Well, there was a reason for calling this trip the Corbières Death March.
Thus, the Corbières Death March.
That said, there were many high points. The places where many of the tastings were held were usually quite beautiful: a deconsecrated church in Narbonne, the Abbaye de Fontfroide (a stunning abbey which looked surprisingly like the Cloisters in NYC, hidden deep within a valley), a meal in a Medieval town’s main square, across from its ancient church, lunch at the base of the Pic St Loup mountain at l’Auberge du Cèdre outside Montpellier, dinner at the edge of a lagoon near the Mediterranean, the medieval town of Pézenas and its cobblestoned streets, lunch with delicious Picpoul on Domaine Félines Jourdan’s roof surrounded by a sea of vines while the Mistral blows through what’s left of my hair, and a paella dinner at Domaine Condamine Bertrand’s gorgeous estate with the winemaker and his family.
In addition, the wines were pretty good overall, reflecting both the passion of the winemakers and the spread of new winemaking methods. There were some happy discoveries as well, as I’d only vaguely heard of the Picpoul de Pinet grape and the lovely, light tart white wine it makes on the coastline near the border of Spain. Drinking this while eating a heaping platter of shellfish on the edge a lagoon near the Mediterranean Sea was one of the highlights of our trip. And of course, the people, both the winemakers and the other buyers, were great to meet.
Wines can be well-made and delicious, food can be well-executed, but it’s the people you interact with that seal the deal. And this is one of the main reasons I’m in the wine business. Sure, there are some sleazy characters (what industry doesn’t have any?), but overall most folks get into this for the love of the grape and the environment that surrounds it.
So did I find any wines to represent in the US?
Unlike my last trip to the Rhône, where several wineries impressed me so much that I offered to take them on right away, I was a bit more hesitant this time. Yes, the wines were quite good, but the prices were also rather high. Add to that the crushing exchange rate, and the list of possible candidates began to narrow rapidly. Many producers asked for my honest thoughts, and I had to tell several of them not to target the US market right now because they were too expensive. But I did ask a few wineries to send me some samples to my office in New York, so we will see. The Languedoc is known as the Rhône’s little brother and for inexpensive wines, and it will take some time to change that mindset.
But the efforts of these dedicated, passionate winemakers are the first steps in that direction.
Pictures can be found here, and as usual, no need to sign in, just click on the picture to start the slideshow.