One year ago I shared how I longed to sit in a café in the South of France enjoying French wine with a delicious meal. Happily, this past September I had the blessing of achieving this dream in Provence on the French Riviera. As 2017 begins, I still long to embrace this experience in the Languedoc. Nestled along the Gulf of Lion in the Mediterranean Sea, Languedoc – Roussillon is magical. Wild and expansive Mediterranean landscapes, gently rolling hills, fresh herbs and grape vines as far as the eye can see. Slower and more rustic than Provence; it is traditionally French. Historical and modern at the same time, this region boasts great sites, adventures, food and wine!
The Languedoc is the largest wine region in France. A quarter of all of France’s vineyards, almost 200,000 hectares, are located there. The Mediterranean Sea and the mountainous inland create a variety of climates within the region which allow for a variety of grapes to be cultivated into sparkling wines, dry white wines, full body red wines and delicate Pinot Noirs. Furthermore, grape varietals such as Carignan, Grenache and Syrah have been cultivated for centuries and have old, strong, deep rooted vines. As the name suggests Languedoc-Roussillon used to be two independent wine regions. Between the two regions Languedoc gets more press and attention; therefore, today our focus is on Roussillon; more specifically Côtes du Roussillon Villages.
Roussillon is part of the Pyrénées-Orientales, a Catalan region on France’s border with Spain. Because it is located between the Pyrénées and the Mediterranean Sea, Roussillon is one of the sunniest regions in France, producing wines that are rustic in nature with delightful garrigue aromas of lavender and savory herbal notes along with baked berries. The Côtes du Roussillon Villages are comprised of 32 towns in the north of Côtes du Roussillon. The climate is highly influenced by the Mediterranean, altitudes vary between 100 to 400meters, with soil ranging from granite and gneiss terrain, black and brown schist, clay and limestone, and stony terraces. It contains about 1300 hectares of vines producing red wine only from Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Carignan.
Michel Chapoutier is a famed producer of Rhone Valley wines. As a passionate terroir lover, Michel saw something in the 190 acre neglected estate in Agly Valley Roussillon and purchased the vineyards in 1999. In the hills of the Agly Valley, 40+ year old vines are carefully managed, sustainably farming and low yields combine to create the high quality wines of Bila-Haut.
2015 M. Chapoutier Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Côtes du Roussillon Blanc France ($14): 50% Grenache Blanc, 20% Marsanne, 20% Macabeo, 10% Vermentino (Rolle); clear pale gold; clean medium aromas of jasmine, stone fruit, citrus, tropical fruit, nutmeg, cedar, and wet stone; medium + acidity, medium- body, crisp and racy on palate, mouth-watering acidity driven by minerality, coasts palate in a long, tart finish; excellent wine for the price.
2015 M. Chapoutier Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Côtes du Roussillon Villages Rouge France ($14): Syrah, Grenache, and Carignan; clear medium ruby; clean medium+ aromas of red and black berries, savory herbal notes, violets, lavender, sweet tobacco, minerality, graphite, dusty earth, vanilla; medium acidity, medium- tannins, medium body, fresh and bright with a beautiful balance between fruit and earthy flavors, well-structured, medium+ tart red fruit finish; another excellent wine at an amazing price.
Many years ago Michel Chapoutier met an Aussie winemaker, a kindred spirit with shared philosophy with an emphasis of biodynamics and terrior and an appetite for good food. Chapoutier and Ron Laughton joined forces to craft “La Pleiade,” a groundbreaking Australian wine blended from Shiraz and cuttings from Chapoutier’s famous Syrah in Hermitage. The two men then headed to the Northern Hemisphere to create another joint venture in Roussillon. In 2004 they debuted “Agly Brothers,” a wine crafted from vineyards in the upper Agly River Valley in Côtes du Roussillon village of Latour de France. It is an old vineyard with low, high quality, yields, farmed biodynamically with natural and organic composts. The result is a wine of exceptional quality with limited production.
2010 Agly Brothers Côtes du Roussillon Villages Languedoc-Roussillon France ($40): 33% Carignan, Syrah, and Grenache; clear medium+ ruby; clean medium+ aromas of black fruit, dried rose petals, black pepper, dusty earth, savory herbal notes, sweet baking spice notes, dried tobacco; medium acidity, medium well-integrated tannins, medium body, refined and elegant with a contrasting earthiness on the palate, beautifully balance, long finish; a dazzling wine that tastes way beyond its price point, meaty and driven yet sophisticated; I’d like more of this wine.
I have shared with you before how we have a standing tradition with our friends to dine together on the winter solstice each year. This year was my turn to host the dinner. My friends are wine drinkers but have never had wines from Languedoc-Roussillon. They were truly blown away by these wines and have already found and purchased the Bila-Haut wines from a local wine retailer. The prices are just too good to be true for the quality these wines delivered. I believe Languedoc-Roussillon wines are some of the most food friendly wines in the world. The herbal and earthy notes of the wines just beg for an herbaceous pairing. Therefore, I served these wines with a delicious winter kale salad, a dynamite rosemary and thyme beef tenderloin with a porcini pepper sauce recipe from Another Food Blogger, smashed rosemary and thyme golden potatoes, and haricot verts with almonds. It was an epic meal and a truly 5-star wine pairing.
*Disclaimer: I received these wines as media samples; all thoughts and opinions are my own.
My Song Selection: These three wines were all delicious, rustic in their minerality, yet elegant in their deliver. Priced for everyday enjoyment, yet sophisticated enough for a special occasion.
Get your own bottles of M. Chapoutier Bila-Haut and Agly Brothers wines and let me know what song you pair with them. Cheers!