French Wines: 2009 Cuvée Roucaillat, Coteaux du Languedoc


2009 Cuvée Roucaillat, Coteaux du Languedoc 

Retail cost: approximately $20
Available at Suburban Wines & Spirits 

Intriguing French Wines from Languedoc’s Laboratory
The 2009 Cuvée Roucaillat, from the Languedoc, is an original and playful French wine from an equally original and playful French wine region. The Languedoc is an enormous area that dominates the Mediterranean coastline of France to the southeast, and abuts Provence to the east and the Rhône to the north. Historically the region has seen more than its fair share of intrigue: from the fiercely independent Duchy of Aquitaine, whose fluctuating boundaries were a constant source of angst for the French crown, to the Crusades launched by Pope Innocent III to tame the Cathars, whose heresy was centered in the Languedoc, and the official Inquisition that followed.

The independence of the Languedoc was and, I believe, still is evident in its approach to winemaking. What the region lacks in pedigree it makes up for in whimsy and a daring adventurism that is often hard to come by in other parts of France. There seem to be no boundaries to its willingness to experiment with new varietals and new blends. This vinous laboratory is aided by the relatively inexpensive land in the Languedoc, which therefore allows for the spirit of winemaking frontierism.

In that vein, one may look to the 2009 Cuvée Roucaillat, a blend of roussanne (a Rhône staple), rolle (little known outside the Languedoc and Sardinia, where it goes by the name vermentino) and grenache blanc (widely planted throughout France but still not well known in its own right). Here we have a humble field blend treated to the full promise of artisanal winemaking, from hand harvesting and destemming to sur lie aging in small cuvées for a total élevage of 18 months. There is a lot of care and attention going toward grapes of modest means, and the result is worth every effort made on the part of the producers.

The 2009 Roucaillat is a deep golden straw color that shows a slightly oxidized nose with pretty vanilla and baked-apple aromas. On the palate it comes through as a lushly textured and well-rounded expression of the blend. One can’t help but celebrate the mélange for its own sake: the roussanne bringing its lovely melon flavors and mineral undertones, the rolle adding spice and the grenache blanc thankfully bringing all the structure and tart acidity that give balance to the whole and make the wine work.
Enjoy with rillettes de saumon, bouillabaisse, smoked-duck salad or any type of French cheese, especially aged chèvre.

Editor’s note: Food and wine lovers heading to Paris might want to try one of the Girls’ Guide’s favorite cooking classes in Paris.