Have you heard about those tankers being emptied in the streets?
This isn’t new; it’s been going on for several years. So what does that mean for wines being produced locally there?
This month the French #Winophiles spend virtual time in Languedoc-Roussillon in the South of France. We explore treasures in the new region now known as Occitaine, with our host month, Jill Barth at L’Occassion.
Living in Bordeaux, I’m aware of some wineries struggling there. Many smaller and family run domains are working hard to deliver good, quality wines given the challenging economic climate in the South.
Production costs are almost twice as high as those in Spain (depending on where), making it more difficult to compete. And European Union rules require free movement of goods. I wasn’t familiar with this- it adds another level of challenge.
Now add rough growing years where inclement weather reduces crop yield… financial struggles grow.
When wine supply falls short of need, some French wine merchants and brokers supplement with Spanish wine. Even when there’s not a shortage they do so because the cost of bulk Spanish wine is less. It’s purchased then bottled and sold with an EU denomination stating it’s of Spanish origin. The bulk wine goes to bag-in-box, high-volume brands, and flavored wine drinks. EU labeling rules make it easy for distributors to sell wine this way. It’s a controversial topic.
Historically, the Pays d’Oc region where Languedoc-Roussillon lies contains a fair amount of smaller wineries. Over the last century, this area built its wine industry on bulk, but still very drinkable table wine for the budget-conscious consumer. Prices for this commodity wine dropped over the years, hurting some wineries financially. But take note!
Today you can find high quality, fabulous wines at amazingly affordable prices in Languedoc-Roussillon.
One such winery is Domaine Mirabel.
Grandpa Feuillade purchased the estate, planting vineyards in the early 50’s. Tragedy struck in 1957 with an uncompromising freeze killing every last vine, but with the help of his son, they replanted. The brother’s father took over selling most grapes to a local cooperative. He saved just a small amount to make wine. Samuel and Vincent eventually stepped in and as of 2002, decided to keep all grapes for their own wine production. In 2009 they converted to organic farming and winemaking- they feel their wines are fresher as a result.
Fresher wines are generally seen in cooler growing regions, such as the hills of Le Montagne de L’Hortus located in Pic Saint-Loup. I spoke with Vincent who shared they’ve seen changes in climate each year and are now harvesting generally a week or so earlier despite some of their vineyards being in higher areas.
Domain Mirabel has grown from earlier years but is still relatively small compared to some, making roughly 40,000 bottles annually: 2 reds (75% of production), 1 white, and a rosé. I recently featured the rosé in a tasting here.
Domaine Mirabel “Les Bancels” Rouge, 2014 (14% abv, €12.50)
A blend of five grapes, this vintage is primarily Syrah with Mouvèdre, Grenache, Carignan and Cinsault. The wine spent 12 months in mostly second and third use barrels, then was held six months after bottling before release. Each year they purchase four or five new barrels.
- Color: Barely translucent garnet with a ruby rim
- Aromas: Raspberry, slight blackberry, fresh garrigue, and a blush of horse scent
- Palate: Deep cherry and fig with slight clove spice give way to fresh garrigue
- Conclusion: This isn’t necessarily super fruity, although it has hints of fruit on the dry palate with a round, supple mouth feel, balanced with medium acid and tannins, and a medium spice-garrigue driven finish. A good quality wine at a great price for any time enjoyment.
- Pairings to try: grilled meats and vegetables, pasta Bolognese, bean stews.
Domain Mirabel “Loriot” Blanc 2015, Pays d’Oc IGP (14% abv, €14)
Loriot is predominantly Viognier, with Roussanne and a pinch of Petit Manseng (adding freshness, per Samuel). These plots are in a slightly cooler area near the foothills of the Cévennes with limestone outcroppings known as Gravette soils. The wine is fermented 50/50 in stainless vats and oak barrels.
- Color: clear, gold
- Aromas: white peach, citrus, white and yellow floral, slight dairy aspect
- Palate: Lemon, lemon pith, less ripe stone fruit, minerals, brisk character with a refreshing wash of acidity on a medium body, mild chalkiness on the lingering finish.
- Conclusion: Another very good quality, reasonably priced wine. Upon opening it was a bit austere but quickly showed its stuff. After 15 minutes it became a peach fest (like non-sweet canned peaches).
Sun shines on this region, the intimacy of smaller winemakers working hard to produce quality, premium wines. Jancis Robinson recently shared the following in a Financial Times article:
“…I was forcibly struck by just how much great wine is being produced in the Languedoc (white and pink as well as red now), and what wonderful bargains most of them are. And I was thrilled to see continued proof of the unique and excitingly tense dry whites that can be grown on higher ground in Roussillon. These wines are so chock full of individuality, encompassing a wide range of terrains, grape varieties and different winemaking methods…” This is good, and deserved publicity for them.
Join The French #Winophiles
Our group has a live Twitter chat Saturday, October 21st at 11am ET (5pm in France) to share wines discovered and other Languedoc-Roussillon adventures. In Twitter, simply type “#winophiles” in the search bar at the top to join the discussion. This month, the French #winophiles are:
And here at Savor the Harvest I‘m sharing they are Making Great Wines in the Languedoc-Rousillion!
Did You Know…
Garrigue is the name given to the Mediterranean scrubland which is made up of low growing, bushy plants including holm oak, juniper, broom and wild herbs such as rosemary and thyme.
Autres Châteaux is one of my favorite wine shops in Bordeaux, the place to go for smaller, mostly organic (bio) wines. You can find Jérôme in his shop most days in the Les Chartrons quartier.
- Atlantic Journal
- DailyMail UK
- WineSpectator News
- Pic Saint Loup map courtesy of Social Vignerons
- Le Montagne de L’Hortus photo courtesy of Gilles Deschamps