We have been working with Jean-Claude Zabalia since the early 1990s, when he was the winemaker at Château St. Martin de la Garrigue in the Languedoc. While there, Zabalia made a Syrah-based red about which one critic wrote, “The truth is, there is a lot of Côte Rôtie at four to five times the price which is no better than or not even as good as this.” Zabalia has continued throughout his career to make wines that punch way above their weight, and he currently is collaborating with Kermit for blends crafted specifically for our clients. The high elevation and schist soil of the Cabrières terroir—the dark-horse appellation of the Languedoc—give this rouge a remarkable freshness and minerality. The percentages of Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, and Cinsault vary every year, but the wine is consistently delicious and one of the best values in all of France. It tastes of blackberries, plums, and lightly crushed olives filtered through stones. As far as food goes, it will pair well with probably anything you’re cooking on a Wednesday night.
The Kermit Lynch blend from the Languedoc is born from history with vigneron Jean-Claude Zabalia, which dates back to the early ‘90s when he was the winemaker at St. Martin de la Garrigue. In 2012 he departed the domaine to found Château des Deux Rocs, which focuses on the high-elevation appellation of Cabrières. Kermit’s collaboration with Jean-Claude brings us what most certainly is one of the great value reds produced in France today. The fruit is sourced from Jean-Claude’s holdings in two of the Languedoc’s most up-and-coming terroirs—Cabrières and Terrasses du Larzac. These appellations are tucked away in the mountains at over 1000 feet above sea level, giving the wines an uncharacteristic freshness for the region.
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.
Let the brett nerds retire into protective bubbles, and whenever they thirst for wine it can be passed in to them through a sterile filter. Those of us on the outside can continue to enjoy complex, natural, living wines.
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