There’s nothing quite like old-vine Mourvèdre grown in rugged, rocky limestone to illustrate the notoriously rich, colorful spirit of southern France. Around the imposing vertical escarpment known as the Pic Saint Loup, abundant limestone litters the vineyard floor, balmy garrigue fragrances waft through the dry Mediterranean air, and the nearby mountains bring cool breezes that temper the at times stifling meridional heat. La Roque’s old-vine Mourvèdre is consistently one of the finest values we import from any region. Rugged as the landscape from which it is born, this chewy red offers aromas of ripe black cherry and wild brush that beg for something hearty, grilled, and smothered with garlic and herbs. Mourvèdre of this breed is no stranger to aging, so put a few more bottles aside and see what happens.
The picturesque landscape surrounding historic Château La Roque appears largely unchanged from how it must have been two thousand years ago. Ownership has changed hands many times since the Romans were first here, yet the soul of this special place remains in tact. Benedictine Monks created the sturdy vaulted-ceiling cellars that still house the bottles today. Winegrowing resumed in the 13th century when the de la Roque brothers planted new vines. Today, Château La Roque is in the capable hands of Cyriaque Rozier. This is unique terroir. Garrigue, the aromatic scrub brush that dominates the land, asserts its presence among the vines. In the wise words of KLWM salesperson/legend, Michael Butler, “Lay down a few cases of history.”
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.
When buying red Burgundy, I think we should remember:
1. Big wines do not age better than light wine. 2. A so-called great vintage at the outset does not guarantee a great vintage for the duration. 3. A so-called off vintage at the outset does not mean the wines do not have a brilliant future ahead of them. 4. Red Burgundy should not taste like Guigal Côte-Rôtie, even if most wine writers wish it would. 5. Don’t follow leaders; watch yer parking meters.
Inspiring Thirst, page 174
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