If variety is the spice of life, Languedoc wines provide plenty of seasonings to choose from this holiday season. As France’s (and the world’s) largest wine-producing region, Languedoc offers a diverse range of ripe, textured red blends that are of quality and value — the majority of which are priced affordably at a sweet spot of just under $20.
Though blends have recently become a buzz-worthy-word trend in the wine world, they have actually been developed for numerous years now all over the globe. In the case of Languedoc, this winemaking practice and prowess is a skill that’s been honed in the region for over 2,000 years. Here red wine accounts for more than 75% of production, and varying blends must be cultivated from any combination of the designated required varietals, which include Carignan, Cinsault, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah, in place of single varietal offerings.
Bordering Spain in the west, Languedoc is situated along France’s southern coast covering an area that encompasses where the Rhône River meets the Mediterranean Sea. It is a warm region with divergent soil types and microclimates. “The sheer diversity in this vast region is mind-blowing,” notes Jeb Dunnuck of The Wine Advocate. “The consumer simply needs to get more access to these wines so they can…taste for themselves!” So, how can you tell what to expect from your bottle? Let’s start with three basic bits of info to note.
First off, what to look for when you’re label gazing.
There are two important pieces to the puzzle: appellation and classification. These two factors will help you determine the varietal(s) and wine quality. Wines classified as appellation d’origine protégées (AOP, formerly AOC) — specially denominated, governed wine areas — are of the highest quality and follow specific regulations regarding the minimum and maximum acceptable percentages of the required varieties used.
Next, AOPs you should know.
When it comes to Languedoc, several of the region’s official AOPs and those known in particular for a renowned range of dry red blends include Corbières, Minervois, Fitou, Faugères and St. Chinian.
1. AOC Corbières — In general, many wines from Corbières will be fruity with a rugged herbaceousness (the distinctive “garrigue” perfume native to the area — see below for more on garrigue).
2. AOC Minervois — Wines from Minervois offer similar characteristics but as softer, silkier versions.
3. AOC Fitou — Wines from Fitou showcase a more delicate complexity based on refined winemaking techniques.
4. AOC Faugères — These wines feature a fresh minerality that ensures balance between concentration, ripeness and acidity.
5. AOC Saint Chinian — In between Minervois and Faugères is St. Chinian, where wines display flavors of black fruits, spice and herbal overtones.
Finally, the aromas and flavors you’ll find.
Speaking of herbal overtones, the breathtaking landscape of Languedoc — known as garrigue — is celebrated for the aromatic plants that line the countryside. Rosemary, sage, wild thyme and lavender are commonplace here, and they provide many of the region’s red blends with earthy and verdant notes that make them the perfect partner for Thanksgiving pairings. Rosemary roasted turkey, sage and onion stuffing and green beans with almond and thyme are just a handful of dishes that would be divine with these wines. The combination of flavors can bring the best of France’s haute cuisine home for the holidays, which is something everyone will be thankful for when it comes to tantalizing taste.
Here are a few Languedoc wine suggestions to try that are great buys:
Les Deux Rives, Corbières Rouge, 2009 (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Carignan)
Gerard Bertrand Minervois, 2011 (Syrah, Carignan)
Domaine Grand Guilhem Fitou, 2008 (Carignan, Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre)