I was invited along a tasting entitled ‘When Creativity meets diversity’ designed to showcase some of the Languedoc-Roussillon’s best wines as part of the Sud de France festival (17-30 September).
The Languedoc-Roussillon is famed for producing great value, easy drinking wines like those of the Vin de Pay’Oc but the purpose of this evening’s session was to get us more familiar with the finer more interesting wines made from local grape varieties.
The session, run in conjunction with the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), was very interactive and enjoyable. We were given a brief overview of the region by Isabelle Legeron, France’s first Female Master of Wine (MW), who spent some time taking us through the regions grape varieties and then cracked on with a tutored tasting a range of different wines. Below is a snapshot of some of my favourites from the night.
1. Domaine Le Conte des Floris, Lune Blanche 2005 AOC Coteaux du Languedoc
According to Jancis Robison (1992), this is a wine that simply would not have existed 20 years ago, as back then ‘no wine in France is ever sold as a varietal Carignan’, but fast-forward almost two decades and here we are.
Renowned for filling Europe’s wine lake with large volumes of inexpensive wine, blended for every day consumption; Carignan can produce extremely high yields, up to 200hl/ha in fertile soils.
Domaine Le Conte des Floris Lune Blanche is made entirely from Carignan Blanc, which is only now becoming fashionable. It is hand harvested from low-yielding vines (35 hl/ha) and aged for 18 months in small oak barrels.
Golden amber in colour this wine has a fantastically complex nose crammed with nuts, honey, orange peel and cooked apple with sweet spice and vanilla from the oak aging.
Carignan is suited to hot climes and so keeps its mouth-watering acidity well. This wine is full bodied with a medium finish and has cooked apple, oak and spicy notes coming through on the palate.
Léon Barral Blanc 2008 Vin de Pays de l’Hérault
Predominantly made from Terret, a relic of a grape variety, this wine was described as one of the most exciting wines of the Languedoc. It is a natural wine with no additives – just a dash of sulphur before bottling – and it is one that divides opinions.
If you either love it or hate it, I definitely love it.
It is hazy because it is not fined or filtered, which reminds me of a cloudy cider or unfiltered fino, both of which I love. There are some that demand their wine crystal clear, and see anything else as an imperfection, but I believe that because unfiltered, the wine keeps more of the flavour and goodness of the grapes and is all the better for it.
The Terret Blanc produces dry, light, aromatic white wine which keeps acidity well and can be high yielding (100 hl/ha).
This wine has a much more concentrated feel, understandable really given its tiny yield (15hl/ha). It is a beautiful hazy amber colour and has a sweet, ripe, fruity nose full of apricot, lychee, figs, toffee and honey. This feels like a wine you can almost eat, perhaps due to the tannins created from the wine’s long contact with grape skins. It has a long complex finish which has some savoury and salty notes alongside the fruit.
Domaine La Terrasse d’Elise, Le Pradel 2006 Vin de Pays de l’Hérault
Made from 100% Cinsault. This is often described as a workhorse grape, in that it was often used in high quantities for blending in cheap wines. At lower yields, however, it can give concentrated, rich characterful wines like the infamous Lebanon wine Chateau Musar, where it is blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.
Domaine La Terrasse d’Elise, Le Pradel is a pale orangey-red colour packed with smokey red fruit, sunbaked raspberry, and incredible perfumed violet notes.
There are animal and vegetal flavours to be found in this wine too as well as a certain finesse from the soft red fruit and fine tannins.
My tasting buddy for the evening, London Eater – who is a big Pinot Noir fan, compared this to a Louis Latour. Sadly, I’m not that familiar personally, but I could easily mistake this for a high end Burgundy in a blind tasting and at £23 think it represents a real bargain.
Pound for pound you can get so much better value in an underrated region such as Languedoc-Roussillon compared to more prestigious regions like Burgundy and Bordeaux – so go on explore a little more and check out some of the tastings at the Sud de France festival.
This year has been a weird one, full of new experiences- but one I wasn’t expecting and was thoroughly unprepared for was