Languedoc

Neptune Viognier 2015

Astoria Wine and spirits $11.99

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This bottle of Viognier is from the Languedoc region in south east France on the Mediterranean Sea. So here is a little information about that region Even though it is not one of the more well known regions of France there are some amazing wines that are now making it over to the United States.

 

The Industry

The wine industry in Languedoc is based mostly on farmers with small vineyard plots who sell their grapes or wine to négociants or cooperatives. However the flat plains are ideal for domestic and international investors to establish large, sprawling wineries with row upon row of gigantic stainless steel tanks for temperature-controlled fermentation and warehouses full of new oak barrels for aging. The Languedoc area includes a very broad regional appellation of Coteaux du Languedoc, plus smaller appellations on Minervois, St-Chinian, and Faugéres. In addition, there are a couple of obscure Clarrette appellations and a handful of Muscat appellations making vin doux naturels .

 

The History

The history of Languedoc wines can be traced to the first vineyards planted along the coast near Narbonne by the early Greeks in the fifth century BC. Along with parts of Provence, these are the oldest planted vineyards in France. The region of Languedoc has belonged to France since the thirteenth century and the Roussillon was acquired from Spain in the mid-seventeenth century. The two regions were joined as one administrative region in the late 1980s.

From the 4th century through the 18th and early 19th centuries, the Languedoc had a reputation for producing high quality wine. In Paris during the 14th century, wines from the St. Chinian area were prescribed in hospitals for their "healing powers". During the advent of the Industrial Age in the late 19th century, production shifted towards mass-produced le gros rouge — cheap red wine that could satisfy the growing work force. The use of highly prolific grape varieties produced high yields and thin wines, which were normally blended with red wine from Algeria to give them more body.

The phylloxera epidemic in the 19th century severely affected the Languedoc wine industry, killing off many of the higher quality Vitis vinifera that were susceptible to the louse. American rootstock that was naturally resistant to phylloxera did not take well to the limestone soil on the hillside. In place of these vines, acres of the lower quality Aramon, Alicante Bouschet and Carignan were planted.

During both World Wars the Languedoc was responsible for providing the daily wine rations given to French soldiers. In 1962, Algeria gained its independence from France, bringing about an end to the blending of the stronger Algerian red wine to mask the thin le gros rouge. This event, coupled with French consumers moving away from cheap red wines in the 1970s, has contributed to several decades of surplus wine production in France, with Languedoc as the largest contributor to the European "wine lake" and recurring European Union subsidies aimed at reducing production. These developments prompted many Languedoc producers to start refocusing on higher quality, but has also led to many local and regional protests, including violent ones from the infamous Comité Régional d'Action Viticole (CRAV).

Despite the general reputation as a mass producer and a consensus that the region is in the midst of an economic crisis, parts of the Languedoc wine industry are experiencing commercial.

success due to outside investment and an increased focus on quality. Sales have been improved by many vineyards that concentrate on creating a good brand name rather than relying on the sometimes infamous regional designations. Some vineyards have adopted the youngest batch of AOC classifications developed in the late 1990s, while other vineyards eschew designated blends entirely and are instead shifting toward bottling single varietal wines, a practice increasingly demanded by consumers in the large New World wine market.

 

Vins doux Naturels

Vins Doux Naturels are "naturally sweet" wines that have been fortified with brandy to stop fermentation, leaving residual sugar to add sweetness to the wine. The majority of Languedoc sweet white wines are made with a variety of Muscat grapes. The red fortified wines of the Banyuls are made from Grenache grapes, normally have an alcohol level between 16 and 17% and carry residual sugars in the 8 to 12% range.

In Banyuls, winemakers use various methods to "bake" their wines to encourage deep raisin colors. Some winemakers utilize a solera system of transporting the wine among different size barrels of various ages that are left out in the sun to warm. Others will put the wine in large glass jars to expose it to direct sunlight. In addition to the dark color, the resulting wines often have a nutty, rancid taste called rancio. In the Banyuls Grand Cru AOC the wine is required to be aged in wood barrels for two and a half years.