It is hard not to open the Corbières Demoiselle, smell the garrigue, spices, and notes of dark fruit and olives soar from your glass, and think, “Only from the Languedoc can we drink a wine made from century-old vines with this much class and ageability for the price of two matinée movie tickets.” This grippy rouge comes from Domaine de Fontsainte’s most famous parcel called “La Demoiselle,” which the Laboucarié family has farmed since the early 1970s. In 2004, the Carignan vines in that vineyard—planted in silica, clay, and limestone, and responsible for the majority of this wine—turned one hundred. In recent years, Carignan has experienced a bit of a resurgence in the Languedoc, largely because of the efforts of producers like Domaine de Fontsainte and Domaine d’Aupilhac. Once celebrated, then spurned because of its potential for high yields, it is now being treated with the respect and analysis it deserves by deft vignerons. Taste this bottling tonight and then in ten or fifteen years, and you’ll see why Carignan might just be the great grape of the region. In terms of food pairings, you can do no better than Chris Lee’s rib steak with garlic potatoes.
The first vineyards at Domaine de Fontsainte were planted by the Romans. The original domaine was built around a thermal spring, which was later named for the local, 12th-century patron saint, Saint Siméon; hence Fontsainte—the saint’s fount. Yves Laboucarié’s family has been making wine here since the 17th century. For over 30 years, KLWM has been proudly importing his wine, and now we work with his son, Bruno. Like his father, he believes in the family’s legacy of innovation. He has re-equipped the cellars, replanted vines, and added new cuvées. It’s no secret why we’ve been working with them since ‘78. Year in and year out, they are the best. The fairness of their pricing allows us to offer incredible values to our clientele.
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.
I want you to realize once and for all: Even the winemaker does not know what aging is going to do to a new vintage; Robert Parker does not know; I do not know. We all make educated (hopefully) guesses about what the future will bring, but guesses they are. And one of the pleasures of a wine cellar is the opportunity it provides for you to witness the evolution of your various selections. Living wines have ups and downs just as people do, periods of glory and dog days, too. If wine did not remind me of real life, I would not care about it so much.
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