Stunning scenery and intriguing terroir define Languedoc Roussillon

We had an excellent tasting recently with the folks from Languedoc and Roussillon. It’s a region that gets surprisingly little attention, especially considering the character of the wines and the value they deliver at most price points. Over the years, however, I think the entry level wines in particular have suffered from being mixed in on the shelf with some unremarkable French big brand names. But several yield a pretty good bang for the buck.

Our session was occasionally peppered with comments about ‘Cade’ or prickly Juniper, within the broader context of regionally unique ‘Garrigue’—one of the best explanations of which you can read here.

Some years ago, due to a last-minute change of plan, I got to spend just under a week exploring and driving myself throughout part of the area. A network of rarely traveled hilltop backroads connects villages and small towns, some of which barely seem to have changed since medieval times.

During the hour-long tasting, when I wasn’t thinking about the wines I was recalling  its absolutely stunning beauty, not to mention history. There is, after all, a definite vicarious side to wine tasting. Now I’m definitely sensing it’s past time to head back there …

Then again, I was also thinking about food. The western (more inland) part of the region, around Carcassonne, is serious Cassoulet country. Many of these wines are slam dunks for Cassoulet. And with the ‘spring’ weather we’ve been having on the Wet Coast, more than once I found myself craving a bowl, maybe from Vancouver’s Mistral or Oyama Sausage’s take home (only ‘in season’ in the fall, though).

Now things are warming up, these also make for good barbecue partners.

And what’s not to like about a wine that’s actually named ‘Garrigue’…

• Château St. Martin de la Garrigue—Bronzinelle 2007

AOC Coteaux de Languedoc

This Carignan, Grenache, Mouvedre, Syrah blend yields black and blue fruit mingled with meaty dusty aromas, followed by a well structured palate with toasty oak and spice hints on the end. This wine was actually served too cold but as it started to warm up it opened quite generously—although, interestingly, despite the name, it wasn’t the most ‘garrigue-ish’ of the wines we tasted. Think game, hearty stews or duck confit. $22 BCLS.

Not to be overlooked is this very appealing white (a relative rarity)…

• Chateau Pech Céleyran 2009

AOC Languedoc – La Clape

Most of the wines from round here are reds but, once in a while, some pretty interesting whites pop us as well, like this one. Some floral notes on top followed by peachy stonefruit with a hint of toasty oak and a hint of mineral undertones. Pork tenderloin would be good. Or, you could just sip it and be happy. (BCLS Specialty $19.99)

BC Liquor Stores’ promotion just ended but there still seems to be a pretty good selection of wines available …

Chapoutier Banyuls 2008

AOC Banyuls

Banyuls is Roussillon’s celebrated sweet wine. This one’s a ‘rimage’ fortified wine, with the grapes all from the same vintage, made from only Grenache Noir. Dried fruits on the nose that carry through to the palate with some firm tannis, coffee notes and a lengthy finish. You could sip it with chocolate but more interesting suggestions from our Languedoc Roussillon friends included duck with cherries, blue cheeses—and (being on the coast) … anchovies. Now that’s interesting! (BCLS $25.99).

Check out some other recommendations in our North Shore News column.