Tag Archives: Carignan

Wine Love in Languedoc: Saint-Chinian AOC

The Languedoc-Roussillon wine region in Southern France remains the one that keeps calling me back, most recently, specificially Saint-Chinian AOC,  situated  around 60km east of Carcassone, 35km north of Narbonne. My first visit to the vineyards of Languedoc-Roussillon was  in May 2014, where I spent some time amongst the old Carignan vines of the rolling hills of Minervois with negociant Calmel and Joseph, tasting a comprehensive selection of some of the best Languedoc-Roussillon red wines around. I was back in January 2015, this time to charismatic Montpellier to visit Natural Wine Fest Milleseme Bio and meet some of Languedoc’s most enterprising independent wine producers ‘Les Outsiders‘.

Saint Chinian Map (credit from Saint-Chinian.pro)

Saint Chinian Map (credit from Saint-Chinian.pro)

But, this side of the summer, I was lucky enough to spend a few sunny days visiting many vineyards, meeting even more wine producers and tasting a vast amount of Saint-Chinian AOC wines all accompanied by my very lovely guide from the St Chinian tourist office, Nelly.

Saint-Chinian isn’t just one appellation, but three. The areas around the highly regarded and very picturesque villages of Roquebrun and Berlou, hold their own appellation statuses, Saint-Chinian Roquebrun AOC and Saint-Chinian Berlou AOC. Although the wines aren’t necessarily better than a straight Saint-Chinian AOC (most  is grown in similar ‘terroir’ and tastes just as good), the village named wines are guaranteed to come from high quality grapes grown on the sought after hilly, schisty, less fertile soils north of the river Vernazobre and the village of Saint-Chinian itself.

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One of many tasted prior to lunch.

I like a lot about these Saint-Chinian appellation wines. From a practical standpoint, I like that most actually have a back label, often so lacking in French wine, telling you what’s in the bottle.  It should tell you about grape varieties and, something to look out for, likely to mention the ‘schisty’ soil and ‘foothills’ or altitude, important factors distinguishing the AOC wines from the lower-quality, bulk, non-appellation wines of the flatter plains further south.

I like the blends. The whites are dry and tend to have a bit of body, some tropical fruitiness and some minerality. Tending to contain Viognier (the oakier ones are the best in my mind), Vermentino (or Rolle, as it is known locally), Rousanne and Marsanne, the main player is Grenache Blanc, which has to be at least 30% of the blend.

Like most AOC Languedoc wines, nine out of ten Saint-Chinian AOC wines are however red wines, blended from Carignan (often old vine, low yield – of which I am particularly partial to), Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre, and must contain 70% of the latter three. More Mourvedre makes for a heavier wine, Syrah brings spice, Grenache; juiciness. More Carignan tends to produce, a very palatable, more medium bodied, lower tannin, versatile wine which works well without food (just like the Calmel and Joseph Saint-Chinian).

But just as importantly, I like the personality and charm of these wines and that the vast majority of the wine producers, whether they are negociants, co-ops or independent, really seem to care about the wines. They care about the vines in the vineyard and the fact that the grapes take on flavour characteristics of the ‘garrigue’ of lavender, bay, thyme, rosemary situated amongst the vines. Many wines are ‘organic’, even if they are not formally labelled that way with many winemakers choosing not to bother with the cost or faff of registration, concentrating of the actual wine rather than paperwork.  Most care about how and when the grapes are harvested, the way the wine is fermented, blended and aged. This is pure and precise wine making without pretension but from a passion and love of wine, very much in harmony with the beautiful region that they are made in.

Not only are these producers making some of the best wine from Languedoc-Roussillon, whilst Saint-Chinian remains relatively unknown, these wines are relatively inexpensive compared to some of their better known French relatives therefore offer real value, although that that may not remain the case for long!

Feel the love!

Le Caroux protects Saint-Chinian from northerly winds and resembles a lady lying down, cast in stone.

Le Caroux protects Saint-Chinian from northerly winds and resembles a lady lying down, cast in stone.

* An appellation is the French term for a designated wine producing area whose wine meets a certain number of criterior e.g. yield, grape varieties, blend. AOC stands for ‘Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée’ or Controlled name of Origin.

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Filed under Languedoc-Roussillon, Wine Travel

Food and Wine Pairing: Crumbed Pork and Catalonian Carignan

Crumbed Pork Medallions and Catalonian Cariñena (Carignan from Montsant DO).

Of course, food and wine matching isn’t the be all and end all of culinary enjoyment (a non-red wine drinking friend of mine takes her steak with Sauvignon Blanc, and why not!),  I know how my readers like a good food and wine pairing, so, rather than me suggest vague food to go with the Perfect Friday Wines, I thought I’d spin it around a bit and match my wines to go with some proper recipes.

Although my Spaghetti Bolognese recipe obviously rocks the house, I thought you might like something a bit more exciting than that – plus, the next post, where I make the leftovers into a lasagne, might become a bit samey. Then, I felt a bit mainstream using one of my trusty Jamie Oliver recipes and a bit boring sharing something that I’ve picked up on BBCGoodFood.com, so I thought I’d ask someone who knows what they’re doing to help out.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve met and got to know many interesting local business folk around and about the Maidenhead area – who’d have thought we’d have so many of them! One of the most relevant to my line of work, being THE official food blogger for the Maidenhead Advertiser, Cookham based, Lara Cory (a celebrity!!). Lara also writes her own blog at Feeding Time Blog, and I thought we’d make the perfect pairing, Lara’s summed up both of our passion for eating, drinking and sharing, very well:

We love food and we love wine and we’re going to help you enjoy the best of both.” 

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Lara not only accepted my challenge for a seasonal produce recipe that I could perhaps tie in with English Wine Week, but much to my delight, I shortly got a call from Lara somewhere deep in the Berkshire countryside, sourcing some local free range pork from a nearby Farm Shop (Ferny Grove Farm, which I must visit myself!) – the girl means business!

The next thing I know, quicker than I can prepare a cheese board, Lara’s been in the kitchen and come up with this very delicious recipe for Sage Crumbed Pork Medallions.

Now, originally, I’d had that pork lined up for an English Bacchus,  but the mere suggestion of sage, herbaciousness and ‘spring-like’, 11196221_435271559967974_5154378016674714301_nlead me to mentally open and pour myself a glass of the Cellar El Masroig Sola Fred Tinto, in the time it takes me to unwrap a slab of Manchego.

So why the Sola Fred? Well, not only is it one of my favourite sub-£10 wines at the moment (I am LOVING Spanish wines at the mo), but it is savoury and fresh and fruity (think red cherries), with some bright acidity – spot on with pork. Generally where Pork is concerned, I really like an appley, structured white (Pouilly Fume is my ultimate pork white) or a tasty red that’s not too heavy, so a Pinot Noir or a Carignan are perfect. It was the herbs though that lead me to the Sola Fred, pulling me towards a red wine over white and something more savoury than the Casa Silva Pinot Noir or the Calmel and Joseph Vieux Carignan. There’s also the fact that of course, the spaniards are pork mad, so this softly tannic Carignan (Cariñena or Mazuelo in Spanish) with a splash of juicy Garnacha from Catalonia’s Montsant is bang on. If you haven’t tried it yet and you’re a wine drinker looking for a good deal, I urge you to try (or order as part of a pre-selected mixed case). Montsant is bang smack next to, infact it surrounds, Priorat, famous for producing some of Spain’s best and most illustrious wines. Although the soil is a tad different in Montsant (Priorat has this unique slatey soil called Llicorella) and the climate is evers0-marginally cooler, the yields are still low and the quality of the wines, made from the same grape varieties, remains high, with the added benefit of being a little easier to drink young.

We hope you have a slap up feast between these two! For more food and wine pairings from us Maidenhead duo, you can follow Lara on Twitter @feedingtimeblog (and me, @perfectfriwine) or sign up to receive notifications of either blog. Are there any of your favourite recipes that you’d like wine matched? Or perhaps Lara can recommend a recipe for one of your favourite wines? Just, let us know, we love a challenge!

 

 

 

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Filed under Eating/ Drinking In, Grape Varieties, Seasonal, Spain, Wine and Food Pairing

Red wine for those who prefer white.

I may be being over optimistic, but is that Spring that I sense in the air? The sun, yes, that’s right folks, the sun is shining – well, it was 5 minutes ago. What is more, there isn’t a gale force wind blowing,  threatening to snap my shooting daffodils off before they’ve even bloomed. This could all change before the weekend of course as I’ll be back on my stall on Maidenhead Produce Market, so expect snow or a mini-typhoon on Saturday, just to keep me on my toes.

Although the budding trees suggest that we’re moving out of red wine season into white, and dare I mention it in February, rosé, I’ve had a reoccurring question asked of me of late by white wine drinkers who would like to dabble in a bit of red but aren’t sure where to start. To ease you in gently, my recommendation would be to find something young and fruity with low tannin* and little to no oak; tackling a Gran Reserva Rioja or Australian Barossa at this stage would be ill advised.

The obvious suggestion would be to try a light and fruity Gamay from one of the Beaujolais Villages such as Fleurie or Brouilly, or a Pinot Noir, but let me introduce those of you that are new to red, and anyone else looking for an easy-going red, to Languedoc’s very own soft and supple Carignan. Continue reading

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Filed under Eating/ Drinking In, France, Grape Varieties, Uncategorized