France's southern vineyards offer perfect grape-growing terroir
The Romans recognized it; Julius Cesar rewarded generals who participated in the conquest of Gaul with choice vineyards in the region.
For centuries during the Middle Ages until the French Revolution, Benedictine monks recognized it, too. They established monasteries and carefully cultivated vines throughout the region to earn a winemaking reputation attracting pilgrims from throughout Europe.
Today, France's southern-most vineyards running westward from Montpellier along the Mediterranean coast to the border with Spain still offer unrivaled grape-growing terroir. An ideal climate combines with diverse soils and optimal topography to allow perfect ripening for many varieties.
Brilliantly sunny, warm days alternate with relatively cool nights. This enables the fruit to mature slowly, evenly and completely while retaining refreshing, vibrant acidity. Winds from the north and off the sea minimize diseases and rots that plague other grape-growing regions.
Limestone, quartz, flint, slate and gravels mix with sands and clay to lend complexity to the grapes. Plenty of the vineyards lie on hillsides and slopes to allow good drainage and optimal sun exposure.
After the French Revolution, macroeconomic and political trends converged to squander much of the region's potential. Instead, oceans of cheap wines flowed northward to quench the thirsts of industrial workers.
Today, the region's vineyards fall under the Languedoc-Roussillon rubric. With refocused work in the vineyards, the reputation for quality has gradually returned.
The Languedoc's leading sub-appellations include P, F , S , F , L , C , L , , , and (for fortified wines).
The Roussillon, also known as French Catalonia, covers leading appellations such as(for fortified red wines), , , (primarily for fortified wines) and (for fortified white wines).
Stock up on the following as go-to holiday wines:
(The Picpoul grapes translates to “lip stinger,” a reference to the variety's vibrant acidity. It provides a terrific foil for all sorts of seafood from oysters on the half shell to Bronzini — Mediterranean sea bass — baked with herbs and lemon.)
The 2011 Domaine La Reine Juliette “Terre Rouges” Picpoul de Pinet, Languedoc, France (Luxury 39706; $14.99) comes from limestone-rich vineyards lying close by the sea. Winegrower Guillaume Allies takes full advantage of the conditions and crafts a crisp, uplifting wine without a hint of oak-barrel aging.
Aromas of white flowers, citrus and peaches leap from the glass. Crisp grapefruit and peach flavors unfold with pleasant, creamy notes set against vibrant, refreshing acidity. The wine finishes dry and well-balanced. Highly recommended.
In 1981, winegrower Guy Moulinier returned from an office job in the city to take charge of his family vineyards in Saint-Chinian. Previously, the family sold fruit to a local cooperative, but Moulinier elected to bottle independently. He redoubled efforts to produce quality grapes from syrah, grenache and mourvèdre vines extending over hillsides laden with schist, sandstone, flint and limestone.
The 2011 Domaine G. Moulinier Saint-Chinian Rosé, France (Luxury 31074; $12.99) blends syrah and grenache for a lovely wine offering freshness like a white wine and depth of fruit like a red wine. The wine's salmon color reveals enticing plum aromas with spicy, peppery notes.
Refreshing strawberry and plum flavors merge with bright acidity and refreshing mineral notes through the dry finish. The absence of oak-barrel notes allows the fruit to sing. Pair it with baked salmon. Highly recommended.
The Tautavel Vingrau Cooperative's winegrowers cultivate vines extending over 2,000 acres of stony, ruggedly beautiful hillsides in the Roussillon. The cooperative emphasizes low yields to produce concentrated, quality fruit. State-of-the-art, shared winemaking facilities allow the group to take full advantage of the fruits of the terrific terroir.
For example, the 2010 Le Cirque Rouge Vin de Pays Côtes Catalanes, France (Luxury 45756; $13.99) blends carignan, mourvèdre and syrah for an irresistible expression of pure, ripe fruit.
Dark fruit aromas of plums and black raspberries mingle with smoky, meaty notes. Delicious dark-fruit flavors balance with meaty accents and subtle herbal notes. Firm acidity and moderate tannins provide backbone unaffected by oak-barrel influences. Pair it with grilled rib-eye steaks with shallot butter. Highly recommended .
Dave DeSimone is the wine writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Rossi: Rutherford shines as old boss pouts
- SummerFest kicks off in Ford City
- Ford City targeting development of former industrial land
- Animal rights grup protests in Pleasant Hills
- Sheriff starts fundraising to buy drug-sniffing K-9 officer for Armstrong
- Liriano, Pirates complete sweep of Tigers
- Gov. Wolf vetoes bill to privatize Pennsylvania’s liquor system
- Penguins’ Kessel ‘thrilled’ with chance to play with Crosby, Malkin
- Shaken by economic, political turmoil, MLB forsaking Venezuela
- Attorney General’s twin sister sued by FBI agent ex-boyfriend
- Hurricanes owner rips Rutherford, Penguins