If you take a summer stroll on the slopes of the Pic Saint Loup, you may find wild grapevines climbing the rock here and there, providing a few bunches of grapes that are soon taken by the abundant wild boars and birds. Evidence shows that those wild grapes, native to the Pic since prehistoric times, were used by the first human inhabitants of the area, making our friends in Beaumes-de-Venise look like newcomers to the game. Perhaps it’s the horse-farmed, chemical-free vineyards, far from present-day pollutants, or perhaps it’s the minimalist winemaking and unfiltered bottling, but there is something timeless to La Roque’s Pic Saint Loup, its herbal bouquet and rich, fleshy texture, all free from any hint of modern trappings.
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.
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
Drinking distilled spirits, beer, coolers, wine and other alcoholic beverages may increase cancer risk, and, during pregnancy, can cause birth defects. For more information go to www.P65Warnings.ca.gov/alcohol
Many food and beverage cans have linings containing bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical known to cause harm to the female reproductive system. Jar lids and bottle caps may also contain BPA. You can be exposed to BPA when you consume foods or beverages packaged in these containers. For more information, go to www.P65Warnings.ca.gov/bpa