Memorable French red blends at surprisingly affordable prices
The Languedoc-Roussillon is one of the oldest and largest vineyard regions in France. Lying along the Mediterranean coast north of the country’s border with Spain, Languedoc-Roussillon has evolved from a region with a reputation for mediocre wines, into a source for wines of exceptional quality. Most are red blends comprised of syrah, grenache, mourvedre and carignane. Compared to their Rhône Valley neighbors these wines exhibit richer fruit notes, but still retain the clear signature of their terroir.
A relative newcomer, Maison Hecht & Bannier was established in 2002. The winery sources grapes from different parcels around the region, allowing each varietal to develop its optimum characteristics under the warm Mediterranean sunshine and cooling sea breezes before being blended, and vinified with limited oak influence. This restrained use of oak is what allows the fruit to come to the forefront.
The Hecht & Bannier Cotes du Roussillon Villages ($20) is a traditional blend of grenache, syrah and mourvedre with a splash of carignane. This wine is full-flavored, complex with dark and red fruit with a rounded finish. A terrific fall wine.
Hecht & Bannier Languedoc ($15) is a crowd-pleaser. Syrah at 80% forms the body of this wine, which is balanced with grenache and carignane. Concentration and balance at a good price.
Another fine producer coming to the forefront in the region is Gerard Bertrand. Their Corbieres ($12) offers a blend of syrah, grenache and mourvedre. Vinified separately, the wine is blended for quality and full of black and red berry fruit flavors with a touch of spice. All priced for everyday enjoyment.
The Gerard Bertrand Mivervois ($15) is an exceptional wine. In a region that has been producing wines since Roman times, the grapes that go into this wine are handpicked syrah and carignane. The Mivervois displays a dark structure balanced by rich, aromatic character.
The wines of the Languedoc-Roussillon region are gaining definition and recognition. Along with that comes popularity—and corresponding price increases. So now’s the time to take advantage of some good values.
• On the subject of syrah/grenache/mourvedre blends, the arrival of October brings the release of Cline’s Cashmere blend, which at $12 offers a bright, juicy accompaniment to duck, salmon or pork dishes at a thoroughly drinkable price. Proceeds from sales support Living Beyond Breast Cancer, and over the years Cline has contributed more than $200,000 to breast cancer foundations. So enjoying a bottle (or two) this fall is a great way to get behind the cause.