Languedoc, the vast and varied region in the south of France, is the country’s largest wine area and offers some of the best values in the world.
It used to be that Languedoc was synonymous with the bulk wine that supplied France’s supermarkets and sold for two or three euros a bottle.
But the region has risen far beyond that reputation in recent years, having worked hard to raise awareness of the outstanding traditional red wines from such villages as Minervois, Pic Saint Loup, and Saint-Chinian.
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It is in Saint-Chinian, about 20 miles or so inland from the Mediterranean Sea in the foothills of the huge mountain range known as the Massif Central, that Jean-Marie Rimbert makes distinctive wines from old-vine grapes grown organically.
(With its arid climate that protects it from vine diseases more common in wetter regions, Languedoc has long been a leader in organic farming practices.)
I was reminded of the exquisite charm of Rimbert’s wines as I tasted the domaine’s 2016 Saint-Chinian “Le Mas au Schiste.” As the name suggests, the $23 wine is informed by the unusual schist soils in which the vineyards lie; the blend of 25 percent Carignan, 50 percent Syrah, and 25 percent Grenache showcases the region’s traditional grapes.
The wine all but jumps out of the glass with a lively acidity and earthiness that frame its delicious red and dark fruit notes, along with touches of black licorice, flowers, and herbs. Only part of it is aged in oak, so the wood is very much in the background, allowing the wine to give us a real sense of its terroir.
In a world filled with generic wine, this one is a tribute to authenticity and the idea that a wine can, and should, speak to us about the place from which it came.