The Minervois borders Saint-Chinian as one passes to the west, and here one finds a similarly varied geology with layers of schist, land, limestone and clay all taking precedence as one travels deeper into the heart of the region and back in time. Minervois is much like a natural amphitheatre, capturing the day’s heat and producing wines that are rich and intense, reflecting to a certain degree the prominence both Syrah and Mourvèdre play in the blends of the region.
There are many producers of Minervois in the U.S. market, though it seems that they tend to rotate through quite quickly. The intriguing and well-priced wines of the Abbaye de Tholomies used to be fairly common, today perhaps less so, but it’s worth the search. Chateau Maris is another producer whose wines I have enjoyed in the past and they seem to remain available, and the new-to-me Domaine du Loup Blanc has been a recent discovery.
The Corbières is possibly the most complex and prestigious region within the Languedoc-Roussillon. There are 11 terroirs that make up the AOC and within the terroirs there are recognized communes, all of which tend to make the wines more complex – so we’ll ignore all of that for the moment. The wines of Corbières benefit not only from a wide variety of terroirs, but also from the nine grape varieties that are allowed in the red blend. As is to be expected, Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre dominate the blends.
The Corbières is full of wonderful producers making great value wines. Watch out for the wines of the Domaine des 2 ânes, Mas des Mas, Château Ollieux Romanis and Domaine Lignères.
The vines of Fitou mark the western reaches of the Languedoc; beyond these borders lay the lands of Roussillon. Here both the lands and the complex blends resemble those found in Corbières, though the wines tend to have more power and perhaps less elegance than your typical Corbières, which is not exactly surprising with most wines based on Carignan and Grenache. Bertrand Berge, Maria Fita and the Château des Erles all produce fine wines that are good values.
The Roussillon (and the Côtes du Roussillon in particular) tends to live in the shadow of the Languedoc. While there may not be many producers in the Côtes that routinely appear on my radar, I would be remiss if I did not mention the Clos des Fées, which produces both affordable and very ambitiously priced wines. These all can be quite compelling wines and continue to represent good value. Domaine Gauby has an equally broad range of wines, though its mid-priced wines tend to have crept up in price over the past several vintages. For great values, take a look at Domaine Calvet-Thunevin and Domaine des Soulanes.
Collioure and Banyuls
So here we end with Collioure and Banyuls, two wines that share a region. The Collioure, referring to the dry reds, and the Banyuls (and I should include Maury and Rivesaltes in any discussion of Roussillon dessert wines, but time is short), one of the world’s great red dessert wines.
In Collioure there are not many choices in the U.S. market for dry reds, but the wines from both Coume del Mas and Domaine de la Casa Blanca offer great values and delicious drinking. But when the discussion turns to these regions, it must also turn to the Domaine du Mas Blanc.
A producer of both dry Collioure wines and phenomenal Banyuls, Domaine du Mas Blanc is the quintessential savvy wine buyer’s kind of property. These wines continue to fly under the radar and into the cellars of shrewd collectors the world over. Make sure to give them a try and see what they do for your palate!