Lately you may have noticed a rise in freshness, a burst in aromatics, and a softness of texture in La Roque’s wines. One secret to this development (winemakers, take note!) is that, upon harvest, the grapes—picked into small crates—are stacked up in a cold room and left alone for a full thirty-six hours. What this does is chill them down to the seed, and when the juice is then pressed and the indigenous yeasts wake from their cold-induced slumber, they take it nice and easy for a slow ferment. Some say that historically in Burgundy, for example, the region’s reputation for great blanc came about partly because of the cellars’ deep natural chill, which forced the yeasts to slow down and take their time, allowing for greater complexity and bouquet. You could call it Slow Wine.
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.
Great winemakers, great terroirs, there is never any hurry. And I no longer buy into this idea of “peak” maturity. Great winemakers, great terroirs, their wines offer different pleasures at different ages.
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