The Wonders of Languedoc-Roussillon


photo credit: Languedoc

There are plenty of good reasons visit France’s Languedoc-Roussillon. First of all, it’s off the beaten path. You can visit a part of France not overridden with tourists. Second, it’s full of rustic landscapes and medieval history, a wonderful mix! Last, it’s low-key but still full of the culinary excellence at the heart of the French experience. And this includes wine! Truly outstanding wines at very reasonable prices come from this land of co-ops and family-owned farms. Here’s our primer:

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Languedoc-Roussillon curves along the Mediterranean Coast from Nîmes (and the western edge of the Southern Rhône) to the Spanish border. The region (along with Provence) has some of the oldest vines in France (near Narbonne) and with that a long tradition of grape cultivation and wine production.

The majority of wines from this area are marked AOC Languedoc or Vin de Pays. Aside from these delicious table wines, there are several sub-regions of note making for complex & interesting wines.

Near Montpellier, Picpoul-de-Pinet makes wonderful, bright, acidic whites, perfect for oysters!

Domaine Les Fusionels (Faugères)

Inland from there is Faugères, rustic and known for its old vine Carignan. The above photo comes from Ariel Demets’ estate, Domaine Les Fusionels, in the village of Cabrerolles, where she produces wonderful complex red blends with Grenache, Syrah & Carignan, truly the je ne sais quoi in wines from Languedoc. Carignan has notes of herbs, cured meats, tobacco & dried red fruit. Unusual. Wonderful. You’ll want more!

Faugères sits on the edge of the Parc Naturel Régional du Haut Languedoc, one of the many regional nature parks in this lesser-populated part of France. Enjoy its dramatic beauty on your way to Minervois, full of rolling farmlands and known for Grenache/Syrah blends.

Château Tourril (Minervois)

These vineyards (above) belong to Château Tourril, a 16 ha. family estate in Minervois, nestled in clay-limestone corrie and surrounded by shrub-land and garrigue. Its name comes from an ancient Gallo-Roman tower standing on the heights of the estate. We carry several of their wines including: La Tour du Tourril Cuvée Angela (Grenache/Syrah), Helios Roussanne & Panatella Rouge (Syrah/Grenache).

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Cité de Carcassonne

Forty-five minutes due west of Chateau Tourril is the fortified city of Carcassonne and its UNESCO World Hertitage site, La Cité, a medieval fortress with its beginnings in the Gallo-Roman period more than 2000 years ago.

From there, catch the A61 east to AOC Corbières and Château du Grand Caumont, run by Laurence Rigal who inherited the estate from her mother. Again we run into the wonderful Carignan grape, the most common varietal in this area as expressed through the many red blends produced at this estate, four of which are available at Portalis.

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Entrance to Château du Grand Caumont (Corbières)

Continuing east back to the Mediterranean and the city of Narbonne with its surrounding fishing villages and Parc Naturel Régional de la Narbonnaise en Méditerranée, you’ll enjoy another amazing national park just south of the city.

Half an hour south of the park you hit Perpignan, the last town (not village!) in France before you cross into Spain. But Spain is for a different day. We are heading due west through the French Pyrénées (Parc Naturel Régional des Pyrénées Catalanes & Parc Naturel Régional des Pyrénées ariégeoises, before landing in the AOC Côtes de Roussillon Villages and the village of Bélesta (in the foothills of the Pyrénées) to visit Château de Caladroy (in the land of reds only) and enjoy their complex blends of  Syrah, Grenache, Carignan & Mourvèdre.

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Château de Caladroy (Côtes du Roussillon Villages)

Finally, to finish our tour with a toast, we’ll head northeast to the village of Limoux (about halfway back to Carcassonne) for some delicious local bubbly. We sell a beloved one at the shop: J. Laurens NV Crémant de Limoux, made from the Moussau grape.

Cheers to Languedoc-Roussillon!
Julie & Jens, owners of Portalis Wine Shop & J. Strecker Selections, a local import company

Food+Wine: Vegetarian Inspiration

Vegetarian 2019_Membrillo and Stilton quiche_Ottolenhi_square_v2
We can save the planet by going vegetarian, you say? Well, let’s do it! Here are some wonderful meal ideas with recipes and wine pairings to enhance the experience. You can get inspiration in so many ways…

Membrillo & Stilton Quiche from Yotam Ottolenghi (pictured above) — a delicious salty/sweet combo that will blow your socks off. Bubbly would probably be the best pairing as would an off-dry white. Reds? Lighter in body and juicy good fruit is the key. Maybe a silky Barbera or a young, fruity Zinfandel.

Vegetarian 2019_Puy Lentil & Aubergines Stew_square_v2
Another by Yotam Ottolenghi: Puy Lentil & Aubergine Stew. The first rule of wine pairings is pair like with like, meaning if the food is acidic, choose an acidic wine. In this case, lentils have a pleasant bitterness, so we’re going with a lighter red with “lovely bitterness” (as the winemaker’s sister says): Schiava from Alto Adige in Italy. Many other delicious options exist including reds from Southern Italy, lighter Garnacha from Spain, Rhône table wines as would a whole host of whites and rosé.
Jamie Oliver is great at simple, yummy dishes with what you’ve got in the fridge: Aubergine & Tomatoes Rogan Josh. Enjoy with a Southern Rhône white or red.

Vegetarian 2019_Ina Garten_Zuchini & Goat Cheese Tart
Ina Garten’s Zuchini and Goat Cheese Tart is another winner. No time? Buy a pre-made crust. No shame in that! Enjoy with some bubbly — Spanish Cava would be lovely!

Indian Mulligatawny Soup paired with a nice, pleasant Bordeaux Blanc — always good. Another Indian favorite is Saag Paneer. Enjoy with a glass of Viognier.

Vegetarian 2019_Provençal Eggplant-Tomato Gratin
Provençal Eggplant-Tomato Gratin — a rich, meaty, herbal dish from the south of France. Better at the end of summer, but still tasty in the off season. You’ve got a ton of wine options with this dish, but we’re going with a Reserve Minervois from Languedoc-Roussillon, richer dark fruit with a little herbal note.


Vegetarian 2019_Ottolenghi_Pan-fried brussels sprouts and shallots with pomegranate & purple basil
Pan-fried Brussels Sprouts and Shallots with Pomegranate & Purple Basil — a big yes to that! Lots of wine choices: Grüner Veltliner, Chablis, or a rounder Portuguese white blend would be lovely.

Vegetarian 2019_Ottolenghi_Asparagus with Mushrooms & a Poached Egg
Or how about Asparagus with Mushrooms & a Poached Egg? Asparagus is tricky with wine. Go with an unoaked white. Sancerre would be delicious as would Alsatian Pinot Gris or Riesling.

Satay Sweet Potato Curry — Wine? Lots of wines would taste great with this dish – especially a rosé (good with everything spicy!) or a nice round white such as a Riesling, Pinot Gris, Chenin Blanc or Viognier.

Here’s an easy recipe for Butternut Squash Chili. We’d recommend a lighter red (Nero Buono, Nero d’Avola) from wine regions along the Mediterranean where this type of stewed vegetable cuisine is a staple.


Vegetarian 2019_Black Bean Burgers_15Spatulascom
Starting with: Black Bean Burgers! Lots of wines would taste great with this dish — from whites with good acidity to rosé to fruity reds. It’s spring… we’ll go with a Gamay! Tasty, won’t overpower.

Slow Cooker Veggie Lasagne… hits all the buttons, doesn’t it?? And then the wine: eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, fresh mozzarella & pasta… let’s go with a red from Southern Italy: Negroamaro. Would be a match made in heaven!

No suffering at all. Cheers!
Julie, Co-Owner
Portalis Wines