If you're anything like me you love: a) hearty red wine with rich fruit and savory flavors, b) cooking up foods to pair with said wines, and c) doing all this for a reasonable amount of money.
I've long been a fan of the value-driven red blends coming from the Languedoc region of Southern France. But it wasn't until a trip there last year that I began to grasp the extent of good, and even potentially great, wines of this region. Perhaps unfairly, this region has struggled against a reputation as a workhorse region of boring bulk wine. That meme should've died out years ago. More and more producers are crafting stunning wines (frequently from very old vines) that can rival the quality of similar blends from the Rhone, and many of them cost quite a bit less.
If you don't know anything about this region, there has never been a better time to learn. The selections are better and more diverse than ever.
Weygandt Wines, my favorite shop in DC, has an impressive range of Languedoc wines from some consistent producers. Perhaps overshadowed by their extensive Burgundy, Loire and Rhone offerings, these wines offer consumers a great primer on Languedoc reds. Sure, Languedoc is home to wines of every style and color, but this is largely the land of red wine. These wines are generally blended from Carignan, Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault and a host of other red grapes.
2012 Domaine Montfin Corbières - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Languedoc, Corbières
I get ripe cherries and smoke on the nose. Good structure but approachable, the dark plum and cherry fruit is accented by notes of anise and charcoal. 70% Carignan and 30% Grenache. (85 points)
2012 Jean-Baptiste Senat Minervois Arbalete and Coquelicots - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Languedoc, Minervois
More olive and white pepper on the nose here, some bright currants and cherries with a spicy herbal kick. Firm but dusty tannins, bright acid, clear currant fruits and plum skins mixed with earth, spice and herbal components. Drinking well now. 80% Grenache and 20% Cinsault. (88 points)
2012 Jean-Baptiste Senat Minervois La Nine - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Languedoc, Minervois
Darker and earthier on the nose, more like the fruit has been crushed into a paste with deep iron accents. Smooth yet structured, crunch dark plum and kirsch flavors are balanced by earth, meat, pepper and exotic floral elements. Spicy, loamy finish. Very pretty now but could be cellared for 3-4 so easily. 40% Grenache, 40% Carignan and 20% Syrah. (90 points)
2010 Jean-Baptiste Senat Minervois Le Bois des Merveilles - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Languedoc, Minervois
Bursting with raspberries, blackberries, cola, chocolate pudding and sweet oregano aromas, a very complex mix. Bold, a bit more extracted, this is a deep, plummy, rich and plush wine. Stays smooth throughout, as the dark plum fruit mixes with minerals, spices and liqueur notes. Grenache, Carignan and Mourvedre. (90 points)
2010 Clos Marie Coteaux du Languedoc Pic St. Loup L'Olivette - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Languedoc, Coteaux du Languedoc Pic St. Loup
Dark and a bit tight on the nose, shows some roses and deep plums though. Smoky and bold on the palate but some refreshing tart red berries. Mineral elements, mocha, spice and violets. Complex stuff that could develop quite a bit in the cellar. Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault. (88 points)
2010 Clos Marie Coteaux du Languedoc Pic St. Loup Simon - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Languedoc, Coteaux du Languedoc Pic St. Loup
Sweet plum cake on the nose, deeply floral, ginger snap cookies, cinnamon, charcoal, all sorts of interesting aromas. Firm, well structured palate, yet pretty. Plums, blackberries, doused in smoke, tobacco, pine sap and mineral notes. Complex, long, yet refreshing. Needs time to show full potential, but this is a real beauty. (91 points)
2012 Domaine Le Clos du Serres Coteaux du Languedoc Le Clos - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Languedoc, Coteaux du Languedoc
Very pretty aromas of dark flowers, olives and smoke. Sweet plums mix with herbal smoke on a silky-smooth frame. Juicy fruit, mineral and earth accents, an elegant approach. Equal parts Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault and Oeillade grapes. (88 points)
2012 Domaine Le Clos du Serres Coteaux du Languedoc Les Terrasses du Larzac Le Bouis - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Languedoc, Coteaux du Languedoc Les Terrasses du Larzac
Smooth and rich on the nose, lovely plums, earth and charcoal notes. Smooth and full palate, coating yet still fresh with a bunch of jammy black and red fruits. A spice-laden wine, with chestnuts, graphite, charcoal, a deep sense of minerality. Syrah from schist soils, the Northern Rhone fans should dig this. I've love to bury this for a decade. (90 points)
2011 Domaine Le Clos du Serres Coteaux du Languedoc Les Terrasses du Larzac La Blaca - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Languedoc, Coteaux du Languedoc Les Terrasses du Larzac
Lovely nose of black cherry pie, spice cake, green herbs, violets and cocoa. Smooth and velvety palate, tons of floral, cola and herbal spice elements to bounce off the juicy blueberry and blackberry fruit. Complex, intense, worthy of 5+ years in the cellar. A long, impressive blend of 75% Syrah, 15% Grenache and 10% Carignan. I loved the 2010 and this vintage is really impressive as well. (91 points)
2011 Domaine Le Clos du Serres Coteaux du Languedoc Les Terrasses du Larzac L'Humeur Vagabonde - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Languedoc, Coteaux du Languedoc Les Terrasses du Larzac
Deeply mineral-driven on the nose, the berry fruit mixes with lots of granite, charcoal and spice notes, some sweet violets as well. Silky and pure on the palate, plummy with chewy tannins. Long, minera-centric, complex notes of smoke, coffee, sage and minerals. From the estates 100-year-old Carignan vines with some Syrah and Grenache blended in. Beautiful stuff with plenty of life ahead. (91 points)
2013 L'Oustal Blanc (Isabel et Claude Fonquerle) Vin de France K - France, Vin de France
Deep and extracted aromatically, boysenberry and blueberry pie topped with smoked notes. Jammy, plummy, yet not overblown, like blueberries and blackberry pie topped with cocoa, charcoal smoke and pepper. Can’t help but love it, even if it is a bit burly. All Carignan. (88 points)
2012 L'Oustal Blanc (Isabel et Claude Fonquerle) Naïck Red - France, Vin de Table Français
Smells huge, like massive blueberries topped with pepper and grilled herbs. Actually smooth and creamy, not hot despite the higher alcohol, a bold wine for sure though, mouth-filling. Full of blackberry and blueberry jam, topped with earth, violets, pepper and smoke. Comes from two terroirs, one in Saint Chinian and one in Minervois. A blend of Cinsault, Carignan and smaller parts Grenache and Syrah from two parcels in Saint Chinian and Minervois. The biggest wine in the lot, but very well-made. (89 points)