February Wine Focus: France - The Southern Tier

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Re: February Wine Focus: France - The Southern Tier

Postby Joe Moryl » Sun Feb 27, 2011 11:45 pm

Jon - thanks for some insight as to what is going on in your region. You are correct that we do probably get a fairly limited range of all that is available, but there is a lot more out there (at least in my market, metro NYC/NJ) than what is reflected in the notes above. Personally, I tend to stick to sub $20 bottles from Languedoc because it is rare for me to buy wines costing more. And for those rare bottles, I tend to stick to familiar areas or maybe a reliable suggestion. I look at those $50 bottles from the south of France and, maybe unfairly, imagine it must be some oak bomb concocted to please a critic.

Tonight I had planned to post a TN for the 2007 Domaine Faillenc St. Marie Cuvee Syrconference de Presse Corbieres but the thing was badly corked. What escaped through the cloud of wet cardboard seemed promising so I'll try to get the shop to swap me for another bottle. A Neal Rosenthal import, so likely a decent, small producer. A couple weeks ago at Chambers St. Wines I also had a sip of a lovely, pure St. Chinian, the 2008 Navarre Laouzil and hope to pick up a bottle or two of that wine.
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Re: February Wine Focus: France - The Southern Tier

Postby Bob Parsons Alberta » Mon Feb 28, 2011 12:31 am

There are some wonderful whites from the Languedoc region and I am a good fan, if I can find them! Bob H has some excellent notes on various whites I believe?

WTN:`08 Domaine Lafond Roc-Epine Blanc, Lirac..

One of my recent white wine discoveries and I have been back for more. There is also an `05 red Lirac on the shelf which I am told "is rather tannic".

13.5% alc, $22 Cdn, synthetic cork, L 3209. "Vigneron independant" on the foil. 60% Grenache blanc, 20% Viognier, 10% Roussanne.

The color is a medium to deep straw, no green like a previous bottle. On the nose, great aromatics with spice, floral, mountainside herbs, pear. Very appealing forumites.
Initial entry thoughts were dry-ish, herbal with a savoury finish. Not sure how typical this Lirac white is? Great acidity and did not find any bitterness. I am a big fan of S France whites, this one is great!

Next up my last bottle of the `07 Lancyre Blanc, La Rouviere.
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Re: February Wine Focus: France - The Southern Tier

Postby Tim York » Mon Feb 28, 2011 11:57 am

That sounds a very good one, Bob, but please allow me a little nit-picking.

Lirac is located in the départment of Le Gard, which is administratively in the Languedoc-Roussillon region. However the dominant appellations in Gard are Côtes du Rhône and CDR Villages and AFAIK the appellations Coteaux du Languedoc and Languedoc don't overspill into it. Lirac along with neighbouring Tavel has a village appellation in its own right for its supposed superior quality which IMO is a reality with the best producers; excellent reds and pinks as well.

Tavel next door is a rosé only appellation. Rather confusingly the commune of Roquemaure seems to fall into both the Lirac and Tavel appellations which leads me to think that the pinks would be called Tavel and the reds and whites Lirac. I'm not sure what appellation is used for reds and whites, if any, grown in the commune of Tavel itself; probably Côtes du Rhône.
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Re: February Wine Focus: France - The Southern Tier

Postby JC (NC) » Mon Feb 28, 2011 7:11 pm

2009 Chateau Font-Mars Picpoul de Pinet, Languedoc. 12.5% alcohol by volume. Sells for about $10 or $11 per bottle in some wineshops.
Pale gold color. Crisp, lemony taste suggestive of some Sauvignon Blanc. Nice with artichoke hearts salad and chicken thighs. Would consider purchasing again.
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Re: February Wine Focus: France - The Southern Tier

Postby JC (NC) » Mon Feb 28, 2011 7:17 pm

2008 Vdp de l'Herault Heretiques, Languedoc-Rousillon $5.75 by the glass at Vin Rouge, Durham. $22 the bottle. I had a glass of this with their upscale macaroni and cheese (with ham and Gruyere cheese.) Dark purple color. Some rubber or vinyl on the nose. I really couldn't get past the vinyl which also dominated the palate and I only drank about half the glass but didn't want to pay for an alternate glass of red wine (Texier Cotes du Rhone perhaps) after having already had a glass of Muscadet.
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Re: February Wine Focus: France - The Southern Tier

Postby Bob Henrick » Mon Feb 28, 2011 9:13 pm

JC, I don't know who in NC handles the wines imported by Fran Kysela http://www.kysela.com/ but he brings in a picpoul B-I-B (bag in box) wine called Le petit frog, that is absolutely stunning at $30 per 3 liter box. That brings the price per 750ml down to $7.50 per. I have been drinking it for a couple summers, and am about to order a case of the 2009 soon.
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Re: February Wine Focus: France - The Southern Tier

Postby Joe Moryl » Mon Feb 28, 2011 9:30 pm

JC,

The Heretiques comes from Chateau d'Oupia. I've always found the regular Chateau d'Oupia Minervois to be a better wine, although both can be a bit funky - sometimes not for those with a low brett tolerance. Both are ridiculously cheap and great QPR if you like the style.
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Re: February Wine Focus: France - The Southern Tier

Postby JC (NC) » Tue Mar 01, 2011 11:02 am

Bob and Joe,
Thanks for the info. I may have seen Le Petit Frog at one of the shops. Will watch for it. Do the bag-in-box wines really stay fresh for a long time? Unless I am throwing a party or taking to a church event it would take me forever to finish 3 liters of wine and I would be tired of the wine before reaching the end.
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Re: February Wine Focus: France - The Southern Tier

Postby Bob Henrick » Tue Mar 01, 2011 11:15 am

JC (NC) wrote:Bob and Joe,
Thanks for the info. I may have seen Le Petit Frog at one of the shops. Will watch for it. Do the bag-in-box wines really stay fresh for a long time? Unless I am throwing a party or taking to a church event it would take me forever to finish 3 liters of wine and I would be tired of the wine before reaching the end.


Jane, the B-I-B if kept in the fridge should easily last 4-6 weeks. Have had decent Srn France reds kept in the open for at least a month and it was just fine after that time. A trick though if you decide to try the B-I-B is that for the last half bottle or so you want to take the bag from the box and drain it. I find this is easily a half bottle. A red B-I-B you (and others) might want to try is the "Grand Veneur" CdR from Alain Jaume. Locally this red in bottle sells for $17 per 750ml. In the box I bring that price down to < $10.00 per bottle.
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Re: February Wine Focus: France - The Southern Tier

Postby Bob Parsons Alberta » Tue Mar 01, 2011 8:13 pm

Tim writes.....That sounds a very good one, Bob, but please allow me a little nit-picking.

Lirac is located in the départment of Le Gard, which is administratively in the Languedoc-Roussillon region. However the dominant appellations in Gard are Côtes du Rhône and CDR Villages and AFAIK the appellations Coteaux du Languedoc and Languedoc don't overspill into it. Lirac along with neighbouring Tavel has a village appellation in its own right for its supposed superior quality which IMO is a reality with the best producers; excellent reds and pinks as well.


Yup, now realise I made a mistake posting here! All this continuous cold weather, snow removal ...blame it on that!
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Re: February Wine Focus: France - The Southern Tier

Postby John Bojanowski » Wed Mar 02, 2011 12:20 pm

Thanks Bob,
Bombs on the TV screen are enough for us !

My wife's from Narbonne and it's she who started Gravillas. I've learnt my palette from her, so so far immune to americaine desires for gobs of chewy mouthfeel and residual sugars (except for in my sweet wines). The most important decision she made in the 13 years she's been wine-ing was to take root here on our 300m high white limestone gravel plateau. The second was to work with ripe grapes. Ripeness + freshness from altitude and lime = balance and elegance (especially with carignan).

The terroir is capable of magnifying good ideas and forgiving dumb ones.

sorry about the snow in alberta; here it's a bit windy...
>
> Hi John.
>
> Just opened the `07 Sous les Cailloux, recovering from more snow removal!!
> And minus 25, yikes.
> Interesting wine, not sure what to expect. Only one glass so far but dry,
> soft tannins, tons of fruit, no bomb thankfully! I did decant but see no
> reason why, slightly chilled. Quite old world in style which really appeals
> to me.
>
> Stay tuned, will post on forum.
>
> Bob
>

Tim York wrote:
Bob Parsons Alberta. wrote:WTN: `07 Clos du Gravillas Sous les Cailloux des Grillons, Vin de Pays des Cotes de Brian.

Owner John Bojanowski posted here earlier this month and his wines showed up in Calgary early last year. Blend of Syrah, Cab Sauv, Mourvedre, Carignan, Counoise, Grenache, Terret Gris.
$22 Cdn, 13% alc, good natural cork, cellared one year. I decanted for an hour, no sediment noted. Unoaked, organic, domaine located in Saint-Jean area.

Color. Medium ruby-red, centre not quite opaque.

Nose. Earthy, spice, blueberry, black fruits melange. Holds up well overnight.

Palate. Initial entry thought was dry, old world style, soft tannins, plenty of black fruits here. Long finish, good acidity. Blackcurrant, cherry, not super complex but has nice old world character "Dansom plums" from across the table. Find this quite savoury, lots of appeal. Lip smacking delight on day 2, need to keep eye on Metrovino for new vintages from here.

Under the Rocks Crickets is actually so named because St Jean de Minervois is completely covered by white limestone rocks (looks like snow–gravillas means gravel in patois) and, in the vineyard in question, there are always lots of crickets (when it’s not below zero…).


This is John's entry level red, I think. I tasted the 09 version at the recent Brussels Languedoc do and described it as "seductively fruity and supple". Two extra years ageing with your bottle seems to have done no harm at all; 2007 was a fine year in the area. The two more ambitious reds were both from 2007 and showed more depth and complexity; I particularly liked the Lo Vièhl old vine Carignan.

This estate is now very firmly on my radar screen but I have to go Liège to get the wines.
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Re: February Wine Focus: France - The Southern Tier

Postby John Bojanowski » Wed Mar 02, 2011 12:56 pm

Jon Hesford wrote:Tim,
The "Sud de France" marketing team are planning several things to try and address this problem of their wines not being widely available or well-regarded or sought-after in the USA. Like you I think the wines should have appeal but perhaps they are not seen as offering anything that cannot be made domestically.

They are planning 5 "actions" in the US, all in New York. Two of them are trade tasting to allow new producers to show their wares to the trade. One is strictly for organic wines. The other two tastings will be put on by Sud de France around the themes of "under $20" and "Vins Primés", which means wines which have been rated by WA or WS. The last event is a Festival in June which could be anything.

By contrast, they are holding 9 events in China and 14 throughout Asia.

The CIVR are using the same techniques they have used in the UK, which is to target "infuencers" like Sommelliers and Wine Educators, often using the Roussillon's old sweet wines to add interest and emphasising the diversity. I personally see this as a smart move. Much more effective than posters with some pretty French girl sipping wine.

In all the other countries, the primary means of promotion is the professional Salon. Importers, distributors and retailers all get to meet the producers and taste the wines. This doesn't seem to happen in the US. I assume because of the 3-tier system. The beauty of the Languedoc-Roussillon is the diversity of wines and huge number of small producers crafting brilliant wines at attractive, though not bargain-basement, prices. The US distribution model and the Languedoc production model do not seem well aligned.

There also seems to be an emphasis on American ownership or at least partnership in the vineyard. A lot of the wines from our area that can be found in the States are from vineyards notionally owned by US importers.

I'm not sure whether this comes about because of a demand from the consumer or because the importer wants to have more control over the prodcution, allocation and price of the wines they selling. My gut feeling is that it is the latter. If you look at the three-tier model, you can imagine how long it takes from an importer finding a wine they like to actually selling that wine to a retailer. In my own experience, both times I've been asked to supply an order for the US, I've completely sold out of the wine because it has been 6 to 9 months since the samples were sent with little or no communication in the meantime. On the other hand, I'm sure it's an easier sell if the importer can say the wine is from their own vineyards, showing lots of nice photos of them pretending to prune vines and tread grapes :)


Tim and Jon (whom I look forward to meeting and tasting with soon?),

The CIVL is actually doing another USA event, the Ambassadors of Languedoc, 567 April, DC/Chicago/Sfrancisco. It's a press and trade tasting, started in 09, which proposes to promote the highlights of Languedoc rather than its known cheap and cheerful side. I went on the first Tour in 2009 and it was really shocking how little the US press knew about our terroirs (they thought we were homogenous, like the CAL central valley), our wines, our people. The CIVL is finally realizing that the press isn't interested in stories about low prices but stories about people doing exciting things in wonderful places. We got selected again, again specifically to represent "languedoc muscats" of which we are most certainly the smallest producer...The CIVL has not yet embraced vindupays pure 100 year old carignan wines --tho they are also letting me pour the grenache/macabeu white minervois)!!

Here's the tour press release:
http://www.live-pr.com/en/civl-ambassador-wines-tour-the-r1048711636.htm

The US market has been surprisingly tricky for a KY bred winegrower ! The known good-wine nationals have done their "tiny" domaine phase and now need a certain volume and certain price level to break in with yet another wine. And I've found it MUCH easier being credible as an organic grower when meeting new merchants in Paris than even in my hometown Louisville ! It's like I don't have the right accent, therefore I must be another end of career billionaire who's got hired winemaker and tractor driver--that's the received paradigm. (ain't no KY boy really drivin' a tractor down'n FRANCE!). The 3 tier system doesn't help growers like us either--where in Liege (or Calgary) a single shop can take a punt on a palette of wine, the rachet effect of a couple extra tier markups translates a euro or two on our export price into a lot of additional price risk (our 16euro retail carignan is almost $30 in KY, my poor mom cries...). And then, there are a LOT of good growers (especiallly down here in Languedoc, where there are 3500 domaines)--many more than there are interested wholesalers in any particular state.

So in case there haven't been enough opinions yet on good languedoc domaines, I'll reconfirm heartily Aupilhac, Mas Champart and Grange de 4 Sous and I'll add a few : La Madura, Bordes, Borie la Vitarelle and Mas Cynanque St Chinians; Domaine du Loup Blanc and L'Oustal Blanc Minervois (my competitors?)--and those are just the ones closest to home. So much good wine down here, so many different ways, grapes, terroirs and opinions.
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Re: February Wine Focus: France - The Southern Tier

Postby Bob Parsons Alberta » Wed Mar 02, 2011 8:16 pm

Then...>

WTN: `07 Ch. de Lancyre La Rouviere, Coteaux de Languedoc.

Good natural cork, 13.5% alc, $23 Cdn and first tasting of the newly released `07. Think Bob H has some notes somewhere on earlier vintages?

Color. Medium straw, no green hints, looks inviting.

Nose. Citrus/lime, peach, floral, aromatic for sure. Hint of nuttiness in the background, more mineral tones on day 2 and could be some banana? Very appealing without the fruit salad stuff!

Palate. Always important to serve this type of blend not too chilled I think. Too cold, the acid seems out of balance and the excess chill certainly dulls the fruit tones.

Initial entry thought was tad too young, dry, minerals, nut tone on finish. As it opens shows some bracing acidity without any honey tones one will expect down the road! Unripe pear and white fruit to forefront, tough to know which food to match with this one. Acidity was less evident on day 2 (found some pink grapefruit) but nothing shines right now. Think another year will do for this one?

Now 2 yrs later.....>

Color is a dark yellow, no gold tones yet. Hint of butterscotch on the nose, mild tropical fruit aromas, no nuttyness. Rather more minerally on opening. Some riper fruit on the entry and acidity toned down. Not a big change here really I guess, think it has more grace.
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Re: February Wine Focus: France - The Southern Tier

Postby Bob Henrick » Wed Mar 02, 2011 9:43 pm

Bob Parsons Alberta. wrote:Snipped [i]WTN: `07 Ch. de Lancyre La Rouviere, Coteaux de Languedoc.



Now 2 yrs later.....>

Color is a dark yellow, no gold tones yet. Hint of butterscotch on the nose, mild tropical fruit aromas, no nuttyness. Rather more minerally on opening. Some riper fruit on the entry and acidity toned down. Not a big change here really I guess, think it has more grace.


Bob, This is when I start to really like the Rouviere. You know I am more a fan of marsanne than rousanne, but either will do in a pinch. It's funny how our palates change over the years. Years ago I almost could not drink Italian whites, now I love a bunch of them. I still have quite a few bottles of Tahbilk marsanne, but when they are gone, they are gone. A famous baseball pitcher named Leroy "Satchel" Paige once said, "never look back they might be gaining on you". I guess feel that way about Tahbilk. and a sad one it is.
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Re: February Wine Focus: France - The Southern Tier

Postby Joe Moryl » Fri Mar 04, 2011 12:00 am

WTN: 2007 Domaine Faillenc St. Marie Cuvee Syrconference de Presse Corbieres:

Just a follow-up. Exchanged the corked bottle mentioned above for a good one. Has a medium intensity carmine color with a tiny twinge of brick - seems a bit mature for an '07. Fairly effusive nose, with stemmy fruit and a touch of band-aid. On the palate the wine is fairly long with leathery, cherry and ash notes. A little bit funky but nicely made. Something about the way the tannins interact with the other components that almost give the impression of a slight spritz. Doesn't exactly scream Syrah, but not out of the question either. Probably worth the $18 tag. 14% abv and organic.
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Re: February Wine Focus: France - The Southern Tier

Postby Bob Parsons Alberta » Fri Mar 04, 2011 2:32 am

Interesting note there Joe. I think there is still a lot to discover about the Southern Tier region.

Here is a new post from Rosemary George about comparing St. Chinian with Faugères.

http://www.tastelanguedoc.blogspot.com/
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Re: February Wine Focus: France - The Southern Tier

Postby Tim York » Fri Mar 04, 2011 7:30 am

Bob,

That is an interesting report by Rosemary. As she points out, so many variables exist between St.Chinian and Faugères, particularly producer style and grape variety mix, that it is difficult to reach conclusions on the specific characteristics of the wines of one appellation against the other. It is almost as difficult between appellations which use the same grape variety, e.g. I can't differentiate between Chinon and Bougueil though identification of wines from sandy/gravelly plots which are present in both is a little easier. That is not to say that terroir differences do not exist; their presence can be demonstrated by comparison of a range of wines from different villages in a single producer's portfolio (try the ranges of some Burgundy growers) which eliminates the producer style variable.
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Re: February Wine Focus: France - The Southern Tier

Postby Bob Parsons Alberta » Fri Mar 04, 2011 11:16 pm

Good points Tim, do you have good access to these two appellations? Eeeeer, when in-house PO is not alert!
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Re: February Wine Focus: France - The Southern Tier

Postby John Bojanowski » Sat Mar 05, 2011 5:31 am

Tim York wrote:Bob,

That is an interesting report by Rosemary. As she points out, so many variables exist between St.Chinian and Faugères, particularly producer style and grape variety mix, that it is difficult to reach conclusions on the specific characteristics of the wines of one appellation against the other. It is almost as difficult between appellations which use the same grape variety, e.g. I can't differentiate between Chinon and Bougueil though identification of wines from sandy/gravelly plots which are present in both is a little easier. That is not to say that terroir differences do not exist; their presence can be demonstrated by comparison of a range of wines from different villages in a single producer's portfolio (try the ranges of some Burgundy growers) which eliminates the producer style variable.


One last south france post...
Rosemary is right on target, as always; there are many more similarities than differences between st chinian and faugeres. Indeed you can generalize across languedoc "terroirs"--my experience is that there are definite terroir effects due to soil, altitude, rainfall (big differences exist between wetter picstloup to very dry corbieres), grape varietal choice and vineyard and winery choices. But that's a whole lot of variables from which to claim causality, when you start mixing and matching.

Specifically on soil, while Davis thought says that it's unimportant alongside varietal and husbandry choices, We did a test in 2003 with a parcel of carignan on schist vs. a parcel of carignan on limestone gravel. Same ripeness, one day difference in picking, same yields, same winery work (traditional open fermentation, pumpovers and pigeages). The result was flagrantly different wines--both fruity but much more freshness, minerality and acidity and black fruits in the limestone, more supple and fondu (melted, soft) and red fruits in the schist.

Writers and growers like easy explanations, "my wine is good because of x". Winegrowing is a series of choices, from soil and grape choice to bottling, each one which takes you in a certain direction. My take is that the effects of different variables mentioned above vary in order of magnitude and choices made further down the line can magnify the effects or gum them out. (this is where my wife gives me a blank stare...). As I said in an earlier post, Nicole's choice of white limestone gravel was of huge importance for wines made traditionally--and we are condemned to making lighter, fresher wines than a neighbor down the hill who works exactly the same way we do, but with richer clay/limestone soils. But he gets more power, more chewy... BUT if we both changed technique to maceration carbonique in the cellar, I'm sure you wouldn't be able to tell our wines apart !
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Re: February Wine Focus: France - The Southern Tier

Postby Tim York » Sat Mar 05, 2011 8:41 am

That is a very interesting contribution, John, which really highlights the multiple choices and decisions made by a vigneron, both long term (grape choice) and short term (bottling).

Your experiment with Carignan on two different plots seems to give conclusive proof of the influence of the soil type component of terroir.

I wonder about the influence of wine schools like Davis. Fine, perhaps, if we want to industrialise the process. But very dubious for making wines with real personality and sense of place. And does not a degree of risk taking with elements like brett and VA lead to more interesting and complex wines at the cost of a few spoiled bottles?

Please stay with us and jump in from time to time.
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Re: February Wine Focus: France - The Southern Tier

Postby Bob Henrick » Sat Mar 05, 2011 12:02 pm

Tim York wrote:That is a very interesting contribution, John, which really highlights the multiple choices and decisions made by a vigneron, both long term (grape choice) and short term (bottling).

Your experiment with Carignan on two different plots seems to give conclusive proof of the influence of the soil type component of terroir.

I wonder about the influence of wine schools like Davis. Fine, perhaps, if we want to industrialise the process. But very dubious for making wines with real personality and sense of place. And does not a degree of risk taking with elements like brett and VA lead to more interesting and complex wines at the cost of a few spoiled bottles?

Please stay with us and jump in from time to time.


Tim, I fully agree that John's experiment gives conclusive proof of soil making a really big difference in the wine produced. I also agree with you in your last sentence above. I would join with you in the latter, and even expand on it. I would ask or even plead that John, Jon, and Rosemary stay with us, and post as much as their busy lives permit.
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Re: February Wine Focus: France - The Southern Tier

Postby Bob Henrick » Sat Mar 05, 2011 12:13 pm

This topic has been one of the most important (IMO) topic we have had on the WLDG since it's inception. I would like to save the entire 6 pages of posts. I thought at first of copying the names of wines and houses and make myself a file to use over the years. Then, I thought that would be less than I would like it to be. I believe that the contributors in the thread, and especially Jon Hesford, John Bojanowski, and Rosemary George have contributed grist that will take me a long long time to give thought and exercise to. If there is an easy way to copy and save an entire thread, please tell me how to do it. Otherwise I shall have a task ahead, but it is a task I will accomplish. Thanks in advance.
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Re: February Wine Focus: France - The Southern Tier

Postby Bob Parsons Alberta » Sat Mar 05, 2011 12:24 pm

Hear hear Bob H. I thought it would be of interest to try and get some folks who live in the area to contribute and it sure worked eh. I am a big fan of Wine Focus and it is a pity that many here were not able to contribute to the discussion `cos of lack of availability. I hope that they kept up anyway!
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Re: February Wine Focus: France - The Southern Tier

Postby John Bojanowski » Wed Mar 09, 2011 2:17 pm

Bob, probably better than copying out this thread is just using Rosemary George's blog to create a list of interesting wines ! She likes lots of different styles of Languedoc wines, each for its own reasons. Jancis Robinson recently did a list of her favorite languedocs. Did any of the US journalists ever come so near to the ground? There are LOTS of good growers missing from these 6 pages. If you come visit with a good bottle of wine from somewhere outside of languedoc, making a list would give us something to do when we drink it.

A+john
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