The price of a wine is, to some extent, determined by supply and demand. But the supply can be plentiful and the prices still go up. I have no problem with expensive wines. They are easy to avoid. The challenge for a wine lover is to find exceptional wines at a reasonable price, wines where prestige plays a minor role and where everything is taste and character. There are a lot of these wines around. But they are harder to find than the more expensive ones.
At the extensive Wine Paris wine fair in February, we met four of our favorites from the Languedoc region in the south of France. These four producers have exceptional value for money.
- New World Estate, Languedoc
- Domaine L’Arbuselle, Faugeres
- Domaine Rouanet Montcelebre, Minervois
- Domaine des Terres Georges, Minervois
(All prices mentioned in the text are for purchases at the domains.)
Domain the New World
The Domaine le Nouveau Monde is located in Vendres, south-west of Bézier. The Gauch family has been making wine here for several generations. A good family friend in the early 20th century, a writer, thought the surroundings reminded him of South America, where he had spent a lot of time. It was he who suggested the name Le Nouveau Monde, “The New World”. Today, Anne-Laure Gauch, oenologist, and her husband, Sébastien Borras, take care of the 20-hectare vineyard.
Sansourire White 2021, Domaine Le Nouveau Monde, IGP Hérault white, is one of the few white wines in the range. It’s a blend of chardonnay and rolle (synonymous with vermentino), a pleasant everyday wine with good acidity and aromas of citrus and white flowers. (6 euros/6.50 USD)
Fandango Rosé, Domaine Le Nouveau Monde, IGP Pays d’Oc is a very pale rosé made from Grenache. “Color is important for rosé wines”, explains Anne-Laure, “it’s all about doing things right”. The fandango looks a bit like a white wine with only a small note of red fruits. In the mouth, it is long and refreshing.
Les Petits Mondes, Wine of France, is a 100% Mourvèdre made in a light and refreshing style (an unusual style for Mourvèdre) with aromas of sweet and sour raspberries. The alcohol content is 13% which is low for Languedoc. Anne-Laure harvests early and only allows the must a short skin contact of 8 to 10 days. It ferments at low temperature, 21-23 degrees C. It gives the wine a supple structure but still with some tannins. You can drink it as an aperitif or as an accompaniment, says Anne-Laure. (6.50 euros/6.90 USD),
World Carabènes Rouge 2021, Domaine Le Nouveau, IGP Coteaux de Béziers is 100% Syrah, a “pleasure syrah” (single syrah), with lots of fruit and the typical aroma of black pepper from the grapes. (8 euro/8.50 USD)
The Red Estanquier 2018, Domain The New World is a rich and intense wine with black fruits and tannins, a touch of liquorice on the palate. The grape varieties are Syrah and Mourvèdre. (16.50 Euro/17.40 USD)
Domaine de l’Arbussele, Faugeres
In 2014, Sébastien Louge produced his first vintage at Domaine de l’Arbussele. It was his dream to create something of his own, to be able to do everything from start to finish. He studied and trained in Bordeaux and worked in different wine regions – including Virginia in the United States – before deciding to settle in Faugères. He likes the somewhat wild and desolate landscape here. “My vines are 300 meters above sea level; it gives good acidity even in very hot and dry years,” he says. He wants at all costs to avoid making over-extracted or heavy wines.
We first met Sébastien about five years ago when we were working on our book on Languedoc-Roussillon wines. He has since added a white wine to the range, Angeline Blanc 2021, IGP Pays d’Hérault, from half a hectare of white grape varieties, 80% Roussanne and 20% Viognier. It is a pleasant, full-bodied wine, with freshness, almond and honey. There is a hint of bitterness at the end which I really like. (~€10/US$10.50)
Flight 2021, Domaine de l’Arbussèle, Faugères is its largest wine by volume. It is an easygoing wine, relatively light in style but with tannin. A nose of fresh fruits, red berries and spices. A wine of character. Syrah dominates with 70% and is blended with Grenache and Carignan. (~€9/USD9.50)
Revelation 2017, Domain of the Arbussele is composed of 60% Grenache and the rest of Carignan, Syrah and Mourvèdre. The wine aged for a year. It has a dense structure and lots of tannins. Aromas of red fruits and fresh herbs. (~€16/US$16.90)
When we first met Sébastien, he told us he had plans for a 100% Mourvèdre, probably aged in oak barrels. He discussed the mysteries of aging in oak barrels with his cooper in Narbonne. One of the results of these discussions is Alexis 2018, Domain of the Arbussele with 80% Mourvèdre and 18 months in new barrels, a wine full of character with a dense and concentrated style but still with a remarkable balance.
Domaine Rouanet Montcelèbre, Minervois
Domaine Rouanet Montcélèbre is not so far from the small town of Minerve, even if the road there is winding, says Audrey Rouanet. She started working in the family vineyard in 2012, with an oenology degree in her pocket and professional experience abroad. The estate’s ambition has gone up several notches with the arrival of Audrey. They started converting to organic farming and in 2015 the family left the cooperative. Audrey now vinifies the family’s total area of 20 hectares.
The White Se Canta 2020, Domaine Rouanet Montcélèbre, IGP Pays d’Oc Blanc is a 100% Colombard that gives an expressive wine with ripe yellow fruits. (~7.50 Euro/7.90 USD)
Se Canta Cinsault, Domaine Rouanet Montcélèbre, IGP Pays d’Oc Rouge is 100% cinsault and a light and elegant wine with crunchy fruits. Cinsault is Audrey’s favorite grape, although it can be difficult. You have to be careful that the wine doesn’t feel “watered down,” she says. With its old Cinsault vines, this is never a problem. (~9 euros/9.50 USD).
The White Alvéoline, Domaine Rouanet Montcélèbre, AOP Minervois is composed of 60% Grenache Blanc, Rolle and Roussanne. The white grapes flourish in the limestone of the vineyard, exposed northeast. The wine has complexity and aromas of melon and ripe apricot; it is full-bodied and completely dry.
Avéoline 2018, Domaine Rouanet Montcélèbre, AOP Minervois with 70% syrah has a nice blackcurrant aroma and a dense structure but at the same time refreshing fruit. Aged in concrete vats. (~€11/US$11.60)
Borealis 2018, Domaine Rouanet Montcèlèbre, Minervois La Livinière with syrah and grenache from the best terroirs also has a dense but unctuous structure with exotic spices (cinnamon) and a long and pleasant mouthfeel. (~20 Euro/21.10 USD)
Domaine Terres Georges, Minervois
Roland and Anne-Marie Coustal produced their first vintage in 2001. They export 50% of the volume to around ten countries. Red wines dominate, but the range has recently expanded with an excellent white wine made from grapes planted six years ago.
Lulu 2021, Domaine Terres Georges, Wine of France is made from Vermentino, Roussanne and Muscat d’Alexandrie. The wine remains for two months in a steel tank on its lees with stirring (stirring of the lees). A delicious wine with lots of character, freshness and floral aromas. (~€10/USD11)
Roland and Anne-Marie have thought a lot about the style of red wines they want to make. “Now we know what profile we want for our wines,” says Roland, “freshness, finesse and elegance. People want easy-drinking wines with fruit and less wood, wines with good drinkability.
Etcetera 2020, Domaine Terres Georges, AOP Minervois has a crisp and refreshing fruit, very pleasant. The grape varieties are Carignan, Grenache and Syrah. (7.50 Euro/8 USD)
Root 2020, Domaine Terres Georges, Wine of France 100% Carignan, one of Roland’s favorite grape varieties, gives elegance and finesse and a beautiful aromatic finish to this wine. (13.50 Euro/14.25 USD)
Chameleon, Domaine Terres Georges, IGP Pays d’Oc is made from 70% Merlot and 30% Syrah. Here, Roland wants to have more power. The wine gets 35 days of skin contact and a bit more extraction. A nice wine with lots of fruit and some spicy notes from the Syrah grape variety on the finish. (10 Euro/10.50 USD)
Quintessence 2019, Domaine Terres Georges is composed of 80% Syrah and 20% Grenache, partially fermented in small oak barrels, which gives power, flavors and concentration to the wine. But the balance is there too. (15 Euro/15.90 USD)
Wine consumers are increasingly realizing that they can find quality wines in Languedoc. But there is still a lot of skepticism, says Anne-Laure Gauch of Domaine Le Nouveau Monde. I am sure that this skepticism will soon be completely gone.