French Wine 101 – Languedoc-Roussillon and Alsace

Wine 101 Series
This is one of a series of posts aimed at newcomers to wine with interest but a modest checkbook.

Previous Posts

A Few Simple Rules

  • Just the facts, no flowery language
  • Key types of wine from a region
  • Some help in navigating the wine shop

Budget

  • < 10€ in a shop in Europe
  • <$20 per bottle in the US in a wine shop or grocery store
  • 2-3x the wine shop price if you’re ordering off the winelist in a restaurant – ouch.
Languedoc-Roussillon reds are great for winter meals, and Alsace whites go well with pork anytime of the year

Languedoc-Roussillon reds are great for winter meals, and Alsace whites go well with pork any time of the year

French Wine 101 – Languedoc-Roussillon and Alsace
This post is going up in the winter, so we’ll focus on a couple of choices that go well with winter comfort food.

If you want to cut to the chase, download the link below to your phone. Voila! You have a quick 1 page reference to use when in the wine shop or restaurant.

Quick link to download 1 page

Map of Languedoc-Roussillon courtesy of www.vinissime68.com

Map of Languedoc-Roussillon courtesy of http://www.vinissime68.com

Languedoc-Roussillon Fast Facts

  • The Languedoc-Roussillon region is in the southwest of France, west of the Rhone and Provence.
  • Long neglected but recently “discovered”, there are lots of good values to be found.
  • As in many French wines, the labels are for the mini-region or the town, not the grapes
Domaine d'Aupilhac Languedoc red wine

Typical Languedoc wine: Winery name, Town name – Montpeyroux, and “Languedoc”

Budget Languedoc-Roussillon
Label – Often the wine will carry “Languedoc” or “Roussillon” on the label. You can also be on the lookout for some of the better known towns such as: Minervois, Pic St. Loup, St. Chinian, Corbieres or Fitou.

Wine – The reds are generally similar to Cotes-du-Rhone wines. The region is warm, so they are rich and inviting. There are nice white wines from the area too and they are also good values.

Food – Think about warming winter foods: stew, chili (if not too spicy), meatloaf, steak, burgers. Charcuterie? Yep.  For cheeses, go for aged harder cheeses, not the young fresh ones.

Les Heretiques pays d'herault red wine

Very inexpensive and delicious, but you don’t see Languedoc on the label. If a wine like this is in the section with other Languedoc wines, give it a try.

In the Wine Shop
Advice to help you in the wine shop: Look for the French wines, then look for the Rhone wines, then look around for Languedoc-Roussillon. They are less expensive, so they will often be on a lower shelf. Widely available and good producers: Gerard Bertrand, Bila-Haut by M. Chapoutier.

Alsace
Alsace is in the far northeast of France, at the very northern limits of climate which supports grape growing.

The Alsace region sits between the Vosges Mountains and the Rhine river.Alsace map courtesy of the Alsace wine route

The Alsace region is the narrow strip between the Vosges mountains and the Rhine river. Map courtesy of the Alsace wine route

Alsace Fast Facts

Tall, narrow flute shaped bottles

Tall, narrow flute shaped bottles

  • The Alsace region has bounced multiple times between claimed as part of Germany and part of France. The culture, buildings, and food bears those signs.
  • Unusual for France, the wines of the region are labeled with the grape name, so they’re easy to understand
  • The region is known almost entirely for white wines, although a bit of Pinot Noir is grown here too.
  • Alsace wines are easy to recognize by the very tall, narrow wine bottle known as a “flute” shape.
  • There are 4 main white grapes for the white wines in Alsace. The most well known is Riesling, which is a great place to start.
  • If you like the Riesling, give Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Gewurztraminer a try.
Basic, affordable and delicious, Alsace Riesling

Basic, affordable and delicious, Alsace Riesling

Alsace Riesling
Label – Look for Appellation Alsace Controlee, it’s the single basic AOC which covers the whole region.

Wine – Alsace Riesling is acidic and refreshing with a light to medium body. Usually dry, some Alsace wines have some sweetness to balance out high acidity (think lemonade).  Recently, some wineries have added a voluntary sweet/dry scale on the back label. If there is no scale and the wine is 12.5% or higher in alcohol, the wine is very likely dry.

sweetness scale from a bottle of Alsace wine

Just a bit of sweetness in this wine, needed to balance the acidity.

Food – Alsace wines love pork. Brats, sausages of all sorts, pork chops, ham, you name it.  Sauerkraut is abundant in the region and is great with Alsace wines. If you’re having something spicy, pick a wine with a bit of sweetness. The scale on the back will help, or look for an Alcohol content in the 11.5-12.5% range.

In the Wine Shop
Advice to help you in the wine shop: The Alsace wines will often be located near the German wines and they all have the same tall flute bottle shape.  Make sure you look carefully and stick with Alsace.  Alsace Rieslings are quite different from German Riesling. Widely available and good brands: Trimbach, Hugel, Zinck.  Note: if you see a bottle labeled “Gentil”, that is the Alsatian name for a wine made from a blend of multiple grapes. They are often inexpensive and enjoyable.

In case you missed it earlier, download the link below to your phone. Voila! You have a quick reference to use when in the wine shop or restaurant.

French Wine 101 – Languedoc-Roussillon & Alsace

Homework Assignment

  1. Purchase a bottle of red wine from the Languedoc-Roussillon and enjoy it with your favorite warming winter meal. Write a 7 word wine review (#7WWR on Twitter)
  2. Purchase a bottle of Alsace Riesling or other Alsace white wine. Enjoy it with a really good quality sausage. Write a 7 word wine review.

Next installment, hopefully in March:

  • French Wine 101 – Loire (Sauv Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Cab Franc)

Wine 101 series -Just the facts, and <$20 wines. This installment: Languedoc-Roussillon and Alsace

 

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