Third in a series.
I was eager to attend this event held at The Exchange Conference Center on the Boston Fish Pier which consisted of both a seminar and walk-around tasting; eager because one of my instructors at Boston University’s Elizabeth Bishop Center for Wine, Sandy Block MW, would be leading the seminar and guided tasting. In addition to being an excellent teacher, Sandy is a Master of Wine and creator of Legal Seafoods’ outstanding wine program. After registering for L”Aventure Languedoc three times due to some redundancy at the agency running the event, I was looking forward to an instructive and enjoyable afternoon. However, when checking in, I was informed that though registered for the walk-around tasting, I was not registered for the seminar which by then was fully booked. The upshot was that while the other attendees were at the seminar, I had a largely deserted tasting room to myself, conducive for both easily engaging the distributors pouring and accessing the spitoon, always a problem at a crowded table.
There were thirteen tables to be visited for a total of fifty-plus wines to be sampled. But that wasn’t my goal. Rather, I was more interested in an overview of the wines from this once infamous region. The Languedoc-Roussillon, largest wine region in both France and the world, at one time supplied France’s notorious “wine lake”: subsidized farmers produced wines of such poor quality that they were only suitable for industrial purposes and in such quantity that a sizeable surplus was created. With the exception of a few serious and highly regarded producers in the region, Languedoc wines were not taken seriously. That chapter of Languedoc history has been laid to rest. Better quality wines are now produced and the region has entered the world wine market with a notable and growing presence.
As a member of The Rosé Society, my first task was to seek out pinks. I only found a scant handful. The best of these was the ’12 Hecht & Bannier Languedoc Rosé – racy with brambly fruit.
Though my quest for pinks yielded little, the number of good sparklers made up for my disappointment. As the consumption of champagne increases, so does the market for value-priced sparkling wine. Whether or not champagne is inherently over-priced, the market has opened up for more reasonably priced alternatives. Particularly attractive are the sparklers from Limoux, a sub-region of Languedoc, which claims to be the actual birthplace of sparkling wine. Most interesting was Gilles Louvet’s ” Bulles d’O” NV Blanquette de Limoux. (A “Blanquette de Limoux” is composed of at least 90% Mauzac, a local indigenous grape.) In addition to the Blanquette style, there is also Cremant de Limoux – composed of Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay and – in the case of rosés – some Pinot Noir. In the sparkler category, the wines from Domaine J. Laurens stood out – both the ’10 “Les Graimenous” and the Rosé No.7 NV. (Both are imported by Cynthia Hurley French Wines.) All the sparklers at the show are exceptional values; “Les Graimenous” easily compares with Champagnes four times its price.
As for reds, my tasting seemed to center on wines featuring Syrah blended with Grenache, Carignan or Mourvedre. (Frankly, I prefer my Syrah blended with Viognier but that’s another story in another region.) In general, these reds are straight-forward with good fruit – black berries with herbal and earthy accents, moderate acidity and manageable tannins. Languedoc reds are made for food – game, grilled meats, charcuterire. And like the sparklers are great value. Among the reds, I particularly enjoyed the Hecht & Bannier ’10 Minervois and Rhone winemaker Pierre Gaillard’s ’09 “Transhumance”. (Cynthia Hurley French Wines scored a trifecta with the two outstanding sparklers and the “Transhumance”.) In addition, I particularly enjoyed the selections from two négociants – Hecht & Bannier (imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons) and those of Gérard Bertrand.
Though the afternoon didn’t turn out as I’d anticipated, I did enjoy tasting my way through the wines of a region that has turned itself around.