Giving Languedoc Some Respect

The Languedoc-Roussillon region (aka AOC Languedoc) is France's largest wine region and perhaps the most under-rated, under-priced, and under-valued. Not too long ago, Languedoc was widely regarded as the producer of everyday table wines for the masses. The wines were considered pleasant, fruity, food-friendly and value-priced; surely not in the same class as the great wines of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Loire or Rhone. Languedoc was the Rodney Dangerfield of France, getting no respect from wine enthusiasts, professionals, or the general public.

In 2007, things started to change with the assignment of a hierarchy to the roughly 30 AOCs in the region. Now, consumers can evaluate wine from Languedoc just as they would from Bordeaux or the Loire, with designations for Crus (the best), Grands Vins (middle) and everyday wines. The region's wine marketers have also stepped up to the plate, holding seminars and tastings for consumers and the wine trade throughout the world.

It was at one of those educational sessions that VinoDuo had a chance to confirm our long-held belief that Languedoc is a great wine region as well as a value-centric one. Sponsored by the Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vin du Languedoc (CIVL) and hosted by Sandy Block (Director of Legal Sea Foods' wine program, the session included a blind tasting and distributor-sponsored mini expo. The event was held at the seaside Exchange Conference Center, a gorgeous venue for wine events.


Seven Wines in Blind Tasting

The blind tasting pitted four wines from mostly Languedoc (AOC's of Minervois, Corbieres-Boutentac and Cru-Languedoc) against two wines from the Southern Rhone—including  a highly respected Chateuneuf de Pape—and one from Paso Robles in California. The point? Once you remove the snobbery of a wine's labeled geography you can have a fair fight.

You know the result; we wouldn't be writing this if the high-priced Chateuneuf won. The overwhelming favorites among the wine writers at  the seminar were both from Langudoc:
  • A well-priced ($22) Chateau Sainte Eulalie La Cantiliene-AOC Minervois la Livinere-2010 (Great nose with vanilla and smoky coffee; earthy black fruits on the palate with silky tannins)
  • Chateau Ollieux Romanis Atal Sia AOC Corbieres-Boutentac-2009 (Raspberry licorice on the nose with pepper and vanilla; big tannins with a dry finish that ought to be decanted prior to serving with roasted rosemary lamb—$37).
The losers in this competition included a $60 Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel-2009 and an $87 Vieux Telegraph La Crau AOC Chateauneuf du Pape-2009.

VinoDuo can vouch that the tasting was free and fair, and the best wines won.

The Mini-Expo
The open tasting feautured more than 50 wines at 13 tables manned by a variety of importers and hopeful producers.  VinoDuo had several favorites and some disappointments as's what we liked:

Hecht and Bannier are outstanding negociantes blending some of the finest juice found in the AOC Languedoc. We loved their AOC-Faugeres 2010...a blend of Syrah and Mouvedre displaying delicious dark fruits; absolutely delicious! Expect to pay $32-$35 per bottle.

Gerard Betrand is a quality wine producer that always surprises us with their value.  Their AOC-Pic Saint Loup Grand Terroir 2010 is a classic GSM (Grenche, Syrah, Mouvedre) and a perfect food wine, balancing the new and old world styles. This ought to convert your wine-snob friends to Languedoc lovers! This wine is a serious alternative to Rhone and Vino Duo bought a half-case at $20/bottle.

Gerard Betrand also poured their L'Hospitalat La Clape La Reserve Rouge 2010. This is a VinoDuo favorite from 2007 and the 2010 is even better. Within 3-6 months of cellaring this <$20 bottle will be a Chateauneuf homewrecker!  We also bought some of this for our cellar.

Ansonia Wines, a father-son team from Newtonville, MA recently started importing wines from Languedoc and debuted two selections for the tasting.  The Mas Foulaquier AOC Languedoc Pic Saint Loup Petit Duc 2008 (100% Grenache) was terrific with deep, succulent black fruits on the palate and a long finish. A tremendous deal at $22-$25 per bottle.  Ansonia's other wine was Clos Bagatelle AOC Saint-Chinian Vellee d'Automne 2009. This GSM blend is a big wine that will need another year to settle out. An amazing value at $17-$20 a bottle!

About Languedoc
Located on the southeastern Mediterranean coast the wines found here reflect an incredible variation in soils or terriore through the 30+ sub-AOC's. And no two regions taste alike as winemakers take pride in featuring the varying growing conditions.  If you find two similarly blended wines from Corbieres and compare them with Pic Saint Loup you'll get two very different, but enjoyable experiences...

Pic Saint Loup has dramatic mountainous terrrain with significant rainfall. The red wines from this region are generally blends of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre featuring a good balance of fruit and complexity.

Corbieres is situated in between the Pyrenees and the Aude River.  The press guide for this tasting pointed to the wide variation in soils within the Courbieres that define the character of the wines here. We couldn't agree more as the wines within the tasting truly exhibited some of the minerality (shale, limestone, sandstone and marl) indicated here.

You can tell we are big fans of Langueoc. When VinoDuo shops at a local wine store and finds just one or two bottles from this abundnant region we're sad. If more purveyors understood that Languedoc produces some amazing wines that can hold their own against higher-priced,better-known wines from Europe, Australia, and the U.S.we might see more selections on shelves. We hope you'll venture to try the wines of Languedoc as this region is now deserving of Bordeaux-like respect.


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