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]

spirit wines of languedoc roussillon wine blogging wednesday 33 festive dinner to celebrate may's themeWBW 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.)

L'Esprit de Château Capendu Corbières 2005 et Borie de Maurel Esprit d'Automne Minervois 2005 toasts nut bread french foie gras from quebec perigordThere'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.


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.


ruarri said...

Dear Marcus,

Interesting to hear the pairing of Foie Gras with rich reds. Recently on a trip to Paris where we spent a lot of time in the farmer's market at Bastille - I had a grand time going from Foie Gras seller to seller, and came across a stand representing a table from the Loire. We sampled the Foie Gras with a high-sugar Chenin, and it was quite superb. Although, I like Foie Gras so much, that about anything goes well with it.

In regards to your comment on our site, I learned about Capion through their association with one of my favourite South African wineries - Springfield. Incidentally, if you have the chace to get your hands on a bottle of Springfield 2003 Whole Berry Cabernet: beg, borrow or steal.

Anyhow, Grapethinking became interested in Capion, quite coincidentally at the time of your topic for WBW #33. We're interested in Languedoc, namely for the reasons that came up over the course of WBW - which was high quality combined with affordability.

Languedoc, as a geo-historical ere has much influence on many Romantic poets, and was one of the birth places of sensual pleasures from spoken word poetry, to fine cheese and of course - great wine.

Of course, being a lover of French cafe culture, Carcassonne has always captured my imagination. I'm still under 25, and to be honest, Burgundy and Sancerre intimidate me a little bit. I just feel I've never had enough money to understand them - and that there's a lot more politics involved in terms of production, appelation and price-hiking. Languedoc seems more pure to me - and is untouched by the taint that a globalised market can inject into a region kissed with the mixed blessing of high-praise and high demand.

Chateau Capion is commited to portraying the versatility of the area - and does a good job with producing a good range of wines that truly represent the terroir and flavour of the area. You can find out more about them at: http://www.chateaucapion.com/

Thanks for the great WBW! Perhaps Grapethinking can host one for South African wine in the not too distant future.

Take care.



Marcus said...

Hey Ruarri,

Maybe I should tweak this post because initially we did pair the foie gras with sweeter white grape wine -- the Muscat de Rivesaltes I wrote about earlier -- but we all found it a bit too much to jump into as an aperatif. I guess we weren't used to it and went back to dinner wine, our usual standbys. I'm no sweet wine or fortified wine expert! That Chenin does sound good with foie gras.

Thanks for the update on Capion. I had heard they were South African... Which red did you have the 1C, 2C or 3C. (Do you know what that means?)

RougeAndBlanc said...

I agree with Ruarri's comment about Languedoc wine that it is 'more pure' and sort of 'untouched by the taint that a globalised market'.
That said, I tasted a 2003 Mas de Daumas l'Herault VDP after WBW 33 that knocked my socks off. It is priced in $30-$40 range and hands-down blew away 1/2 of the Bordeaux 3rd growths in terms of complexity and agebility.