Hildegard’s white gets style points for its unique flavor and texture, and I think her label is pretty snazzy, too. The name of this vineyard, “Le Jeu du Mail,” recalls the name of an old game similar to bocce that the Romans once played on this very plot. The wine itself is a lush yet fresh blend of Viognier and Marsanne. Tasting it is like biting into a fresh slice of honeydew melon!
Hildegard Horat-Diop’s rebellious streak, verve, and innate talent have made her a star of the Languedoc. She began making wine at a time when female winemakers in France were rare, and broke many other social conventions along the way. In 1975 she visited the Languedoc and fell in love with the domaine, La Grange de Quatre Sous. At the time, the property was in complete disrepair. She undertook extensive renovations, including an overhaul and replanting of the vineyards. She is now part of a group called Vinifilles, an association of eighteen female winegrowers in Languedoc-Rousillion who assemble to share research and expertise. She is well-respected by her peers, so much so that Kermit refers to her wine as “grand cru quality.”
Ask wine drinkers around the world, and the word “Languedoc” is sure to elicit mixed reactions. On the one hand, the region is still strongly tied to its past as a producer of cheap, insipid bulk wine in the eyes of many consumers. On the other hand, it is the source of countless great values providing affordable everyday pleasure, with an increasing number of higher-end wines capable of rivaling the best from other parts of France.
While there’s no denying the Languedoc’s checkered history, the last two decades have seen a noticeable shift to fine wine, with an emphasis on terroir. Ambitious growers have sought out vineyard sites with poor, well draining soils in hilly zones, curbed back on irrigation and the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, and looked to balance traditional production methods with technological advancements to craft wines with elegance, balance, and a clear sense of place. Today, the overall quality and variety of wines being made in the Languedoc is as high as ever.
Shaped like a crescent hugging the Mediterranean coast, the region boasts an enormous variety of soil types and microclimates depending on elevation, exposition, and relative distance from the coastline and the cooler foothills farther inland. While the warm Mediterranean climate is conducive to the production of reds, there are world-class whites and rosés to be found as well, along with stunning dessert wines revered by connoisseurs for centuries.
Great winemakers, great terroirs, there is never any hurry. And I no longer buy into this idea of “peak” maturity. Great winemakers, great terroirs, their wines offer different pleasures at different ages.
Inspiring Thirst, page 312
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