You’ve heard of the Languedoc-Roussillon – of course you have. Believe it or not, it is the largest wine growing region in France, larger than several countries put together. And if you haven’t tried their wines for a while, you are in for a treat. The reds are incredibly delicious and vibrant, made traditionally from the Southern France varietals of Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre with some Carignan thrown in for good measure. The whites include many different varietals, including viognier and white Grenache.
Recently, the Maison de la Region Languedoc-Roussillon in New York City held a seminar introducing two new trends of this region. The first is that many wineries in the region are going organic, and this is a good thing. Organic wine is wine that is both good for the environment and good for our bodies. This system of winemaking tries to cut out chemicals and favors natural cures to vineyard problems. A good example involves vineyard pests that can cause disease and destroy a vintage. Traditional measures include spraying harsh chemicals on the vines. One way to combat this problem using organic viticulture is to find an insect that likes to eat the insects that eat the plants, but does not itself touch the plant. And there are many other innovative ways to combat insects. One of the best things about organic viticulture is that it is very low-cost, an important quality, as many of the winemakers in this region are small, independent producers without the deep pockets to invest in expensive equipment or techniques.
The other trend is the rise in international grape growing. Because many of the local varietals are unknown to foreigners, the powers that be are now allowing international grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc to be grown on AOC regions, and mixed with native varietals. During the walk-around tasting that followed a seminar by Jamal Rayyis, author of Food & Wine Magazine’s Wine Guide, I found many producers offering blends. However, the most surprising discovery was that producers blended wine to suit the taste and needs of individual international markets. The Japanese, for example, prefer a specific kind of white wine, while the Swedes prefer another. I love wine from the Languedoc-Roussilon and am lucky that my local wine store carries a great deal of it.
During this same event, Jared Fischer, now sommelier at Le Bernardin, was officially named the first US Sud de France Sommelier of the Year. I missed the competition that included several other popular sommeliers, and won a three-day educational trip to the Languedoc-Rousillon. How lucky can you get?