A First Course in Wine: From Grape to Glass. Copyright 2013; Race Point Publishers, NY. 224 pages. Forward by Mario Batali.

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Wines for a Jack$on (Under $20) - Domaine Des Causses Saint Chinian 2005, France

Wines from the Languedoc are often overshadowed by wines from other areas within France.  Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Rhone Valley, and Champagne still dominate many restaurant wine lists and retail shelves.  Despite this, there are many wines from the Languedoc worth seeking out.

The major wine appellations of the Languedoc in southern France

The major wine appellations of the Languedoc in southern France

The Languedoc is a large land mass in southeastern France, stretching along the coastline from the Spanish border to Provence.  The maze of rivers and tributaries makes this an ideal area for wine production for two reasons.  Rivers and lakes are important because they help moderate the temperatures in and around the vineyards, a phenomena commonly referred to as lake effect. Bodies of water also help drive commerce, as wines are easily shipped either upstream or downstream.  The river system in the Languedoc was used to transport wines throughout the Greek, Roman, and Celtic occupations over the course of history.  Due to this accessibility, and the resulting demand for wines, the growing area in the Languedoc is France’s largest winegrowing region.

Many of the same grapes that are used for wine production in the Rhone valley, located to the north, are also used in the Languedoc.  Domaine des Causses is a blend of 60% Syrah, 20% Grenache, and 20% Mourvedre.  The wine is produced using a special method of maceration, called carbonic maceration.  This method entails putting large clusters of uncrushed grapes into a closed-top fermenting tank.  The weight of the bunches on top eventually crush the grapes on the bottom, thus inducing fermentation to occur from the natural grape yeasts that cover the skins of each grape.  With the top of the fermentation tank closed, the carbon dioxide that is produced during alcoholic fermentation is trapped inside the tank, and once the gas level is high enough, the skins of the remaining grapes begin to break, exposing more juice to the already present yeast cells.

Domaine des Causses Saint Chinian AOC 2005

Domaine des Causses Saint Chinian AOC 2005

Finally, the whole clusters are pressed and fermentation is finished in a normal fashion.  This particular method is said to produce bright, juicy red wines with lower tannin levels, usually best enjoyed upon release, as opposed to cellar aging.  Some of the best Beaujolais wines are produced using this technique.

Domaine des Causses is dark and rich in color with cherry and cranberry fruit aromas.  On the palate, the fruit is very typical of a French wine, exhibiting flavors of dark berries, graphite, and slight vegetal notes.  Aside from the initial rush of blackfruits and spice, the wine is very dry.

I would recommend drinking this wine the following cuisine and dishes:  lasagne, grilled meats, or vegetable soups.  The wine would also be a perfect sipping accompaniment to the myriad selection of French cheeses available at your nearest grocer.

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