of nationalities such as South Africans, Australians and Irish people all realising the dream of owning their own vineyard.
The Lorgeril family has roots that run a little deeper — Chateau de Pennautier was built in the 1620s near Carcassonne and is a rather splendid pile not unlike a mini-Versailles.
I actually stayed there a few years ago on a wine trip but I believe it is mainly now used for weddings and private functions. It is well worth trying to blag your way in for a look if you are nearby this summer.
Pennautier did have one or two wines in Dunnes Stores in the past but a much larger range is now imported by Cassidy wines, one of my favourite family-owned importers.
The Lorgerils has 350ha under vine over nine appellations and three IGP (AOP and IGP replaced AOC and Vin de Pays recently to bring France into line with other EU countries, the ‘p’ stands for protégée).
While they produce classic Languedoc wines such as Minervois and St Chinian under other names, the Chateau de Pennautier wines are mainly under the Cabàrdes appellation which is an unusual AOP as it allows for the mixing of Bordeaux’s cabernet and merlot with the local grenache, carignan and syrah.
My other two Languedoc wines this week have an Irish connection: Co Carlow-born viticulturist Isla Gordon met her Australian winemaker husband in New Zealand and they now have a small vineyard in Faugères — Domaine le Sarabande.
The estate is farmed organically and sustainably with natural ferments and handpicking.
Neasa Corish from Dublin meanwhile, married a French winemaker and is also based in the Languedoc just up the road from Sarabande.
Some of Laurent Miquel’s entry level wines are available in Dunnes Stores and Tesco so you may recognise the name.
BEST VALUE UNDER €15
Chateau de Pennautier Viognier, IGP Languedoc, France - €13.99
Stockists: JJ O’Driscolls, Matsons, No 21, 1601 Kinsale, O’Donovans
Viognier is the peach and apricot-scented grape of Condrieu in the northern Rhone and a grape that seems to be a little less in vogue these days.
Pennautier’s version has light white peach aromas with a touch of citrus, ripe pear with hints of lemon on the palate, and some nice fresh acidity.
Lorgeril 1620 Malbec, IGP Oc, France - €14.99
Stockists: 1601 Kinsale, No 21 Group, World Wide Wines Waterford, O’Donovans. Malbec is grown in this region but is by no means common and you won’t find many single varietal versions.
This bright juicy wine has hints of violets and spice on the nose and is solid, fruit-driven and supple. It isn’t complex but simple and fruity; suitable for summer weather.
Chateau les Auzines Fleurs Blanches 2014, IGP Pays d’Oc - €14.45
Stockist: O’Briens stores Nationwide
Made from organic grapes, this is 100% grenache blanc and 85% fermented in oak barrels. Ripe honey and lemon-scented fruit with peach and apricot touches which follow through on the palate.
It is full flavoured and textured but dry, with a lemon-zest finish.
BEST VALUE OVER €15
Chateau de Pennautier, Cabardès, France – €16.99
Stockists: JJ O’Driscolls Ballinlough, 1601 Kinsale, World Wide Wines Waterford
A blend of six grapes including cabernet sauvignon, syrah and merlot. Aromas of plums, blackcurrants and spice on the palate along with a distinct smoky character. Matches with barbecued pork or lamb.
Domaine de la Borie Blanche, Minervois, France - €16.99
Stockists: Matsons Bandon and Grange, World Wide Wines, Vanilla Grape Kenmare. This Minervois estate was bought by the Lorgeril family in 1999 and is 35km from the sea to the north-west of Carcassonne.
A blend of syrah, grenache and mourvèdre with ripe black fruits and spice on the nose, very approachable on the palate with warm fruits.
Domaine la Sarabande Faugères 2011, France - €21.45
Stockists: O’Briens stores nationwide
This organic wine is a blend of old-vine carignan, grenache and syrah and was fermented with wild yeasts in barrel. Ripe, spicy, black cherry and blackberry aromas, full and characterful on the palate with juicy fruits, and a ripe, spice-tinged finish.
Also watch for their less expensive Misterioso.
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