Cyriaque Rozier at Château Fontanès creates a quintessentially southern French rosé from Mourvèdre, Cinsault, and Syrah. Mourvèdre-based rosés, like those from Bandol, are a big reason the category has grown more popular in recent years. When you think of a cold glass of rosé on a hot summer day, this is probably the wine you’re envisioning. The bright strawberry aroma, pale pink color, and lively acidity make for a classic Mediterranean thirst-quencher.
Cyriaque Rozier, vigneron at Château La Roque, makes his own wine under the label Château Fontanès in Pic St-Loup. Though within the boundaries of the appellation Pic St-Loup, the lion’s share of his production is Cabernet Sauvignon, a grape varietal outside the constraints set for the A.O.C. in the Languedoc. This means he must take Vin de Pays d’Oc designation, the trade-off being that he gets to make wines his way, and we, in turn, get an incredible price. Being rebellious seems to come naturally to a man of such innate talent, and the elegance of his wines are proof enough in a region where bigger is often considered better. Raw terroir and spicy garrigue abound in these wines, with rich, juicy fruit and silky tannins.
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.
Trust the great winemakers, trust the great vineyards. Your wine merchant might even be trustworthy. In the long run, that vintage strip may be the least important guide to quality on your bottle of wine.—Kermit Lynch
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