Thursday, November 3, 2011

Loire vs. Languedoc

I know, I know, it seems I just toggle from one obsession to another. Now we're back at the old French North/South rivalry. The area where the Vienne meets the Loire--Saumur, Bourgueil, and Chinon--is capable of producing red wines of plainspoken elegance, and even a kind of self-effacement. I can think of some Bourgueil wines--"Les Galluches" from James Petit comes to mind--that don't really express themselves fully except in the context of a meal. Or as former colleague Elaine Thomas said, "This wine wants dinner and candlelight!"

Then there's the South, especially Languedoc/Roussillon, where hot sun, drying winds, and an abundance of soil types can result in wines that show an abundance of fruit and spice. Sometimes I think the job of the winemaker in this part of the world is to keep all that abundance in check, lest a bit of playful hedonism become debauchery.

Clos Cristal Hospices de Saumur Saumur Champigny 2009: Black cherry, hint of cranberry, “cool” herbs, then firm cherry fruit on a lightish frame, and somewhat subdued tannins, well-balanced. The 2009 is a pleasure to drink on its own, but showed best with food; in this instance, the Chef's “fake Cassoulet.” (“It's not traditional, and doesn't have all the traditional ingredients.”) Winemaker Eric DuBois has gradually shifted to organic growing practices and minimal intervention during fermentation, including keeping the use of SOto a minimum. Click here to learn more about his winemaking and enjoy the wonderful photography of Bertrand Celce.

Chateau de Lascaux Coteaux du Languedoc 2008: A blend of 60% Syrah, 35% Grenache, and 5% Mourvèdre. Black pepper, herbs, and red berries on the nose; quite luscious on the palate with more red fruit and a creamy mouthfeel. Little kick of spicy pepper and acidity at the finish; lovely stuff, and at $19/bottle, reasonably priced. A Wine Dictator Spectator “Top 100” pick, but worthwhile even so. It's easy to understand why the Spec gives it a big score; it really is a pretty "easy" wine, where the fruit borders on voluptuousness, and the oak gives it a polish like a newscaster's hair. Yet there's enough complexity here to let the maquillage slide by. (Besides, sometimes we're in the mood for maquillage.) This is made by Jean-Benoît Cavalier, President of AOC Languedoc, which is doing away with the “Coteaux du Languedoc” appellation, not sure why, except to keep us all as confused as possible about Southern Provence wines. You'll find more here about M. Cavalier and his activities.

 As of this writing, both wines are in stock at the Asheville Wine Market.

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