Critics argue that carbonic maceration masks terroir and instead stamps its own dominant mark on a wine. But certain combinations of grape and terroir—Gamay in Beaujolais being the foremost example—seem particularly well suited to carbonic maceration, providing wines with a distinct sense of place in addition to the hedonistic easy-drinking appeal the technique is intended to achieve. In the rugged hills of the Hautes-Corbières, Maxime Magnon has discovered the right formula for his old vines of Carignan, Grenache, and Cinsault. The Rozeta features the exuberant, inviting perfume and velvety wild fruit we expect from a wine that underwent 100% whole-cluster fermentation, then finishes with a crunchy backbone reminiscent of dark schist and roasted spices. Beware—the Languedoc just got dangerously gulpable.
That Maxime Magnon is part of one of the most revolutionary wine movements in France should give him a justifiable swagger to his step, yet he is nonetheless a reluctant hero. This Burgundian was not born with hereditary rights to a domaine, but makes his own wine in the Corbières A.O.C. instead. He purchased some prime parcels of old vines from abandoned plots and rents his cellar—a garagiste if ever there was one. He farms over eleven hectares, with steep vineyards that reach high altitudes, and manages it all on his own. Maxime is part of the new wave of passionate viticulteurs who cultivate their vines with the utmost respect for nature and the soil. His wines offer great expression of fruit with immediate approachability.
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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