A French journalist once described Mas Champart as “discreet excellence,” and I couldn’t agree more. Long before it became a trend (a trend, by the way, that I support wholeheartedly!), Mas Champart was doing what we love most in a rosé: fermenting with native yeasts, using little to no sulfur in the winemaking, and allowing the malolactic fermentation to occur. If all you need is a cold rosé for ice cubes and the beach, none of the above steps are really that important. But if you like your rosé to be real, to show a sense of place, and to drink like a wine instead of a beverage, these steps are essential. This rosé is intensely aromatic, round yet airy, with a strong southern French identity. For those of you who are familiar with this rosé from past vintages, be prepared for a nice surprise this year. There’s more Mourvèdre in the mix, from more serious terroir (usually reserved for their rouge), which makes this about as serious and real a rosé as you can get.
Isabelle and Mathieu Champart were relatively new to winegrowing when they took over Domaine Bramefan in Saint-Chinian in 1976. For nearly 12 years they sold their grapes to the local cooperative. They waited until 1988 to bottle under their own label, but won almost instant acclaim. Mathieu tends to the vines, and Isabelle makes the wines. While the domaine started from just a humble, stone farmhouse, they’ve added a winery and expanded holdings from 8 to 25 hectares. Though the wines are easy to appreciate now for their inky complexity, they age extremely well. Kermit wants to add that Isabelle is also one of his favorite cooks. He always tries to land 11 a.m. appointments on the off chance they’ll invite him to stay for lunch.
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.
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