This installment’s topic is a really lovely Corbieres, but at the risk of sounding flip or dismissive, it doesn’t much matter. Corbieres, along with Minervois, Fitou, Faugeres, St-Chinian, and a slew of other appellations that make up the Languedoc-Roussillon region, encompass an almost preposterously large 1,000,000+ acres of land under vine. But to look at this million acres on the map is to look at a shattered sheet of glass: each of the many appellations in themselves very large, twisting around each other, but shot through with countless patches of non-vine growing land.
And if all this viticultural gerrymandering resulted in well-defined and characteristic growing zones a` la Burgundy, all would be forgiven. Alas no. Even within this fractured structure there are numerous sun exposures, soil types, wind patterns, etc. The Languedoc also allows for the use of a very broad range of grape varieties whose percentages vary subtly from zone to zone, and that can be promiscuously blended, or bottled singly. Continuing the theme, an appellation like Corbieres (and others) is further sub-divided into close to a dozen sub-zones – Corbieres (and almost all of the rest of the Languedoc AOCs for that matter) has a serious identity problem, so adding an extra few handfuls of French sub-zone names to the mess, all of which are (presumably) distinctive in some way or another…I think you get the picture.
The quality and consistency problems once associated with Languedoc wines have been significantly ameliorated, so there are more good wines emanating from the region than ever before, but this is still a region, if for no other reason than its size, that produces more than its share of fruit-cocktail plonk and some downright stinkers too. So what’s a curious eonophile to do? My advice is first take careful note of the the producers whose wines you’ve liked and follow them, and even more importantly, watch your importer/distibutors. Since this is a region that requires the drinker to pan through lots of sand before any gold flakes show through, if there are lots of wines that you’ve enjoyed from a particular importer coming from other regions, having a go at their Languedoc selections will likely produce more hits than misses.
And quite directly confirming just what I said about the Languedoc, this special cuvee` of Corbieres is certified organic and is made from 100% Syrah, aged in used barriques. The basic cuvee` from the same producer is a blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Cinsault (and Carignan could have been thrown into the hopper too), and it’s fermented and aged exclusively in stainless steel tanks. Both wines carry the name “Corbieres Rouge”…
I served this very classy wine with a good ol’ French onion soup, and then lamb and beef patties with herbs and olives with accompaniment provided by another “continental” classic: orange- (juice and zest) braised carrots…
Domaine Faillenc Sainte Marie Corbieres “Syrhconference de Presse” 2007
Very pretty semi-translucent purple/ruby color. The nose is a neatly woven textile of Mediterranean herbs, roasted fruit, spiced plum jam, licorice and dark chocolate. The palate is complex and elegant with a very appealing easy-going balance with clear flavors of black raspberry, light caramel, tomato paste, and minerals, supported by fine, satiny tannins. Beautiful clean and lingering finish. At 14% alcohol, the wine is almost stunningly light on it’s feet.