Lifestyle

Quality Wines Minus The Prestige Means Great Value

The price of a wine is, to some extent, determined by supply and demand. But supply can be plentiful, and the prices still soar. I don’t have a problem with expensive wines. They are easy to avoid. The challenge for a wine lover lies in finding exceptional wines at a reasonable cost, wines where prestige plays a minor role and it’s all about great flavour and character. There are many of these wines around. But they are harder to find than the super-expensive ones.

At the extensive wine fair Wine Paris in February, we met four of our favourites from the Languedoc region in southern France. These four producers are exceptional value for money.

  • Domaine du Nouveau Monde, Languedoc
  • Domaine L’Arbuselle, Faugères
  • Domaine Rouanet Montcelebre, Minervois
  • Domaine des Terres Georges, Minervois

(All prices mentioned in the text are for purchases at the estates.)

Domaine le Nouveau Monde

Domaine le Nouveau Monde is located in Vendres, southwest of Bézier. The Gauch family has been making wine here for several generations. A good friend of the family in the early 20th century, a writer, thought the surroundings reminded him of South America, where he had spent a lot of time. He was the one who suggested the name Le Nouveau Monde, “The New World”. Today, Anne-Laure Gauch, an oenologist, and her husband, Sébastien Borras, take care of the 50-acres wine estate.

Sansourire Blanc 2021, Domaine Le Nouveau Monde, IGP Hérault blanc, is one of the few white wines in the range. It is a blend of chardonnay and rolle (synonym for vermentino), a pleasant everyday wine with good acidity and citrus and white flowers in the aromas. (6 euro/6.50 USD)

Fandango Rosé, Domaine Le Nouveau Monde, IGP Pays d’Oc is a very pale rosé made with grenache. “The colour is important for rosé wines,” says Anne-Laure, “it’s all about getting it right.” Fandango feels a bit like a white wine with only a tiny note of red berries. On the palate, it is long and refreshing.

Les Petits Mondes, Vin de France, is a 100% mourvèdre made in a light and refreshing style (an unusual style for mourvèdre) with aromas of sweet and sour raspberries. The alcohol level is 13% which is low for Languedoc. Anne-Laure harvests early and she gives the must only a short skin contact of 8-10 days. She ferments at a low temperature, 21-23 degrees C. It gives the wine a soft structure but still with some tannins. You can drink it as an aperitif or with food, Anne-Laure points out. (6.50 euro/6.90 USD),

Monde Carabènes Rouge 2021, Domaine Le Nouveau, IGP Coteaux de Béziers is 100% syrah, a “syrah de plaisir” (uncomplicated syrah), with lots of fruit and the typical black pepper aroma of the grape. (8 euro/8.50 USD)

L’Estanquier Rouge 2018, Domaine Le Nouveau Monde is a rich, intense wine with black fruit and tannin, a touch of liquorice on the palate. The grapes are syrah and mourvèdre. (16.50 euro/17.40 USD)

Domaine de l’Arbussele, Faugères

In 2014, Sébastien Louge made his first vintage at Domaine de l’Arbussele. It was his dream to create something of his own, to be able to do everything from beginning to end. He studied and trained in Bordeaux and worked in various wine regions – including Virginia in the United States – before deciding to settle down in Faugères. He likes the slightly wild and desolate landscape here. “My vineyards are at an altitude of 300 meters; it gives a good acidity even in very hot and dry years,” he says. He wants to avoid making over-extracted or heavy wines at all costs.

We first met Sébastien about five years ago when we worked on our book about the wines of Languedoc-Roussillon. He has since added a white wine to the range, Angéline Blanc 2021, IGP Pays d’Hérault, from half a hectare of white grapes, 80% roussanne and 20% viognier. It is a pleasant wine, full-bodied, with freshness, almonds and honey. There’s a hint of bitterness at the end that I like very much. (~ 10 euro/10.50 USD)

Envol 2021, Domaine de l’Arbussele, Faugères is his most important wine by volume. It is an easy-going wine, relatively light in style but with some tannin. A nose of fresh fruit, red berries and spiciness. A wine with character. Syrah dominates with 70% and is blended with grenache and carignan. (~ 9 euro/9.50 USD)

Revelation 2017, Domaine de l’Arbussele is 60% grenache and the rest carignan, syrah and mourvèdre. The wine has been aged for a year. It has a dense structure and a lot of tannins. Aromas of red berries and fresh herbs. (~ 16 euro/16.90 USD)

When we first met Sébastien, he told us he had plans for a 100% mourvèdre, probably oak-aged. He discussed the mysteries of oak ageing with his cooper in Narbonne. One of the results of these discussions is Alexis 2018, Domaine de l’Arbussele with 80% mourvèdre and 18 months in new barrels, a wine full of character with a dense and concentrated style but still with an outstanding balance.

Domaine Rouanet Montcélèbre, Minervois

Domaine Rouanet Montcélèbre is not that far from the small town of Minerve, even though the road there is winding, says Audrey Rouanet. She started working at the family’s vineyard in 2012, with a degree in oenology in her pocket and work experience from abroad. The estate’s ambition went up several notches when Audrey came home. They started converting to organic farming, and in 2015 the family left the cooperative. Audrey now makes wine from the family’s total acreage of 20 hectares.

The white Se Canta 2020, Domaine Rouanet Montcélèbre, IGP Pays d’Oc Blanc is 100% colombard that gives an expressive wine with ripe yellow fruits. (~7.50 euro/7.90 USD)

Se Canta Cinsault, Domaine Rouanet Montcélèbre, IGP Pays d’Oc Rouge is 100% cinsault and a light, elegant wine with crunchy fruit. Cinsault is Audrey’s favourite grape, even though it can be difficult. You have to be careful so that the wine doesn’t feel “diluted”, she says. With her old cinsault vines, it is never a problem. (~9 euro/9.50 USD).

The white Alvéoline, Domaine Rouanet Montcélèbre, AOP Minervois is made with 60% grenache blanc, rolle and roussanne. The white grapes thrive in the limestone in the vineyard, which has a north-eastern exposure. The wine has complexity and aromas of melon and ripe apricots; it is full-bodied and completely dry.

Avéoline 2018, Domaine Rouanet Montcélèbre, AOP Minervois with 70% syrah has a beautiful aroma of black currants and a dense structure but at the same time a refreshing fruit. Aged in concrete tank. (~ 11 euro/11.60 USD)

Boréalis 2018, Domaine Rouanet Montcélèbre, Minervois La Livinière with syrah and grenache from the best locations also has a dense yet smooth structure with exotic spices (cinnamon) and a long, enjoyable taste. (~ 20 euro/21.10 USD)

Domaine Terres Georges, Minervois

Roland and Anne-Marie Coustal made their first vintage in 2001. They export 50% of the volume to around ten countries. The red wines dominate, but the range has recently been expanded with an excellent white wine from grapes planted six years ago.

Lulu 2021, Domaine Terres Georges, Vin de France is made with vermentino, roussanne and muscat d’alexandrie. The wine stays for two months in a steel tank on its lees with regular batonnage (stirring of the lees). A delicious wine with great character, freshness and floral aromas. (~ 10 euro/11 USD)

Roland and Anne-Marie have thought a lot about the style of red wines they want to make. “Now we know what profile we want for our wines”, says Roland, “freshness, finesse and elegance. People want easy-drinking wines with fruit and not so much oak, wines with good drinkability.”

Etcetera 2020, Domaine Terres Georges, AOP Minervois has a crunchy and refreshing fruit, very pleasant. The grapes are carignan, grenache and syrah. (7.50 euro/8 USD)

Racine 2020, Domaine Terres Georges, Vin de France with 100% carignan, one of Roland’s favourite grapes, gives elegance and finesse and a lovely aromatic finish to this wine. (13.50 euro/14.25 USD)

Caméléon, Domaine Terres Georges, IGP Pays d’Oc is 70% merlot and 30% syrah. Here Roland wants to have more power. The wine gets 35 days of skin contact and a little more extraction. A lovely wine with a lot of fruit and some spicy notes from the syrah grape in the finish. (10 euro/10.50 USD)

Quintessence 2019, Domaine Terres Georges is 80% syrah and 20% grenache, partially fermented in small oak barrels, which gives power, flavours and concentration to the wine. But the balance is there too. (15 euro/15.90 USD)

Wine consumers increasingly realise that they can find quality wines in the Languedoc. But there is still a lot of scepticism, says Anne-Laure Gauch at Domaine Le Nouveau Monde. I am sure this scepticism will soon be gone entirely.

—Britt Karlsson

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