I'm always on the lookout for new trends in the world of wine and spirits, and it's always interesting to note a particular zeitgeist, as it may or may not be happening. The latest I've seen concerns wines from France's Languedoc region, specifically the sub-appellation of Minervois. For whatever reason, it's just started showing up everywhere.
Take last night at a stylish wedding celebration in the Marina. What was the red wine being poured? Sainte Eulalie Minervois 2006. At another event I attended recently, a private party for a restaurant critic in New York, the wine was again Minervois. And then in last week's wine column in the NYT, the main subject was the Languedoc, with Minervois getting special recognition and three spots on the tasting panel's top 10.
So what's the deal? Well, it's probably a lot of factors. One is the current market focus on inexpensive wines. The Languedoc, perhaps starting to recover from a severe wine depression (huge surplus, inability to sell it), is one of France's bastions of cheap wine these days. Two, the long promised elevation of quality from what have been historically some of France's most rustic wines seems to be finding its groove—it's easier now than ever to find wines whose styles can appeal to people accustomed to drinking new world wines. Three, when the winemaking is good, the region has a lot to offer: sunny bright wines with both fruity and earthy characteristics in a variety of styles from rosé to light-drinking minerally red to big tannic monsters. The main grapes are Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvedre, and Carignan, usually blended in some combination. And besides Minervois, other Languedoc appellations include Corbières, Saint-Chinian, Fitou and Pic Saint-Loup--all great bargain wines.