Posts Tagged Languedoc

Wine that won’t wear out your wallet this January. Laurent Miquel and Jean Claude Mas

How do you tell a great winemaker? For me it is not by tasting their flagship wines, the top-of-the-range stuff that costs €50 or more. Given the finest grapes and a generous budget, even the average winemaker can come up with something drinkable. But many struggle to come up with good everyday wines at a reasonable price.

This week, two successful, innovative producers making attractive wines for every budget. Both are based in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, in southern France, the source of many inexpensive wines. Both make some seriously good wines, but, given that it’s January and we’re probably all feeling the post-Christmas pinch, we’ll concentrate on the less expensive.

Laurent Miquel

Laurent Miquel’s family has been in the business since 1790, but he wasn’t always sure if he wanted to follow the previous seven generations. Instead, he studied engineering in France and took a master’s in quality assurance at Leeds University before working with Nissan in Sunderland.

He finally caught the wine bug, returned to France to study oenology, and made his first wine in 1996. The business has been a huge success.

“It is much easier to sell Chablis, champagne or New Zealand Sauvignon,” says Miquel, “but in the Languedoc, we offer diversity, personality and real value for money. We make very fresh, very drinkable wines, and slowly we have built up a solid base of consumers. We are always driven by quality; 80 per cent of what we do is about the vines and the grapes.”

The wines have been stocked by SuperValu, Tesco and Marks & Spencer, and are currently sold by both Dunnes Stores and O’Briens.

The Mas family

The Mas family has been growing grapes and making wine since the late 19th century. In 1987 Jean-Claude Mas received 35 hectares of vines from which he built Domaines Paul Mas, a group of nine estates scattered around Languedoc-Roussillon. In addition, he makes eight signature ranges, including the Arrogant Frog wines, that will be familiar to many. (The wines are usually very good.)

His Château de Martinolles, in Limoux, has featured in this column several times, as have other of his wines, and you will find his bottles in Ireland’s best wine shops and restaurants.

As Mas owns about 650 hectares of vineyards and controls a further 1,312, he has been able to supply some of the biggest supermarkets in Ireland and Britain. He has also supplied a number of Aldi’s Exquisite labels, as well as the Limoux below.

Astélia Limoux 2016 13.5%, €10.99
It may look like as if it has come in a perfume bottle, but this wine (from Jean-Claude Mas) is a rich, full-bodied, buttery Chardonnay with ripe peach fruits and a dry finish. Perfect with salmon or chicken in a creamy mushroom sauce. Meursault for those on a budget? From Aldi

Claude Val Rouge 2016, Pays d’Oc, Organic 13.5%, €14, or two for €22
A blend of Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah and Merlot, this medium- to full-bodied wine has rich dark fruits, a touch of spice and a nice, lightly tannic grip. Not one to sip on its own, but perfect with red or white meats on cold winter evenings. From Molloys Liquor Stores

Laurent Miquel, Père et Fils Chardonnay Viognier 2016 13%, €9.50
Medium-bodied with fresh lemon zest and succulent peach and apricot fruits. Perfect on its own, but this would go nicely with plaice, sole or sea bass. I had mine with fishcakes. From select Dunnes Stores

Laurent Miquel, Père et Fils Syrah Grenache 2016, IGP Pays d’Oc 13%, €9.50
The Syrah adds delicious, subtle pepper, liquorice and dark fruits, the Grenache a soft warmth. Together they make for a lovely smooth wine with juicy ripe fruits. On its own or with lighter red-meat dishes. From select Dunnes Stores

Posted in: Irish Times

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Gérard Bertrand: the man who helped save the Languedoc

Gérard Bertrand

First published in The Irish Times, Saturday 26th August, 2017

Tall and charismatic, Gérard Bertrand commands the respect and loyalty of those who work for him. “People either work here for three months or 10 years,” he says. “If they fit in, they stay for a long time.” Bertrand is one of those responsible for reviving the fortunes of the Languedoc, a massive wine region that runs along much of the Mediterranean coast of France.

In the 1980s few people were interested. For many years it had been a mass producer of cheap jug wine. Bertrand started by selling well-made inexpensive wines to the supermarkets. He also began buying up moribund estates that had old vines, good soils and the potential to make great wine. Today he owns 22 estates and 410 hectares of vines.

He says he worked his first vintage at the age of 10 with his father at Château Villamajou in Corbières, going on to join the business full-time in his early 20s. At the time he was playing senior rugby with Narbonne, his local team – he was captain – and he is now a shareholder. In 2002, he became interested in biodynamic farming and began to experiment with two hectares of vines in his home estate of Cigalus. The wines were fresher, with much better acidity. Convinced by this, he is now in the process of converting all of his estates so that 50 per cent will be organic by 2020, while 30 per cent are already biodynamic.


“It is a long journey that takes time. At first most of my staff said the boss has gone crazy, but now they will leave if we go back to conventional [winemaking].” Everyone I met had an almost evangelical belief in the project and in biodynamics. “I tell you, it works,” argues Bertrand. “The results are in the vineyard. It is hard for people who don’t believe to understand. My soil was like a fridge; full of everything but cold or frozen. The vines couldn’t eat it! As vignerons, we need to deliver the taste of the grapes and the taste of the terroir. Biodynamics magnifies all of this.” Today, most of his bulk wines are also sourced from co-operatives that practice organic viticulture.

Bertrand’s huge success is the result of clever marketing and good winemaking. His wines are modern, with good ripe fruits, yet remain true to their origins. His greatest achievement may have been to convince consumers that the Languedoc can make high-quality wine. His wines range in price from entry level up to €180 for a bottle of Clos d’Ora from his small remote estate in Minervois La Livinière. The flagship property is Château l’Hospitalet, a restaurant, shop with tasting room, and hotel on the Mediterranean coastline close to Narbonne. It is well worth dropping in if you are in the area this summer

Bargain Wine:

Naturae Merlot 2016, IGP Pays d’Oc Organic

14%, €11.50

 Sulphite-free wine, rich and powerful with stewed dark fruits.

 Stockists: Dunnes Stores

Four to choose from

Domaine de Villemajou 2014, Boutenac, Corbières

14%, €20.95

 Very tasty broad rustic dark fruits and liquorice. Good with cassoulet.

 Stockists: O’Briens

Cigalus Blanc 2015, IGP Aude Hauterive

14.5%, €38

 Voluptuous peach and apricot fruits overlaid with subtle oak. Excellent wine, brimming with character.

 Stockists: O’Briens

Domaine de l’Aigle Pinot Noir 2014, Haute Vallée de l’Aude

13%, €17.95

 Elegant soft piquant raspberry and dark cherry fruits with a smoky note. Good with grilled duck breast.

 Stockists: O’Briens

Posted in: Irish Times

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Belles du Sud 2014 Marsanne Roussanne

Belles du Sud 2014 Marsanne Roussanne

DSCF6066IGP pays d’Oc
€8 in the SuperValu wine sale starting 3rd September

Lovely plump peaches and orange peel, with a refreshing dry finish.

Perfect on its own, but I reckon it would be good with thai/green curry prawns.

I like both Marsanne and Roussanne, but there are some truly awful cheap versions from the Languedoc. This is an exception; It won’t ever compete with the great wines of the Rhône valley, but at €8 it is a real bargain.

Posted in: Daily Drop

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Two Affordable Summer Wines

Joel Delaunay Sauvignon Blanc 2013

€11.99 down from €14.99 for the month of June


Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley tends to be a little lighter and less aromatic than those from New Zealand or Chile. This is not a bad thing in my book. This wine has subtle floral aromas and fresh zesty clean green fruits. Perfect to drink by itself or with salads and fish dishes, this is very gluggable summer drinking.

Stockist: O’Briens


Henri Norduc Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 Pays d’Oc


I am not always a fan of Cabernet Sauvignon from the south of France; most of the time I prefer wines made from the more local Syrah, Grenache and Carignan. This however stood out in a line-up of inexpensive Cabernets from around the world. An attractive warm climate Cab with very tasty juicy ripe blackcurrant fruits and a lightly spicy finish. A real bargain at €11.

Stockists: Le Caveau, Kilkenny; Ballymaloe at Brown Thomas, Cork; The Corkscrew, Chatham St.

Posted in: Daily Drop

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