I was absolutely beside myself with excitement last week to be invited to a tasting of a selection of Languedoc wines followed by a delicious dinner at the Ampersand Hotel in South Ken. It was a fantastic evening with some exceptional wines and a real chance to hear from the winemakers about their wines and the recent developments within the region. The Languedoc may not be the first region that leaps to mind when you think about France and wine but it would be so boring to just talk about Bordeaux and Burgundy all the time. Not only that but I think the winemakers of the Languedoc would be horrified by any implication of comparison.
The trouble is that it can be a bit tricky (the French can be so tricky) for the casual wine drinker to know what to get if you’re after a wine from the Languedoc. We’re talking about a region in the south of France that is made up of 36 different appellations and produces red, white, sparkling and dessert wines. It grows grape varieties you’ve probably never heard of (Carignan, Mouvedre or my new personal favourite – Bourboulenc) over a fairly vast geographical area with an array of different soil types and ‘terroirs’. But this is what makes the Languedoc so exciting; it offers something individual and a plethora of wine styles to satisfy just about anyone.
One of my favourite wines of the evening was the Domaine la Rouviole 2006 which was a beautifully smooth yet full-bodied wine with a nose of cassis and perfumed fruit. Similar in style was the Chateau Maris Les Planels Old Vine Syrah 2009 which had darker fruit, chewy tannins and great depth of flavour. Both wines needed food – a rich beef stew would have been a welcome accompaniment. The Chateau les Ollieux Romains Cuvee Or 2010 was a stunner with great balance and fruit concentration tasting unusually developed for a relatively young wine.
The Ampersand Hotel provided a completely delicious dinner (the pistachio and olive oil cake was extraordinary) but the wine and food match of the evening for me was the baked scallops (beautifully presented) paired with the Chateau d’Angles Grand vin 2008. This wine was full and lush with a nutty, creamy, marzipan flavour and a hint of oak. Ordinarily I would have said that this wine was far too much for scallops, that it would have completely overpowered them, but it works. Brilliantly.
I think the key with the Languedoc is to experiment. Try not to be put off by the ever so slightly confusing wine labels and perhaps unfamiliar grape varieties. As a region it produces some smashing wines and often for exceptionally reasonable prices. Look out for Corbieres, Cabardes, Fitou and Languedoc La Clape. Happy hunting.