Wines of the Midi
By Julian Allsop
Having briefly described the history of the wines of the Midi in an article about a year ago, I thought it was about time to mention some of the wines, which the region is now producing, and becoming more available worldwide. Although many of the wines come from the region in which the Anjodi cruises, between Carcassonne and the etang de Thon, there are some from all over the Languedoc Rousillon region right down to the Spanish border, and all are regularly served to guests on the Anjodi. The generic appellation of Coteaux du Languedoc covers the whole area between Montpellier and Narbonne, and the wines can use all of the major regional grape varieties, which are for red and rose wines: Syrah, Grenache, Carignan, Mourvedre, and Cinsault. For white wines it is, Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Bourboulenc, Marsanne, Rousanne, Rolle and Picpoul.
On the whole the reds are full and fruity, while the whites are dry and aromatic, as a generic appellation there is much variety, but there are some up and coming village appellations which are allowed to add their name to the label. In particular: From around Montpellier, Pic St. Loup, quite soft and relatively light reds with a pronounced spiciness, goes well with duck breast. From the shores of the Etang de Thou near Marseillan there is Picpoul de Pinet, this is a crisp dry white made especially to go with the oysters that come from the Etang (salt water lagoon). We always serve this wine from a producer called Gaujal along with the local oysters, and it is the most consumed wine on the barge.
Then there is the charmingly named La Clape from the Mediterranean coast near Narbonne, we serve white and rose from a Domaine called Mire L’Etang, they are full yet crisp with good aromas and go very well with all kinds of lunchtime dishes and salads.
North of Narbonne in the foothills of the Black Mountains are three regional appellations, from east to west they are Faugeres, St. Chinian, and Minervois. Faugeres has excellent rose, and some good white wines made from the Rousanne and Marsanne grapes of the Rhone which make full wines that are less dry than most Midi whites. St Chinian is a rugged area of narrow limestone gorges, and blends Grenache with Mourvedre and Syrah to make fruity wines with a herb flavour; a particularly well-balanced example we serve is from the Domaine du Servilliere.
The Minervois has become a true classic of the Midi wines; here the slopes have fewer ravines, and a good aspect, which has allowed the enthusiastic entrepreneurs of the new wave of midi winemakers to prosper. The heat and soil favours the use of the Syrah grape, and with a great many committed winemakers Minervois wines can boast a depth and complexity, which is harder to find among other appellations of the Languedoc.
A particular favourite on the Anjodi is a 50/50 Syrah/Carignan blend from Domaine Pique Perlou, often served with beef filet at Captains Dinner. This wine also goes very well with Cassoulet, the traditional dish from nearby Carcasonne.
Moving back down, between the Minervois and Narbonne is the largest regional appellation of Corbieres, this is another area of distinct variety, while there are the flatter lower planes leading right down to the sea the area also has its own range of hills running through the middle. The wines from the planes tend to emphasise the full bodied and fruity Grenache flavours, while those from the hills tend to be lighter and more complex with the rustic flavours of the native Carignan variety more present. We serve the wonderfully herby Domaine Serres Mazard with lamb, and the classic hilltop Corbieres from Chateau La Voulte Gasparets is elegant enough to accompany the chef’s most delicate dishes.
Moving further west to the other side of Carcasonne is the Limoux region; this white wine appellation is the coolest of the region, and the only one to include the Chardonnay grape.
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