Carcassonne: The town among the vines.
My first glimpse of the medieval French town of Carcassonne was on a grey
and dismal December day when I was driving, rather aimlessly I admit, from
Northern Spain towards the French town of Narbonne. At the time, you could
put your car on a freight train in Narbonne and then take another train to
Paris where magically, you’d meet your car the next morning, thus saving a
lengthy drive through France. Even in the bleak mid-winter, the fortress of
Carcassonne is an impressive sight with its castle-like double walls,
majestic turrets and its jumble of stone buildings. This ancient town sits
among a vast ocean of vines, for it lies near the middle of the Languedoc
wine-growing region. It’s the single biggest wine-producing region in the
world. But in December, nothing much happens in the vineyards. Nothing much
at all, because the vines are virtually hibernating.
I mention all this because Carcassonne is the home to the
wine company LGI, founded in 1999 by the French wine producer Alain Grignon.
The company has dedicated itself to the export market and has developed
expertise in sourcing wines from both Gascony and the Languedoc. It produces
some very exciting wines too, including the Rare Vineyards collection
that brings together unconventional wines from familiar regions.
Sauvignon Blanc 2012 (white), Côtes de Gascogne, France (Bt. 599 @ Wine
You’ve heard about Sauvignon Blanc often enough. But the
Côtes de Gascogne? Well, it’s a wine-growing district in the old French
region of Gascony which lies on the Atlantic side of France and stretches
from Bordeaux down to the Spanish frontier and the Pyrenees. Strangely
enough, although most of its neighbours produce red wines, the Côtes de
Gascogne produces mostly whites - around 91% to be exact. These are made
from a variety of grapes, notably Colombard, Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon and
Muscadelle. They also grow a few oddly-named local varieties such as Petit
Manseng and Gros Mansen along with Ugni Blanc, probably better known by its
Italian name, Trebbiano.
This Sauvignon Blanc (SOH-vihn-yohn BLAHN) is a
very pale straw colour with an extraordinary rich, fruity aroma of pear,
peach and melon. There’s a delicate hint of boiled sweets and a touch of
grassiness too. But the aroma alone is worth the money. If you sniff the
wine a hundred times it’s less than six baht a go, though few people I
imagine would want to spend that amount of time lingering over the aroma.
Except possibly me. Now I come to think about it, there’s also a faint
mineral character in the aroma which is not altogether surprising, because
this is fairly typical of a Sauvignon Blanc.
The taste comes as quite a surprise. It’s much fuller and
richer than I expected, with loads of citrusy fruit on the palate and a
lovely dry tang of acidity. The taste fairly fills the mouth and there’s an
exceptionally long, clean and lemony dry finish. This would make a terrific
ap้ritif because the sprightly touch of grapefruit-like acidity would kick
the taste buds into anticipation. This wine has plenty of Sauvignon Blanc
character but much more intense than most Sauvignons I have come across
recently. I think it would make a great partner for your roast chicken or a
rich and fully-flavoured cheese quiche.
Grenache 2012 (red), Pays d’Oc, France (Bt. 599 @ Wine Connection)
The aroma of this wine will probably hit your snout the
moment you open the elegantly tapered bottle. It’s rather spicy and peppery
with hints of bramble, olive and dark fruit. But honestly, if you want to
smell this wine at full volume, you’ll need to let the air get to it.
Ideally, tip it into a wine jug or decanter and leave it to rest for about
ten minutes. After that time, you might pick up the vaguely peppery, earthy
aromas that are typical of wines made from this grape. Grenache (gruh-NAHSH)
incidentally is one of the most widely-planted red wine grape varieties in
the world and it’s especially popular in France and Spain. This
black-skinned grape likes hot, dry conditions and it’s the dominant variety
in most of the wines from the Southern Rh๔ne, especially those from the
Chโteauneuf-du-Pape region. The words Pays d’Oc on the label mean
that it’s a country wine made from grapes grown in Languedoc-Roussillon.
The grapes that made this wine were grown on old vines
and as you probably know already, the older the vines, the better the
grapes. Oh, and before I forget, the wine was awarded a Gold Medal at a
recent Berlin Wine Trophy competition, one of the most important
international wine tastings in Germany and one of the largest and most
recognised tastings world-wide.
Being a dog in a previous life, I tend to spend quite a
lot of time over the aroma of a wine, unlike some of my friends who can’t
resist tasting it after only a couple of feeble sniffs. The other night I
was having dinner with someone who took a hearty swig of the newly-served
wine without even bothering to enjoy the aroma, or for that matter, even
sniffing it to make sure that the wine was drinkable. But really it was such
a waste, because in my view he was missing at least sixty percent of the
This is a wine with firm structure and richness,
beautifully balanced with plenty of black fruit on the palate. It’s smooth
and very dry with a tiny dash of acidity. There’s a very long, satisfying
finish and typical of Grenache, it’s also very low in tannin. This wine is
exceptional and Wine Connection has certainly scored a few Brownie Points
for bringing it here. It seems to me rather a food wine and I am sure it
would be perfect with most red meat dishes, game, casseroles, or rich
cheeses. It will probably be at its best slightly on the cool side.
Normally, Grenache is used as a blending grape and a wine
made of 100% Grenache is rather unusual. But talking of grapes, a report due
out this week from a leading British wine magazine reveals the staggering
fact that 30% of British wine consumers cannot name a single grape
variety. And just in case you’re wondering, according to a book
published in 2012 by wine experts Jancis Robinson and Julia Harding, there
are about 10,000 grape varieties and 1,368 of these produce wine in
commercial quantities. My guess is that most of the wine in the world is
made from about 80 varieties, but how many of them can you name?
Sauvignon Blanc and Grenache are two for starters.