The spirit of Languedoc-Roussillon value wines: L'Esprit de Château Capendu & Domaine Borie de Maurel Esprit d'Automne 2005
[L'Esprit de WBW 33 Langudoc-Roussillon : L'Esprit de Château Capendu et Borie de Maurel Esprit d'Automne 2005]
WBW READERS' NOTE: The round-up for WBW 33: Languedoc-Roussillon value wines, Mid-priced wines from the Midi, is just around the corner. While I finish tallying up the entries posted by participants, here's a post about how I found the "spirit" of this edition of Wine Blogging Wednesday when I happened to uncork for dinner guests two unrelated Languedoc-Roussillon wines that were both given the name Esprit. (Esprit is the French word for spirit.)
There's something about all things French that ooze Frenchness. I guess what I'm trying to say is that the French seem to take a lot of pride in their culture. One way this is clear is in how they name things.
French products -- whether they be cheese, knives or whatever -- are bestowed the name of their origin. This placename then becomes how the product is referred to, from far and wide to nearby towns. Roquefort, Laguiole, and so forth.
The best example for me to illustrate this is, of course, wine. As we saw in WBW 33, French wine is designated almost always by origin (French table wine is an exception) and France's robust appellation system (AOC) ensures that how a wine is named is where a wine gets made: Champagne is produced in Champagne. Et violà!
You can see naming by place throughout the wine world in geographic designations or "appellations" (appeler is the verb to call or name). This act of official naming sanctions wine based on its origins, which seems to make sense, especially for viticulture. What about for agriculture and other food production?
On a weekend not too long ago, amid my preparations for WBW 33, I hosted a dinner featuring garlicky roasted pork tenderloin, grilled eggplant and oven-baked potatoes with fresh herbs. I paired it with -- what else? -- Languedoc-Roussillon wines. My menu was generic French cooking loosely based on Languedoc flora and fauna. I didn't really realize that plenty of French food items also come with its share of placenaming.
I haven't heard of anything on a dinner menu named Corbières or Minervois -- those seem to be strictly wine names. But then a thoughtful dinner guest showed up with almost a direct placename connection between Midi dish and bottle. Eric came bearing a tin of foie gras. We peeled it open, uncorked the wines, and tasted (as shown in picture above). Delicious indeed.
What exactly was the connection? It wasn't totally apparent at the time. The next day I realized that the foie gras we ate was produced by Élevages Périgord. Sure, foie gras is a very French dish so it seemed a natural for a meal featuring French wines. But the connection went deeper than that.
FOOD AND WINE'S ULTIMATE PAIRING
Périgord itself is a placename -- a province in the Southwest of France near Bergerac that has claims to the legacy of foie gras. Though this Canadian farming enterprise called Élevages Périgord is clearly "borrowing" that legacy by taking on the name, the product actually incorporates real French ducks (see Élevages Périgord link). This means that we theoretically could've been eating ducks that once waddled by vines which grew the fruit that produced the wines we drank. I know all wine and food have a natural dynamic together but clearly this is synergy!
No one at my dinner could say for sure that strictly local ducks made this course so perfect for our Midi wines. Origin may have made no difference in the end. But I think we were okay with that. The pairing still had flair and the whole idea carried that characteristic French sense of pride, often routed in a strong sense of place and decorum, which often garners the French a bad rap for perhaps the wrong reasons.
Thinking about my Languedoc dinner now, I can imagine a butcher located up the street from a winemaker -- the butcher gets residual business every time a local bottle of red wine is sold, and when someone asks him what to serve with his pâtés, I can picture him pointing and saying it would be the wines produced just down his street.
P.S.: Anyone interested in the "perfect" wine-food match based on origin might want to try a Périgord delicacy with some of its local Monbazillac wines. Foie gras is best served with rich wine and Monbazillac is the Southwest's version of Sauternes from Bordeaux (or you could say a version of the Midi's fortified wines) so the pairing aligns itself well at many levels.