According to Karen MacNeil, Languedoc is the land of yes. This could be because the name is derived from a group of languages and dialects spoken in the south of France during the Middle Ages known as “langue d’oc,” oc meaning “yes” in the Occitan language of southern France. Languedoc could also be the land of yes because it is a vast wine region where a wide variety of grapes are cultivated. Or finally, it could be because in Languedoc-Roussillon cover a broad spectrum, from white to red, sweet to dry, sparkling to still, and even fortified (Banyuls, one of my favorites). This month our #Winophile group is saying YES to Languedoc.
Languedoc flies under the radar with many wine consumers. Despite its historical importance and size (700,000 acres) it is largely one of France’s best kept secrets. In the Middle Ages the wines of this region were so famous they were believed by doctors to contain healing powers. Over time the focus shifted to producing bulk wines, the quality waned. However, the 1980’s saw a shift. High quality producers from other French wine regions began falling in love once again with Languedoc-Roussillon. Small, big, and colossal began crafting wine in the region. Because of the low cost of vineyards, many high quality new comers have made the region their home.
“The wines of Languedoc-Roussillon are the quintessential wines of southern France and represent the most exciting, best-value French wines.” ~ Karen MacNeil, The Wine Bible, 294.
This vast region runs west to east from the Pyrenees Mountains at the Spanish border, east to Provence. It is widely influenced by the Mediterranean Sea, with some Atlantic influences in the western hills. The region responded to an EU inducement to pull out poor performing vines in less suitable areas by reducing their total hectares from 292,000 ha in 2005, to 236,500 ha in 2009. Today, the vines grow in higher elevations with poorer soils, producing improved quality and affordable prices.
Languedoc-Roussillon is a terroir driven region. Many vineyards are surrounded with scrub bushes, trees, and wild herbs called garigue. Flavors and aromas of lavender, thyme, and juniper are commonly found in wines from the region. Soils in the region range from alluvial near the sea to chalk, gravel, and limestone further inland. Although phylloxera destroyed many of the 150 varities found in the region, over 50 remain today, making Languedoc a patchwork of wines.
One producer that seems to be on everyone’s radar is Maison Hecht & Bannier. Gregory Hecht and François Bannier joined forces in 2001 on a mission to craft high quality, affordable wines. In 2003, they released their first 4 cuvees from Southern France appellations. These negotiants purchase wines throughout the region, always with a focus on their core principles: “Blending the fruit of several growers within an appellation, long ageing, severe work on blends to offer under a single brand the quintessential expression of each AOP.” Hecht & Bannier is a boutique negotiant making boutique wines, and the wine world has taken notice. I had lunch with Gregory Hecht in Provence last fall. At lunch he explained their focus is to “bottle the Mediterranean Sea.” Their formula is “each wine typically has up 5 – 10 different grape sources within an appellation.” They buy grapes at top dollar and work hard to build relationships of trust with top growers. Therefore, “80-90% of the grapes sourced come from the same vineyards each year; the remaining 10-20% are about them wanting to stay fluid to be able to always source the best fruit.” As a side note, the WSET Level 2 study guide, The World Atlas of Wine 7th edition, and The Wine Bible 2nd edition, all use Hecht & Bannier as an example of newcomers to the region who are producing wines worth enjoying at value pricing.
2014 Hecht & Bannier Languedoc France ($13): 80% Syrah, 10% Grenache, and 10% Carignan; deep ruby; medium+ aromas red currants, cranberries, cherries, fresh and slightly dried, eucalyptus, lavender, baking spice, pepper, forest floor; medium body, high acidity with grippy, earthy tannins, good intensity of flavors, enters palate fruity then evolves into earthiness that stays long after the wine is swallowed, concrete fermentation, certified organic, this is one of the absolute best $13 wines I have ever had. Widely distributed; click here to locate.
With the temperature finally aligning with the season I decided to pair this wine with Brown Sugar Balsamic Pork Tenderloin, a delicious mostly slowcooker meal, with rainbow carrots and farro with dried cranberries. It was a good pairing. The balance of fruit and earth of the wine blended well with the balance of sweet and earthy spice of the dinner. I particularly enjoyed how the rubbed sage on the pork blended with the balsamic brown sugar waltzed across my tongue with the wine. Elegant, classic.
Here are more ways you can say YES to Languedoc:
Martin from Enofylz 2014 Domaine L’Ostal Cazes “Grand Vin” Minervois La Livinière #Winophiles
Nicole from Somm’s Table Domaine de Majas Côtes Catalanes Blanc with Butter Poached Salmon and White Asparagus
Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm Celebrating Languedoc with Cassoulet
Gwen from Wine Predator Grilled Cheese with 4 Affordable Wines from Occitanie: new name for a fave region in France
Jane from Always Ravenous Rustic Sausage Kale Pasta with Languedoc Wine
Melanie from Wining with Mel French kiss: a glimpse into the food and wine of Languedoc
Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla An Easy Dinner with Anchoïade and Mas Cavalier de Lascaux
Olivier from In Taste Buds We Trust Boutenac: Balance in the Languedoc
Lynn from Savor the Harvest Making Great Wines in the Languedoc-Rousillion #Winophiles
Jill from L’occasion New Roots Along the Canal du Midi
*Wine was provided as a media sample; all thoughts and opinions are my own.
My Song Selection: It is not the most classic waltz, but I do have a sense of humor. My husband and I recently saw Cake. What a fun show! I thought this cover of a classic Willie Nelson song would be a fun pairing. If you are not a fan, than I apologize.
Get your bottle of Languedoc wine and let me know what song you pair with it. Cheers!