When thinking of wines from France’s deep south – I am talking Languedoc-Roussillion here – most people automatically think of the reds. Picpoul de Pinet is really the only white wine from the region that has managed to carve out a niche for itself.
Which is understandable as the reds are often very fine indeed and frequently underrated. However, many of the whites from these regions are really excellent and deserve to be more widely known. I tasted a wine recently which is a case in point. It is a white wine from Corbières,which is a PDO / AOC in the Aude department, which in turn forms part of the Languedob-Roussillon wine region. It’s a big and important part too, producing just under half of all the PDO wine of the region.
I have always liked Corbières wines as they frequently offer great value and often very high quality too – see my article about Château Haut-Gléon here. I have yet to visit the region, which I intend to put right soon as it appears to be very beautiful. What’s more, excitingly it is Cathar country and it littered with the ruins of castles destroyed during the crusades against this obscure Christian sect. The local speciality dessert wine – actually more correctly called a mistelle – is called Cathagène to honour the Cathars, so readers of the The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail and The Da Vinci Code should make sure they keep a bottle handy.
Anyway, this white Corbières impressed me so much that I have made it my Wine of the Week.
PDO / AOC Corbières
SCV Castelmaure / Cave d’Embrès et Castelmaure
Embres & Castelmaure
Cave d’Embrès et Castelmaure is a co-operative that was founded in 1921 and that serves two hamlets that have been joined together to form one village. Embrès et Castelmaure is a about 25 km north of Perpignan and sits roughly on the border between Languedoc and Roussillon. as a consequence their website offers both the Catalan (as spoken in Roussillon) and Occitan languages, as well as French itself. The website also plays some very Spanish sounding flamenco music to you which then morphs into some very French jazz. It’s an interesting combination, give it a listen by clicking here.
They farm some 400 hectares and although clearly forward thinking and ambitious, they cling to old ways. They still use the concrete vats installed in the winery in 1921, as they regulate the fermentation temperatures very well. They also have very cannily used all the old perceptions of their problems to their advantage. The region is hot, wild and rugged, so gives low yields, while the slopes are inaccessible by machine and tractors, these things held them back in the past when the only game in the Languedoc was the production of bulk wine. Today the wines have to good, concentrated, terroir wines and so all that works to their advantage. They farm sustainably and harvest by hand.
I love the label as it shows a Renault 4 climbing a near perpendicular slope. It seems that the Renault 4, while never the icon that the 2CV was, was actually the main car of French farmers in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s and many more of them were made than the more famous and more loved Citroën. The label made me smile as I have memories of being driven up similar slopes in the back of a beige (who else remembers beige cars?) Renault 4 by a Spanish builder in the early 1970s.
The wine is crystal clear and lemony to look at, while the nose offers wild flowers, herbs, pithy grapefruit and a slight, attractively waxy note. The palate is a lovely mix of rich and fresh, with wild herb flavours mingling with citrus and more succulent stone fruits. There is plenty of acidity – from the Vermentino and Macabeu I assume, while the Grenache gives that richness and herbal quality that are so delicious and evocative. A lovely wine with lots of tension between the testiness and the richness and loads of flavour too. Delicious, refreshing and very easy to drink, this could help wean addicts off Pinot Grigio I think. What’s more it is an utter bargain – 87/100 points.
Try as I might I cannot think of anything that this would not be good with. It is delicious on its own, with fish, chicken, charcuterie, spicy food, cheese – you name it. I loved it with baked camembert.
Available in the UK at £6.50 per bottle from The Wine Society.