Les Peyrautins – Languedoc
The Languedoc-Roussillon region in southern France has long been the poor cousin of the French wine industry.
Grape growing in the area dates back to the Pliocene period yet despite being one of the oldest wine-producing regions in Europe, the district has never been highly regarded by the French as a premier wine-producing region.
Such is the disrespect afforded to the Languedoc that it is often unaffectionately referred to as the “wine lake” because of the large volumes of wine it makes and the contribution it makes to the European wine glut. They may have about 750 000 acres under vine, but I’ve never understood why it’s always had such a bad rap.
It may have been a “few” years ago, but for my 40th birthday a group of family and friends joined me in a little town called St Chinians; a small rural town set amongst vineyards and only about 40 minutes drive from Beziers.
It proved a convenient base for exploring all parts of the Languedoc, though being an old town with a primary production bias, not much English was spoken by the locals. But boy, what an experience! Genuine local cuisine, the authenticity of a hamlet and no end of different options to experiment with the regional wine offerings.
I suspect that part of the reason for the Languedoc wines generally being regarded as of lesser quality than those from the big-name appellations, is that until the 1980’s the local winemakers didn’t bother to have their wares classified under an appellation contrôlée.
Wine judges, writers and consumers have long been sold on the prestige of a classification and this seems to have caused a headwind for selling the Languedoc wines at a premium price.
But if you ask me, the region makes some terrific wines that are much better value than you’ll find elsewhere in France. Their reds are particularly good with varietals like Syrah, Mouvedre, Carignan and Grenache doing well in the Mediterranean climate with its hot and dry summers.
It can prove challenging to find good value French wines here in Australia, but I recently discovered that Vintage House are bringing in a range of Languedoc-Roussillon wines from Les Peyrautins and selling them at a sub $20 price point. There’s a Les Payrautins chardonnay for the white wine lovers, and also a Les Payrautins pinot noir and a Les Payrautins syrah grenache for the red aficionados.
While I thought the Syrah-Grenache blend was exceptional at the price point, the chardonnay really hit a note with my taste buds. The deep yellow colour in the glass belies the zippiness of the green edged fruit on the front of the palate; with such a honeyed appearance I was expecting the wine to have greater palate weight and less liveliness about it! Heaps of lively citrus cavort with granny smith apple skins through the middle and some savoury nuances evolve as honeydew characters drive through the zesty conclusion. It’s a wine made of fruit sourced from a range of vineyards in the region, so if your interest is piqued in trying something from the south of France, the Les Payrautins Chardonnay is a worthy, and relatively inexpensive opportunity to acquaint your taste buds with the ‘Sud de France’.