On May 30, sip wallet-friendly, intriguing varietals from this sunny part of southern France.
Quick: What’s the single biggest wine-producing area in the world? If you guessed France, you are correct. But although you might be apt to mention one of the usual suspects like Bordeaux or Burgundy, it’s actually the Languedoc-Roussillon, which has around 700,000 acres under vine. If you are unfamiliar with this sunny and warm section of southern France — which spans the Mediterranean coastline from Provence to the country’s border with Spain — now is the perfect time to explore some of its under-the-radar offerings.
May 30 is Languedoc day (pronounced “long-dock”), where oenophiles the world over are invited to sip the region’s wines, and tweet about it with the hashtag #LanguedocDay. Though other wine regions in France struggled last year because of weather challenges, 2013 was an excellent vintage for the Languedoc, which gets an average of 320 sunny days per year. (Its Mediterranean climate translates to consistent vintages, year after year, with rain when it’s needed in the springtime, a relatively dry climate throughout the growing season, and strong winds that keep the grapes dry and free from mold and mildew.)
The region grows both popular international varietals like Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre, along with local favorites including Piquepoul and Mauzac. Many of them are super affordable, with an average retail price of $15, making them great options for summer entertaining (during which you can at least pretend you are sipping them seaside in the south of France.) And, the area’s looser AOC regulations mean that winemakers are permitted to experiment with exciting blends and different winemaking styles.
Here are a few readily available Languedoc wines to sample. All are available at area Total Wine stores.
Hugues Beauvignac Picpoul de Pinet, Coteaux du Languedoc ($8)
This white, low-alcohol quaffer is a great patio sipper. It’s crisp yet well-balanced, with tart apple, lemon and exotic fruits, and a hint of minerality. Serve it with oysters on the half shell, chilled cracked crab claws or steamed clams — or sip it all by itself by the pool.
Col des Vents Corbières Rouge ($13)
A lush blend of Carignan, Grenache and Syrah, this red wine has notes of blueberry, plum and spice, medium body and an elegant finish. The area’s vineyards are cooled by the night breezes, rendering balance and freshness. Serve it cellar temperature (vs. room temperature), with grilled marinated flank steak or barbecued chicken.
Resplandy Muscat de St. Jean ($13/375 ml)
End the evening on a sweet note with this Languedoc dessert wine, which has an intense aroma and enticing flavors of peaches, apricots and blossoms, and a caramel finish. Try it with grilled farmer’s market peaches topped with mascarpone, honey and candied pecans.
#LanguedocDay is sponsored by Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins du Languedoc (CIVL), the joint trade council of the wines of Languedoc, representing the entire AOC and IGP wines sectors. For more information, follow Languedoc Wines on Twitter @LanguedocWines, or like them on their Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/LanguedocWines.
Kelly Magyarics, DWS, is a wine, spirits and lifestyle writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, D.C. area. She can be reached through her website, www.kellymagyarics.com, or on Twitter and Instagram @kmagyarics.