30 Second Wine Advisor: Languedoc and Provence

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Languedoc and Provence

Head down the Rhône through southern France and you'll pass some of France's most loved wine regions.

From Côte-Rotie past the storied Hermitage and Cornas, we move along the Côtes-du-Rhône (the hillsides of the Rhône) into the Southern Rhône, Chateaneuf-du-Pape and all the Rhône villages and on to the sea.

If these aren't the greatest vineyards in France - some might nominate Burgundy or Bordeaux for that title - these are surely among the world's most popular wines, rich and appealing, fine at the table.

But as we approach the Mediterranean, things change. Turn to the east, toward Marseilles and Nice, and we enter Provence, well known for its beaches and mountains, its food and its aromatic herbs like lavender; but as a wine destination, perhaps not so much.

Turn to the west from the mouth of the Rhône, and we enter Languedoc, a zone perhaps even less well known to tourists or to wine lovers.

Sure, you'll see an occasional Provence wine on your wine shop's shelves; and the wines of Languedoc and its neighbor Roussillon certainly aren't unknown. But most of them are identified by smaller, less familiar regional names like Minervois, Picpoul and Corbieères, which makes things a little more confusing.

Here's a simple way to cut through the static: From the Pyrenees in the west across France's Mediterranean coast past the Rhône and on through Provence, the wines are all similar. Sure, you can argue for the varying influence of terroir - soils and winds and local climate.

But the region's wine grapes - primarily all 13 of the wild mix of varieties permitted in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, plus occasional indigenous rarities - are similar all the way across. If you get a red from anywhere in this region, it's likely to be a GSM (Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre), likely with the addition of Carignan in Languedoc. If it's a white, it's likely to contain some Grenache Blanc, maybe some Marsanne and Roussanne - and likely a shot of Viognier.

Languedoc, Provence. Looks like Rhône. Tastes like Rhône. May very well cost less than Rhône. What's not to like? Today's tasting report, a fine, fairly priced Corbieères from the Aude region of the Languedoc, is below.

We're tasting all the wines of Southwestern France and Provence, excepting the Rhône, which we covered last month, as our Wine Focus for October on the WineLovers Discussion Group. You're invited to come join in our online conversations. Shoot me an Email at wine@wineloverspage.com if you'd like to register for the forum.

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Today's Tasting Report

Gérard Bertrand 2011 Corbières ($12.99)

Gerard Bertrand

A characteristic blend of the Languedoc grapes Grenache,Syrah and Mourvèdre, this is an inky dark purple wine. Showing earthy black plums and blackberries on the nose and palate, it's full and rich, good structure and balance with fresh-fruit acidity and soft tannins at 13.5 percent alcohol. It's an excellent food wine, with some potential for short to midterm cellaring. U.S. importer: USA Wine West LLC, Sausalito, Calif. (Oct. 6, 2014)

FOOD MATCH: Simple Languedoc reds, like their cousins from the Southern Rhône, pair easily with red meats, grilled chicken and cheese. I find they work very well with Italian-style red-sauced pasta, too: It was outstanding with a dinner of spaghetti with fresh tomato sauce and porcini.

WHEN TO DRINK: Simple Southern French Grenache-based red blends generally aren't made for aging, but this wine's good balance, structure and tannins should guard it well for at least five years after the vintage.

VALUE: No complaints about this $13 price, which is a bit under the $15 U.S. median reported at Wine-Searcher.com.

Here's a fact sheet on this wine from the producer in English; alternatively, click here to download it in PDF format.

Check prices and find vendors for Gérard Bertrand 2011 Corbières on Wine-Searcher.com.

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