A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by Sud de France, an umbrella brand for wine and food products from Languedoc-Roussillon, to taste of some of the wines they represent for a synchronised wine tasting over social media. Here are the results from “the Dublin jury”.
Although the Languedoc-Roussillon area is huge it has been an area largely perceived for big rustic reds, the odd rosé and a smattering of whites. Nothing could be further from the truth and it was quite refreshing to see a box of samples showing just what the place was all about.
- Sparkling : Sieur d’Arques, AOC/AOP Crémant de Limoux, Grande Cuvée 1531
- White : Cigalus, VDP/IGP Pays d’OC, cuvée 2008
- Rosé : Fruité Catalan, AOC/AOP Côtes du Roussillon
- Red : Dromadaire 30670, VDP/IGP Pays d’OC, cuvée 2006
- Sweet Wine : Mas de Madame, AOC/AOP Muscat de Frontignan, cuvée 2006
1. Sparkling: Sieur d’Arques, AOC/AOP Crémant de Limoux, Grande Cuvée 1531
Now, this is interesting…in 1531 (the year after which this wine is named), we’re a full 100 years before Dom Pérignon, yes the Champagne dude when wines nuns from Limoux created the first bubbly, La Blanquette de Limoux. This is a similar story to much of the south of France – making wine for generations longer than their richer, more recent cousins in Bordeaux and Burgundy. Great stories and a rich history worth telling.
Bubbly is a great place to start. Too often sparkling wine is drunk to mark a special occasion, so in reality we don’t drink it often enough and it’s a key reason Champagne houses can charge so much for it: they tap into that sense of occasion. However, you’ll spot crémants from all over France which don’t really need that big a sense of an occasion to justify opening. But for the moment, let’s move onto the taste…
There is a little bit of a floral aspect to the nose, with some vanilla too which suggests to me some use of oak. Smooth mousse, good character and somewhere between a Brut an demi-Sec – there’s a tiny bit of sweetness there which I quite like in sparkling wine.
Overall an easy drinker and another good reason, if any were needed, to drink more bubbly.
2. White: Cigalus 2008 Gérard Bertrand
I tasted this prior to doing a Google on it and got the lovely buttery integrated oak of Chardonnay. Butter, toast, almonds, peachstones and a lovely dryness.
I really enjoyed this white, it’s well made, stylish and delicate and wouldn’t be misplaced amongst the rankings of some good Burgundies. My pick of the tasting.
Made at one of the estates owned by Gérard Bertrand, a former French rugby international, and producer of quite a bit of wine in the south of France. This is one of his relatively recent acquisitions, bought in 2002, near an area called La Clape. It’s down near Minervois and the Corbieres and is one of the estates which practices biodynamics.
3. Rosé : Fruité Catalan, AOC/AOP Côtes du Roussillon
Made in a thoroughly modern fruit forward accessible style – easy to understand, easy to like and the perfect guzzler for a hot summer day. Strawberries, icing sugar, a little bit of cream or mousse.
Funky modern styled see-through label, funky website to match (so funky I couldn’t figure out how to navigate it).
I hope I’m not doing any disservice here when I say I could see this as a great wine to move 19-23 year olds on from their alcopops or whatever they drink onto something more “sophisticated” – that is a wine which pleases instantly and doesn’t require undue service paid to terroir, tradition or tedious wine facts. This is not meant to be condescending, it’s an important role, and one which Californian producers are keen to exploit, so why let them be the only runner in the race?
4. Red wine: Dromadaire 30670, VDP/IGP Pays d’OC, cuvée 2006
Syrah and Grenache blend, nose of black olives, slightly rustic which I really like. Plenty of smooth red fruits with that lovely spice coming through towards the end. Really loved this wine – it’s hard to find this style in other countries. This sounds totally poncy, but there’s a real hardworking honesty in this wine which you tend to find in the south of France more than anywhere else.
Wasn’t quite sure what the 30670 was on the label, but soon tweaked it was a ZIP code. Not a bad effort, giving the wine a sense of place, but a little too subtle methinks but the label itself is quite funky.
Beside the funkiness that’s unfortunately where the information ends – sure it’s enough to entice the most curious of drinkers, but where’s the URL or the QR code?
5. Sweet Wine : Mas de Madame, AOC/AOP Muscat de Frontignan, cuvée 2006
Honey, mango, pineapple, marmalade, thick, unctuous, very sweet and very smooth. Difficult to taste without dessert, blue cheeses or foie gras to match it with but it’s really well made. Perfect for those with a sweet tooth.
The juice which go into this is Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains (the same which goes into the Banyul). The place is Frontigan, not too far south from Montpellier along the coast.
Sud de France tasting: what could have been done better?
For me, more information on the background of the wines – there was no story and in the perennial french way, back labels were either missing or lacking in sufficient detail.
Having said that, they’ve let the taste do the talking here – I was really impressed by the variety of styles and within this variety, the equality.
Overall thoughts on the tasting from Sud de France
There is far more to the wines of the south of France than we give them credit for. In addition to the obvious quality, there is also tremendous value to be had. Where liberté, fraternité, egalité is the motto of France, it could easily be modified to varieté, qualité, stupéfié when describing the wines from Sud de France.