Pays d’Oc IGP* Wines wants you to know about the colorful palette of quality and value-driven grape varietal wines that are coming out of the France’s southern Languedoc-Roussillon region. Although you might not ever have heard of Pays d’Oc previously, you have probably tasted some of these lovely and value-packed wines. The region has 56 different authorized grape varieties, with something delightful for every palate and budget. The area covered is: Pyrénées-Orientales, Aude, Hérault, Gard and 6 towns in Lozère; 220,000 acres: 1 out of 3 acres in Languedoc-Roussillon (1 out of 10 inFrance) produce Pays d’Oc IGP wines Pays d’Oc IGP certification is unique in France.
A few months ago, editors had the opportunity to sample some of the newest wines from the Pays d’Oc region of France. John Dunham and I attended a Pays d’Oc IGP Wine Tasting Event in partnership with Snooth Media, last year. We joined about two other dozen journalists, distributors and restaurateurs, gathering to sample the Pays D’Oc’s different varietal blends, different styles, and different price points. Master Sommelier Fred Dexheimer presented the wines, along with Snooth Media’s editor in Chief Gregory Dal Paiz.
As we quickly discovered, while this part of the Mediterranean coast is noted more for its perfumes here in America, the Pays d’Oc region produces an abundance of excellent wines. Ttraditionally, the wines of Pays d’Oc have been classified as vin ordinarie (in other words, “table wine”) but the more traditional styles are being replaced by younger wine makers with more modern views. The results are some interesting and really good examples of wine-making that are bringing an influx of investment and interest to some of the better houses. Considering that the region has some of the largest wineries in France, and is in fact, 5 times the size of Napa in terms of production, this is a very exciting development.
People around the globe will soon be seeing a large selection from this IGP (the French geographical classification for wine producing areas). What makes them so attractive are easy to handle prices, and eclectic blends that will encourage wine drinkers in the United States and elsewhere who might not have previously looked for Pays d’Oc wines, to check them out alongside the traditional Rhones, Bordeaux’s and Chablis. We found that they compare very favorably with similarly priced new world wines not only from California’s Central Valley and Coastal regions, but also from Chile, Argentina, and Australia.
Our tasting began with a 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, called Les Fontanelles, from the Foncalieu winery. Priced at under $9.00 this wine was a true surprise. While the wine had an unexpected minerality to the nose, it was very fruit forward, with a good hint of strawberry. It had a bit more residual sugar that complemented the creamy goat cheese it was paired with, very well. This wine has just enough acid to give it good balance with foods.
The second wine that was poured was a 2011 Chardonnay from the largest family-owned and operated co-op in France. Called Cinquante Cinq. Priced at just under $12.00 per bottle, this wine was a traditional white Bordeaux. The nose was clean with some interesting green or grassy notes, and the Chardonnay itself was produced in a classic French style. Unlike with the often cloying California Chard’s, this winemaker did not even think about oak when making Cinquante Cinq. The result was a crisp clear chardonnay with some good pear on the top of classic apple notes. While my partner thought there was a bit of a “sting” at the end, the wine was exactly as advertised, and an excellent choice at the current price point.
Following the traditional French chardonnay, we were presented with a wine called Cigalus, produced by Gerard Bertrand, one of the big names of French winemaking. The sommelier spent a lot of time waxing poetic about the qualities of Cigalus, which is priced at a relatively-high $39.00. When you are spending close to $40.00 for a bottle of wine, you expect a lot from it, and we were getting a bit of a “hard sell” about how amazing it was. Personally, I thought it was tasty, but I admit to enjoying “oaked” California-style whites (so sue me…there’s no shame in having a personal taste profile a lot of oenophiles scoff at)! However, John audibly growled that he could get the same product from California’s Bronco Winery (the makers of the famous 2-buck chuck). I disagree, but that is the beauty of a wine tasting. Some will love it, some will leave it. He dumped his pour out. I drank all of mine! I agree with John that buttery, over-oaked Chardonnays may be novel in France but they are very common in America, but so what?! Wine is similar to perfume. What one person loves, another might dislike. , they are all to common in America. This wine was an over the top buttery, California style Chardonnay. It was extremely oaked-out which even I admit cancels out a lot of other flavors in the wine. I might not want to pay $39.00 for it if I had other choices–which I do—but if someone served it to me at an event or restaurant, I would have enjoyed it. It was the one wine from the tasting that John poured out — into my glass (and I was happy to have it).
John stopped his grumbling when the Granache Rose, from the Delatour winery, was tasted. Called Cuvee Premier, this wine was priced at a truly reasonable $9.00. Based on the comments around the table, this wine might have been the real star of the event. The wine was to put it best a ” fruit bomb.” There was an explosion of berry on the nose and strawberry throughout. An excellent pairing wine and very festive, this wine would make a nice gift for an informal gathering or as a gift for a host/hostess.
As we moved on to the reds with a pair of Bordeaux-style wines, I was surprised that both were priced in the low teens, as they tasted as though they should cost much more. The first was a Merlot from Domaine de Larzac. Those who like Syrah will like the fragrant but somewhat harsh petroleum notes that were not very merlot-like. While it wasn’t to my taste or John’s taste, others seem to really like this wine. The second red was a Bordeaux blend – Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. This wine had the expected peppery nose, with a hint of licorice. I really like wines from the Pacific Northwest and this wine was that type of American-style, fruit forward blend, with just a hint of light tannins. But unlike some of the more traditional French style wines, this one was more complex than the others we tasted. It could use a year or two in the bottle, but not much more. These wines are designed to drink now, or soon. You wouldn’t want to hold it the same way you would, a more classic Bordeaux.
Next we moved to some of the more interesting blends that the Pays d’Oc region is known for. The first was called Puydeval, bottled by Jef Carrel. The 2010 was priced at a reasonable $15.50 and contained an interesting blend of Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. While there was a bit of what could best be described as “laundry mat” on the nose, the peppery notes of the Cab Franc dominated. The dark purple wine had the tannins that one would expect from the Syrah grape, but without the distinctive taste. Here the Merlot dominated and the wine was ripe with dark fruits – plums and cherries. This could be an excellent alternative to a Zinfandel with meats, or if you’re a cigar lover, with a cigar.
The last wine that we tried was called Figure Libre “Freestyle” from Domaine Gayda. This wine was really what Pay Pays d’Oc is known for, a really interesting blend of grapes that one does normally see circulating in the same bottle. Here Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre come together with Cabernet Sauvignon and a local grape called Carigan to produce a credible version of Chateau Neuf de Pape at about half the price (just $20 per bottle). Cassis and herbs dominated the nose, but the palate was all about fruit. It was to wine what tutti-fruitti is to ice cream. You know that the wine is made from fruit and smells like fruit, but you might not be able to determine exactly, which. John’s notes proclaimed it a “fun” wine. We both agreed that it represents the new Pays d’Oc is bringing to the world’s consumers.
In Summary: It “pays” to learn about the wines from the Pays d’Oc region. Their range of wines fom traditional to inventive are of good quality, well priced, and widely available, Those who previously might have shied away from any French wine because they didn’t like the traditional styles, will find that the wine-makers from their region have a modern view of wine that will spark your interest. Serve some of them now, and add a few to your collection “for later on.”
Fore more information visit your local wine store, or www.paysdoc-wines.com