If you were to draw a line through the map of France just above Avignon, you would have marked the frontier that has traditionally separated vin fin from vin ordinaire. North of this frontier, from the Cotes du Rhône onwards, was where one could find wines to save for your daughter’s wedding or bequeath to your children; in other words, serious wines. And south of the frontier? A sea of pink and an ocean of red, but nothing of any great interest.
That changed, and changed dramatically, some years ago. But perception often takes a long time to catch up with reality, and it is only recently that the wines of the Languedoc have been getting the attention and the following they deserve. No longer are they treated as the poor relations of the vineyard. In fact, as any sommelier worth his corkscrew can tell you, they now appear on some of the most distinguished and enlightened restaurant wine lists in Britain.
My introduction to the Languedoc - or perhaps I should call it a revelation - came in the form of a bottle of Mas des Chimères. It was smooth and supple. It tasted expensive. In fact, the price was remarkably, irresistibly reasonable. More bottles followed. And then, becoming adventurous, I tried the wines of Pic Saint Loup, of Corbières, of Fitou and Faugères. All were good, some were exceptional, and each of them represented wonderful value for money. I stopped searching for undiscovered treasures from Bordeaux and began to drink closer to home.
Looking through the wines in this hand picked list, I see that there are several that I haven’t yet tasted. This is the perfect excuse for what I like to call research, and never has research tasted so good. Vive le Languedoc.