by Paige Donner Sure, many of them are organic, some are even natural wine. And yes, they consistently offer rich tastes and aromas, balanced with nice acidity where they’re supposed to be. And, OK, the packaging is attractive, easy to … Continue reading
Of course the holiday season brings lists of gifts. And top on those lists to be found are often the family pet! : ) Made In Pet is a made in the South of France pet treat that is all-natural … Continue reading
Announcement from Gerard Bertrand, CHATEAU L’HOSPITALET
We have the pleasure to announce you that Gérard Bertrand has been awarded on Tuesday “Red Winemaker of the Year” by the International Wine Challenge after winning 46 awards and three trophies for its wines.
With 10,000 wines from around the world tasted by the jury of experts the International Wine Challenge is one of the most prestigious wine competitions in the world.
We are really honored to dedicate this Trophy to you (Gérard Bertrand is at 5’20”).
All photos by Paige Donner c. 2011.
The Gérard Bertrand annual Jazz Fest took place August 4th – 8th this summer at Château l’Hospitalet just outside Narbonne. These photos are taken at Château l’Hospitalet in Languedoc-Roussillon, “Sud de France.”
To read more about Gérard Bertrand wines, his annual summer Jazz Fest and his L’Art de Vivre Les Vins Du Sud, click on Gerard-Bertrand.com.
Gilles Goujon is France’s top chef for 2010. He was voted Chef of The Year by 6,000 of his peers, a group comprised of the nation’s top chefs, sommeliers and patissiers. Goujon’s trademark is his talent of combining “radiant, inventive yet traditional cuisine based on seasonal produce.”
In 2010, Goujon’s out-of-the way restaurant nestled 50km. outside of Perpignan in the Languedoc Roussillon region received its 3rd Michelin Star. This is a very exclusive circle and one reserved for the highest achieving chefs as is the Chef of The Year distinction, an award created by Le Chef magazine back in 1987 and reserved for top gastronomic distinction. Gault & Millau also awarded Goujon 5 chef hats this year, their highest award.
It was in 1992 when Goujon opened his “real adventure,” the Auberge du Vieux Puits, a modest out-of-the way inn located between vineyards and the garrigue scrubland in the 137-inhabitant village of Fontjoncouse, 50km. outside of Perpignan in the Corbières region. This little inn has earned a worldwide reputation, attracting connoisseurs from far, far afield who wish to delight in his inventive, with a Mediterranean touch, cuisine.
Born in 1961, Gilles Goujon worked with Chefs of such prestige as the Rouquette brothers in Ragueneau (Béziers), Roger Vergé at the Moulin de Mougins, Jean-Paul Passédat at the Petit Nice in Marseille and then with Gérard Clor at l’Escale in Carry-le-Rouet before opening up his own inn in the middle of the sweet-smellig, sage-filled garrigue. It was then, in 1997, that he earned his first Michelin star and the distinction of Meilleur Ouvrier de France. In 2001 he won his second star, recognized for his innovation. And now in 2010 he has his third Michelin star.
Goujon has spent part of his Autumn in Paris, on the Champs Elysees where he has been the guest chef at the time-honored Fouquet’s. In October he and resident chef Jean-Yves Leuranguer put on a “Diner 4 Mains” for lucky and delighted gastronomy guests. Seasonal ingredients and innovative cuisine are Chef Goujon’s signature and that’s what you were treated to if you were able to catch him for the fleeting moments when he stepped off his vineyards and into the haute urban setting to share his starry talents with Parisian diners.
by Paige Donner
Just north of the ancient town of Béziers, where Molière and his band of Troubadours once spent a winter (ca. 1656), is the lovely AOC Saint Chinian. The area which envelopes 20 some villages and 3,300 hectares from the foot of the mountains Espinouse and Caroux, also includes the sub-appellations of Berlou and Roquebrun. It is one of the earliest appellations in the Languedoc to receive that distinction, designated in 1982, and produces both reds and rosés under AOC St. Chinian, with the area’s vignerons producing whites under the AOC St. Chinian (blanc) since 2005 and also frequently under a Vins de Pays d’Oc label.
The climate, – sunny Sud de France – and the soils, primarily schistes, clay, calcareous and limestone, are typical of this Mediterranean zone and is one of the important elements that has lent itself to building this appellation’s “grand” reputation. The average temperature is a cool 14° C. The varietals used for the red blends in St. Chinian are Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, Mourvèdre, Cinsault and Lladoner Pelut. For the most part a St. Chinian red can be expected to be rich and generous with the rosés a bit more delicate giving off their hints of red berry fruits.
Red wines dominate in this appellation, which is true of the region, with 89% of the production going towards them, while just 1% ends up as white wine and a decent 10% being produced as rosés. To visit all the wineries of St. Chinian, allow for some time. There are 100 private wineries and 8 cooperative cellars (caves coopératives) with a total of approximately 350 producers.
A Bit of History
The name St. Chinian is derived from the name of the monk, Sanch Anhan, who founded the monastery in the year 794 on the left bank of the River Vernazobre one of two rivers that run through the terrain. The Benedictine monk, beatified in 1102, became known as St. Chinian. St. Chinian is a delightful area in which to play tourist while you taste wines and stock up your cellar. You can meander along the ancient Roman road that connected Narbonne to the upper Languedoc and then all the way onto Italy – the road that Molière and the Troubadours would have travelled. Or you can drive through the Orb Valley where orange trees an eucalyptus trees flourish alongside the river gorge, and where the little jewel of a village Roquebrun nestles. Be sure to pause along the wine route to take some of the heritage walks through the vineyards.
Domaine La Grange Léon, AOC Saint-Chinian, Berlou
Joël and Véronique Fernandez named their vineyard after Joel’s great-grandfather, Leon, who himself came from a long line of vineyard managers and winemakers originating from this Languedocien patch of land not all that far from the Spanish border and Pays Basque. It was Léon who was one of the founding member of the “caves coopérative” of Berlou, credited with uplifting the quality and reputation of St. Chinian wines. Since he was 16 years old, Joël dreamed of being the owner-operator of his own vineyards and winery. He immersed himself in the seasonal rhythms of the vines, in the harvests and dedicated himself to learning the mastery of the “alchemy” of winemaking.
In 2008 Joël and Véronique established their own winery. They harvest their grapes only by hand and are rigorously attentive about the quality of the grapes they allow into the cellar. The Domaine’s vineyards are primarily schiste soils and because they’ve invested so much of themselves into their winery, they are fond of declaring that their wines are “a bit of the terroir and a bit of ourselves.”
La Grange de Léon – Vintage Selection
La Rose de Laury, AOC Saint-Chinian Rosé This rosé has delicate fuchsia reflections with notes of strawberries and cherries. 60% Cinsault, 20% Syrah, 20% Mourvèdre.
Viognier, Vins d Pays d’Oc Blanc Sold out. Only the proprietor has a few bottles on reserve. Uncharacteristically made from 100% Viognier. [The French make blends from the appellation’s designated varietals, Americans tend toward single varietal vintages.] Notes of passion fruit, pineapple, apricot. Aromas of verveine.
D’une main à l’autre, AOC Saint-Chinian – Berlou Rouge Only available in 2010 – so get it now. Plums on the nose, black cherries; mandarin, vanilla, pepper on the tongue. Round, full, long in the mouth. For steaks on the grill in summer, Entrecôte in the winter. Also: L’insolent, AOC Saint-Chinian Rouge; L’Audacieux, AOC Saint-Chinian Rouge Visit the Maison des Vins in Saint-Chinian on the Grand Rue to start off your wine tasting of the region. Ask for Henri Miquel, the President or Nelly Belot, Director. And be sure to stop in at the Syndicat du Cru AOC Saint Chinian at 1 Rue de la Promenade, St. Chinian.
“One of the 10 best wines in the world.” – Michael Broadbent
“A Lafite in Languedoc.” – Gault et Millau
Daumas Gassac vineyards planted amidst the Languedocian garrigue and protected forestlands, Aniane, France.
By Paige Donner
My father once told me the tale about a Stradivarius. There was a Stradivarius that sat in the dusty folds of a shelf in the back of an obscure violin shop. People came and bought violins from the shopkeeper, for themselves, for their children, but the few who stumbled upon the dusty, old instrument quickly overlooked it, assuming that it couldn’t possibly be an instrument of any worth. Until one day, a master violinist stumbled into the store and like a mother to its child, was at once drawn to the exquisite instrument and knew it instantly for what it was. In his hands, beautiful music once again flowed forth from the Stradivarius.
This story came to mind as I drove away from Mas de Daumas Gassac, the 50 hectare Languedocian vineyard estate just outside of Aniane. This region, the Midi, is, of course the Languedoc-Roussillon, the region that produces the most wine not just in France but in the world. The region is, in every sense of the phrase, Sud de France.
What the region was not known for in 1970 was its quality wine. Flanked by Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Loire and Rhone Valleys, the Languedoc has long been known as the area that makes table wines or vins de table, the better ones just squeaking by with a vin de pays classification – or so goes the common perception. But not all wines need a classification in order to be good. Excellent, even. Indeed, in the case of Mas de Daumas Gassac, as much notoriety as this wine has attracted, it still eschews classification, its winemakers saying a polite “no thanks” to an AOC label.
Rooted In The Languedoc
Flash back to 1970 when a husband and wife team, Aime’ and Veronique Guibert, were in one of those life transitional phases and decided to buy a farm. What they found was this old rundown farm just outside of Aniane, situated in the middle of the Forest of Arboussas, that was still owned by two old spinster sisters of the Daumas family. It was also nestled next to the Gassac River and, in fact, was an old mill or “moulin.”
Tout ce qui brille n’est pas d’Or.
“Everything that glitters is not gold.”
…And, conversely, all that is gold does not glitter. In what has played out over the last 40 years since the Guibert family has grown their grapes and harvested their wines at the vineyard they planted around that old dilapidated mill, now the Mas de Daumas Gassac, is nothing short of an uncovering of a long-forgotten treasure. The treasure, arguably an unofficial Tresor de France, is the terroir of the Gassac Valley.
50 Hectares of Vineyards Surrounded by 100 Hectares of Mediterranean Woodland
The 50 hectares that Mas de Daumas Gassac rests on are home to the first wines ever produced in the Gassac Valley. Those wines were made for Charlemagne, the first King of France ca. 780 A.D. In fact, it was St. Benoit d’Aniane, one of Charlemagne’s counsellors and an Abbey, who created the first vineyard in the “magical” valley of Gassac some 1,200 years ago.
The magic is the microclimate. The terroir was rediscovered in 1971 by Henri Enjalbert a Professor of Geology at Bordeaux University. Veronique, also a PhD (in ethnology) and husband Aime’ Guibert were successful in getting Professor Enjalbert out to the Mas to check out not just the unusual red soil, which was found to be glacial soil, the calceous limestone (for the white varietals), but also to explore the cool microclimate that is derived from multiple factors: the Gassac River, several natural springs on the property, and the cool night air that descends from the Larzac mountains throughout the valley cooling the air surrounding the vines in August and September by about 5 to 10 degrees.
It was this same Prof. Enjalbert who declared to the Guiberts that they were sitting on “the ideal and unique terroir to produce a Grand Cru wine.”
Mas de Daumas Gassac Estate Today
Today it is the brothers Samuel, Gael, Amelien, Roman and Basile who take care of the estate. The Mas de Daumas Gassac label, with its sister label of Moulin de Gassac, produces about 150,000 to 200,000 bottles every year.
Walking through the Daumas Gassac vineyards is not just a walk through the vines but also a walk through the Forest of Arboussas, the Languedocien garrigue and, on this sweet summer day in June, a walk through veils of frolicking white and yellow butterflies. The ladybugs are there, too, when you stop and look closely.
Samuel Guibert, the estate’s winemaker who spent ten years in New Zealand before coming home to help run the family business, matter-of-factly explains that no chemicals, no fertilizers, nothing of the sort has ever touched this soil. “It’s virgin land,” he says. The family themselves source their drinking water from the freshwater springs on the property, so they are not about to poison themselves – or their vines. Their approach to land is “to preserve nature’s balance.”
What’s really unique about this estate, however, in addition to the glacial red soil and everything else…is that the 63 vineyard parcels are all planted interspersed throughout the property, fully integrated with the garrigue and the 3,000 hectares of protected forestland.
When you look up the translation for garrigue, the English is “scrubbrush” or just “garrigue.” What it is in fact is clusters of lavendar, mint, thyme growing wild since the millennia. This is the real Mediterranean. Aromatic, fragrant. So like hidden gardens of fruit nestled within aromatic parcels of herbs, the vineyards are planted throughout this preserved and untouched forestland of fragrant garrigue.
When the grapes are harvested by hand, they are then deposited via gravity into the underground fermentation cellar via a trapdoor which is up top at ground level. The fermentation cellar used to be an underwater tank. “We took what existed and made the best of it,” says Guibert, emphasizing that the whole process from sorting to destemming to macerating is all moved along purely by gravity and all done by hand.
This is a process not often seen any longer anywhere, including France. Some of the vineyards in Bordeaux used to use this gravity-fed process but most have since switched to automated. The difference being, explains Samuel, that the less the grapes are manipulated or handled, the better.
Similarly natural and using the resources at hand, the river next to the cellar helps to maintain the cellar at a cool 13-14 degrees C. in Winter and about 17-18 C. in summer with about 70% humidity. “It’s perfect temperatures for cellaring our wines,” says Samuel Guibert.
They only use about 5% new oak. “We don’t use oak to influence the taste of the wine, rather to enhance the capacity to age,” explains Guibert. You will often hear that a Mas de Daumas Gassac – red or white – has an ease of ability to age. “They are wines that can age, I like to say,” says Guibert, noting that the red that you drink and enjoy today will be a different wine from the one you cellar for 10, 15 and even 25 years. Different and perhaps equally enjoyable.
They blend for complex wine. The Guiberts only planted old strains of vines used before cloning, “to ensure traditional flavors and low yields.”Some of the planted vines are pre phyllaxera era and some are grafted onto American root stock. Oenologues refer to the Daumas Gassac vineyard as a “living museum” of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Manseng – a varietal that really only thrives in the south west region of France, – Viognier and also a “panoply” of 10% varietals that originate from “Biblical” Mediterranean vines – Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Armenia.
As for the vines that St. Benoit of Aniane planted for the Abbey and Charlemagne, “The existing vineyard that my parents found when they arrived at Mas Daumas in 1970 was indeed extremely ancient but no one can prove if it was the exact same vines as when St Benoit d’Aniane arrived,” says Guibert.
Emile Peynaud, the revered modern genius of oenology, told Mssr. Guibert back at the start of this quest for treasure that he had never been attendant at the birth of a Grand Cru. Forty years later, and we get to enjoy the fruits of that treasure quest.
Mas de Daumas Gassac Haute Vallée Du Gassac 34150 Aniane, France www.daumas-gassac.com
by Paige Donner
Terrasses du Larzac, Coteaux du Languedoc, AOC.
Terrasses du Larzac is a relatively new appellation – AOC status since the 2004 harvest– in the Hérault region of Languedoc-Roussillon in Southern France. In this sense it is absolutely reflective of the Coteaux du Languedoc’s re-establishment of the quality and prestige of its region’s vineyards, winemakers and especially its wines.
The Domaine de la Sauvageonne’s 2006 ‘Les Ruffes’ wine was placed in the top 100 wines of 2008 in The Wine Spectator, the leading USA wine magazine. Not only a tribute to the Domaine and its Director, Gavin Crisfield, this is proof of the quality potential in the Terrasses du Larzac.
The Terrasses du Larzac is a V-shaped area spreading from the Pic Saint Baudile, its cliffs and benches, that graduates on downward to the point of the V towards Aniane and Lake Salagou. The area encompasses 32 communes (villages such as Saint Jean de la Blaquière, Puechabon, Lodève, St.-Jean-de-Fos…) and produces some 75,000 hectoliters of AOC Languedoc, and only 9000 hl of AOC Languedoc -Terrasses du Larzac, annually. While the highest points of the natural boundaries of the Terrasses du Larzac reach over 800m high, the only planted and permitted AOC zones are between 50m and 300m high on the foothills of the Causse.
READ MORE on Local Food And Wine – Sud de France
by Paige Donner
Picpoul de Pinet, also spelled Piquepoul de Pinet, is both a rare white French grape varietal that thrives in the South of France and it is a designated appellation with its own A.O.C. classification in an area that hugs the Thau Lagoon between Sete and Agde in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of Southern France.
This fresh, crisp wine that splashes hints of lime and green apple in the mouth pairs beautifully with seafoods. It accents especially well the oysters and fresh prawns that grow in abundance off this Languedoc coastal region and the Thau Lagoon where the sun-loving, late-blooming grape thrives and where it enjoys its own Languedocian regional appellation.
A Great Future For A Little Known Grape
Piquepoul, the grape varietal, is used to make the light acidic wine called Picpoul de Pinet, with floral and citrus fruit aromas. It follows then, that the AOC Coteaux du Languedoc, Picpoul de Pinet classification, applies only to white wines.
This rare, ancient French grape thrives in the coastal sands near Sète in the Languedoc, the fishing village that affronts the Mediterranean Sea. The refreshing acidity of this full-bodied wine pairs especially well with seafood because of its more floral, citrus and peach flavors than the minerality of a Sancerre . Picpoul is mostly enjoyed by Languedociens or tourists visiting the area, at present, and is not yet exported as much as say, another rare French varietal, Viognier.
This clear, light-gold wine breathes appetizing aromas of peaches, juicy and fresh, with a back note of lemon-lime. Crisp and tart, white-fruit flavors and lemon-squirt acidity are fresh and cleansing in a very long finish. Not overly complex but bright and appealing, it’s a first-rate seafood wine. It has been called the Muscadet of the south of France. It is the wine that is usually served with oysters that can be found along the coasts of the Languedoc.
Serve very cool between 6 and 8°C to accompany all seafood,
by Paige Donner
Two prevailing characteristics of the Languedoc-Roussillon are that the region is steeped in history, specifically wine history, and it is known for its ripe, red wines.
But this once again up-and-coming wine region is taking its future in its own hands by using innovative approaches to freshen up its image. One of those approaches is to celebrate its vineyards’ white and rose’ wines.
In June and then again in November, the wineries of the region are encouraged to throw open their doors to tasters and wine buyers to especially highlight their rose’ and white vintages.
Back in the region’s heyday, during the XVII c., wines of the Midi, particularly its Muscats, and especially its Muscats secs, rivalled the wines of Burgundy. Wines from St. Georges d’Orques, a village where wineries still operate today, were known from border to border throughout France.
On a tasting of the Greater Languedoc region, these are some wines you ought to get the chance to try:
Cave de Roque Brun, St. Chinian. They are in the Guide Hachette and have won a Gold Medal in Paris’s Concours Generale Agricole.
Domaines de Gallieres, a new vineyard that presented its “Salsa de la Vigne” at this year’s tasting festival, a light-hearted rose’ that pairs well with melon, prosciutto, feta wrapped in marinated red peppers.
Domaine Pibarot in Mus who handpicks their grapes and uses no pesticides.
Domaine du Silene. Legend has it that an effigy of Silenus, the tutor to Dionysius the Greek God of wine and the grape, was found on the premises and watches over the estate. Vineyards thrive in the exceptional clay and limestone soils.
Domaine de Montnegre whose Rose’ is under the AOC Coteaux du Languedoc and made by blending Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault. Fresh and aromatic, it pairs well with light repasts. Their white, a blend of old Carignan blanc and Ugni blanc, is vin de Pays.
Le Domaine Puech, in Saint-Clement-de-Riviere, is a local favorite. Their Vin de Pays d’Oc Chardonnay with a floral, vanilla nose and a well-balanced, ample mouth.
Les Chemins de Carabote has a Terrasses du Larzac which exhibits both strength and elegance, richness and complexity. Featured in Guide Hachette.
Les Vignerons du Pic offers their “Gres de Montpellier,” which is their wine that’s on the map.
The AOC Gres de Montpellier was obtained in 2003 and encompasses most of the villages that are situated in the “Agglomeration” Montpellier. With this classification, the vineyards of the region are re-exerting and re-establishing their importance in the national culture of wine.
Domaine Jordy, which can be found in Le Bosc, keeps 500 hectares of vineyards under cultivation amidst 2500 hectares of garrigue, the native Mediterranean scrub brush thought to lend its aromatics of thyme, rosemary, lavendar to the wines. To keep with their whites and rose’s try the Cers Vent, Viognier and Rose’ cuvee’ speciale, as well as their Blanc vendanges passerillees for a dessert wine.