Languedoc-Roussillon Reds are no Ruse
You see it all the time with French wine – wine bottles that are labelled, not with the name of a grape, but with the name some town in France. This air of mystery is easy enough when it comes to a well-known region like Burgundy, (most bon vivants will at least know they’re getting a bottle of Pinot Noir or Chardonnay), but with wine labels from a lesser-known region like Languedoc-Roussillon, most drinkers are dumbfounded.
This confusion is a real shame because some of the best value French wine is in those Languedoc-Roussillon bottles with mysterious names, so it pays to learn about a few.
While Roussillon wines might be tricky to find, the juice is no ruse. Wines labelled “Côtes du Roussillon” are from the vineyards around Roussillon, a small village in the Languedoc-Roussillon wine region that borders Spain. And while Roussillon technically exists in France, it is actually quite Spanish. Most winemakers that live in Roussillon speak Catalan, and the terroir they grow grapes in, is a world away from its more French counterpart, Languedoc. For starters, Roussillon is part of the Pyrénées-Orientales, forming a sunny amphitheatre surrounded by mountains—Corbières, Pyrenees, Mount Canigou the Albères—and open only to the Mediterranean Sea in the East. All this mountain and sea proximity creates terroir heaven with ample sunshine and soil diversity.
A fine example of Roussillon wine is M. Chapoutier Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Côtes du Roussillon-Villages, $15.95 in the LCBO. In the glass, this full red is lush and earthy with notes of black plum pepper, tomato leaf and herbs—a great option for bbq season.
Corbières, another region in Languedoc-Roussillon, is a large winemaking region in the heart of Languedoc and can more of a wild card when it comes to reliably great wine. Red wines from Corbières are typically juicy and rustic, but can also be truly great, like Château Camplong Grande Réserve Corbières 2018, $14.95 at the LCBO. The Camplong Corbières is swarthy, full of fruit with a whisper of smoke. Uncork this beauty with char-grilled burgers.