Get ready for sticker-shock:
The same delectable Burgundy you’d buy in the States for $40 a bottle sells for $10 in a French supermarket.Viva that difference!
It has been said that if the Languedoc-Roussillon region of French were an independent country, it would be the world’s fifth-largest wine producer. What soy beans are to the American midwest, grapes are to this part of France.
Once dismissed as France’s "wine lake," producing the lowest sort of table wine, the Hérault has undergone a quality revolution in the past two decades. By the 1980s, wines crafted here were on the radar of discerning critics. Oz Clarke: "This is the heart of the Brave New World of [French] wine-making...." And things have just gotten better every year. Local wines now attract favorable mention in Wine Spectator and fill a high-quality, low-cost niche for American wine importers.
|You’ll find wines to taste and purchase at the sign of the "cave," pronounced "cahv," French for cellar.|
Most of the region’s wines are red. The largest appellation contrôlée (AC) is Côteaux du Languedoc. Other regional ACs include Faugères, Saint-Chinian, Corbières and Minervois. For an intimate introduction to the region’s best and most innovative vintners, browse Wines and Vineyards of Character and Charm in France, from Fodor’s (you’ll find a copy in the library in our house). You’ll read about a dozen tempting vineyards within a short drive of Valros. Try the Faugères Syrah from Château des Estanilles, just north of Béziers, run by noted fuss-budget Michel Louison. Extraordinary pepper and chocolate.
All supermarkets sell wine, but the smaller dealers have the choicest selections. There are three intriguing wine stores in Pézenas. For a special experience try Le Nez dans le Verre (The nose in the glass), 10, av Emile Combes, 04 67 09 47 67. They have a wonderful website (in French, but it's easy to follow along): www.lndvlr.com
- www.cavesdefrance.com -- Take that, California upstarts! An exhaustive and delightful overview of French vineyards, in both French and English. Includes a magazine, wine routes, food tips, and wines of the month, often featuring Languedoc and other area offerings.
- www.faugeres.com -- a great site, focused on this AOC; includes lists of vintners who sell direct, an excellent description of wine-making techniques, and annotated tours of the region
- www.languedoc-wines.com/english -- good overview site
- www.chateau-montpezat.com -- A Pézenas winery that has won critical acclaim from the likes of Robert Parker. In English.