Bonjour, Wineaux! This month, the French Winophiles are exploring the wines of the Languedoc region. I was excited because it is a totally new wine region for me! I mean, sure I memorized stuff about it for the CSW test, but I hadn’t tasted very many wines from the area.
So in this post, I’ll share an overview of Languedoc, accompanied by some impressions of five Languedoc wines that I shared with friends for a French Fête d’ Hiver (winter festival!). Of course it called for Cassoulet, the classic French peasant casserole of Tarbais beans and a lot of meats. Ready for some whats, wheres and hows? Allons-y, as they say in France!
First a little geography: where the hell is the Languedoc DOC? Well, as you can see on this handy map from The Society of Wine Educators, Languedoc is in far southern
France, smack in between the tiny Madiran region to the west and Provence to the east.
Secondly, what grapes are grown in the Languedoc? A shit ton, that’s how many. Seriously, there are 15 top varieties (“top” meaning upwards of 6,500 acres planted) and even more types planted in smaller amounts. But the big ones are red and they are Syrah, Grenache, Carignan, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. All these grapes are delicious on their own, and knowing the Mourvedre is another key Languedoc grape, I was excited about drinking some grenache-syrah-mourvedre blends (aka GSM), which is one of my all-time favies!
Third, what style of wines are made in Languedoc? Well, styles vary, because the region is so geographically diverse (hilly, flat, rocky, high and low elevations) and soil types and climate are diverse, too. But having tried half a dozen Languedoc reds recently, I can say three definitive things: A) I really like them! B) They all have big, Old-World robust personalities accented with a rustic streak. C) They all pair perfectly with Cassoulet!
Okay, let’s get to the fun part – the eating and drinking! Two wines – the Sainte Eulalie Minervois and the Gérard Bertrand Corbieres were provided by Wines of Languedoc (thank you). The rest I either bought or friends brought. Price points ranged from $12.99 to $23.99, so they are a great value, if you ask me.
The thing about these wines: they are all pretty big and brawny — lots of earth, black and red fruit, spice, well-muscled tannins. With all this power going on, that means one thing, food-wise: bring on the fat! Wines like this cut through the richness of fat, so the fat in the dish – whether it is cassoulet, ribeye steak or roasted chicken — can carry flavor instead of just coating your palate with a layer of fat that can mute other flavors.
I gotta throw props to the D’Artgagnan cassoulet kit – it was amazing. All you need to provide is a few ingredients (garlic and some herbs) and time. (I made it on a Friday afternoon, fridged it and finished it in the oven on Saturday.) With the Cassoulet, we had a fresh green salad and of course, a crusty baguette. Everyone tasted all the wines and I took notes. The constant passing of bottles and glasses made for lively and erudite comments that included:
“Wait, did I taste this one yet? Did you taste this one? Did you like it?”
“Did I like this one? I need to taste it again – pass that wine down here!”
“Wait, you’re on that wine already? I’m behind! I need that one in my glass right now.!”
“More! I want more of the orange label – send that orange label my way now!”
“Oh, this smells like a cheap college wine. Next!” (Massive disagreement with the person who said that!)
“It’s a little like a rough date … I want to like it but I’m not going out with it again.”
It was a fast and furious wine highway up and down the table, and I did my best to keep up with comments (and taste the wines myself). Of course, we started the evening by sabering three bottles of Champagne straight out my backdoor, so we were all a little bubbly ourselves.
Ok, enough chit chat. Let’s talk about the wines! ♥♥♥♥=love it! put a ring on it; want to marry it;♥♥♥ really like it; want a second date with it;♥♥ like it; want to be friends with it; ♥ meh… it’s okay.
♥♥♥♥Château Sainte Eulalie Minervois 2016 This was our favorite – which was surprising to me because it’s so young, but it was just beautiful: silky, elegant texture, earthy, rich with red fruit and a tease of black pepper. It’s a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Carignane. Even a devout “I don’t like red wine” person liked it! Someone even said, “it’s a great summer red – fresh and breezy.” $12.99.
♥♥♥Gérard Bertrand Corbières 2014 This is a classic GSM (Grenache-Syrah-Mourvèdre) and it was much earthier and rustic than the Sainte Eulalie. We all really liked it. The tannins definitely made their presence known, but so did the fruit. It had great, mouth-watering acid. And maybe a tiny scoche of Brett (Brettanomyces, a bacteria that gets into wines and lends a bit of “barnyard funk”). $13.99
♥Château La Roque Pic Saint Loup 2015 Hmmm… this wine really tore up our table! I detected a distinct note of iodine and thought it needed to rest a bit in a cellar to simmer down and reach its full potential, but two other people really liked it. It’s 100% Mourvèdre, which is brave. Huge tannins – which means good with fatty foods, but I think the tannins overwhelmed the fruit on this one. $17.99
♥♥Rozeta 2014 This blend of 40% Carignane and 30% each Grenache and Cinsault was the priciest of the bunch ($23.99) and we liked it – but no one loved it. It was a little too aggressive, we thought, but it did go well with the Cassoulet. It just wasn’t the wine anyone wanted more of! (Though that did not stop me from polishing it off a few days later with some super-sharp Irish cheddar.)
♥♥♥Domaine de Marcoux Côtes du Rhône 2016 Okay, so we had a rogue wine at the table, because a wine shop guy told someone that CDRs classified as Languedoc wines — highly debatable given the declared boundaries of the Languedoc DOC, but we drank it anyway and it was delicious. It’s mostly Grenache rouge with Mourvèdre, Cinsault and Syrah. It was fresh, fruity and floral in all the best ways and though it crashed the party, we welcomed it! $16.99
But wait, there’s more! My friends from The French #Winophiles have some amazing posts on Languedoc wines – see links below. And please join us on Saturday morning, Jan. 20 at 10 a.m. CST on Twitter, where we’ll talk all about wines and foods of the Languedoc. Bon appetite et Salud!
Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm: A Classic Pairing; Revisiting Languedoc
Lauren from The Swirling Dervish: Warming Up with the Wines of Corbieres and Minervois
Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla: Conquering Cassoulet Alongside the 2014 Minervois le Chateau d’Albas
Martin from ENOFYLZ Wine Blog: What Grows Together, Goes Together – Slow Cooker Cassoulet Paired With Affordable Occitanie Wines #Winophiles
Jeff from FoodWineClick: Let’s Make Occitanie and Cassoulet Household Words
Nicole from Somm’s Table: Kicking Off 2018 with Corbieres and Minervois
Jane from Always Ravenous: Hearty Red Wines of Corbières and Minervois Paired with Cassoulet
Lynn from Savor the Harvest: Corbières and Minervois – Where Syrah and Carignan Shine
David from Cooking Chat: Chicken Cassoulet Paired with Languedoc Wine
Rupal from Journeys of a Syrah Queen: Staying Warm the French Way – Cassoulet and Wine
Amber from Napa Food and Vine: A Tale of Two Wines
Here on L’Occasion: Eat, Drink, Travel the South of France: Minervois and Corbières