Coming up the long lane, bordered by olive trees, with vineyards on each side, it is difficult to imagine how this place was about 15 years ago; it certainly did not resemble a vineyard estate. Today, Château Puech-Haut is one of the most beautiful estates in the Languedoc, and the wines amongst the finest in the region.
The story of Château Puech-Haut is interesting, as is that of Gérard BRU, the owner. An ex-industrialist who, starting from nothing, created a business of 500 employees and a personal fortune.
Learn More About Rhone Red Blends
The Rhone region of France has a delightful selection of red varieties. There are 22 grapes allowed in the Rhone AOC, about half of them red. Most of these varieties are used as secondary blending partners, often comprising less than 10% of the blend. The primary red players of Rhone blends are Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre. Most wines from the Southern Rhone use Grenache as their primary grape, while Rhone blends in California and Australia like to change up the order, occasionally using a high percentage of Syrah or sometimes Mourvèdre. Wines from the Northern Rhone are Syrah-based, and if not 100% Syrah, the wine may have Viognier blended in for added color and aromatics. Typical wines termed "rhone blends" will have two or more grapes from the Rhone and occasionally, small percentages of the secondary varieties.
Notable Facts Rhone Blends are a wonderful combination of rustic and ripe - showing their flavors and delicious character upon release, although some Rhone wines, particularly those with a good amount of Syrah, are able to age for a few years. Australia's Rhone blends are often called "GSM" or "SGM" - using the initials of the grapes used, the most predominant variety being the first initial. Australia has also had great success with their Northern Rhone Shiraz+Viognier wine styles. You'll find delicious Rhone blends in California as well - the Central Coast and Santa Barbara regions have a similar climate to the Rhone, and the varietals flourish there. South Africa is another blossoming Rhone blend producer. Blends from all regions are good with juicy, gamey meats and food with common French spices, like rosemary or herbs de Provence.
Summing it up Successful Sites: Rhone, California, Australia, South Africa
Common Descriptors: Gamey, jammy, blackberry, pepper, leather
Learn More About Languedoc-Roussillon, France
For being in a country that is known for wine regulations, the Languedoc enjoys a great amount of freedom in its winemaking. With over 700,000 acres under vine, some of the most exciting and best value wines of are coming from this enormous and diverse wine region. Some refer to it as the "new world" of France. The region stretches along the land above the Mediterranean, bordered by the Rhone river on the east and almost reaching Spain on the west. Only 10% of the wines from the area are AC, with the remaining wines often landing in the Vin de Pays or Vin de Table category. Wines in the Vin de Pays category are classified here as Vin de Pays d'Oc.
80% of the wines here are red. The grapes of the neighboring Rhone region are popular, with the focus on Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Cinsaut and to a lesser extent, Carignan. White grapes include Rousanne, Marsanne, Clairette and other white Rhone varieties. Parts of the region are also enjoying success with international varieties like Merlot, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. For many of these international style wines, you'll see the grape variety on the label – very un-French, but since they qualify as Vin de Pays d'Oc, it's allowed. Not so for the AC wines of the region, which are relegated to using most of the regional varieties and labeling their bottles by region. Appellations in the Languedoc include Corbières, Minervois, Costières de Nimes, Banyuls and the largest of them all, Coteaux de Languedoc. Corbières and Minervois are found on the western side of the region and produce sometimes very concentrated red wines. Costières de Nimes lies just southwest of the Rhone and produces wines of comparable character. Banyuls creates decadent fortified wines with Grenache and Coteaux de Langeudoc does triple duty, using international and regional grapes to produce white, red and rose wines that are often fantastic values.
A region located between the Spanish border and Languedoc, Roussillon is often mentioned in conjunction with Languedoc, but is an entirely separate, albeit smaller, area. Producing white, red and rose wines, Roussillon is in the Catalonia region, which bleeds into Spain and France. The area has equal amount of Spanish influence as it does French. It is most well-known for Banyuls, a potent dessert wine made from concentrated old-vine Grenache. Vines are old and planted on steep, rocky, terraced hillsides overlooking the coast. The region is also making still wines, mostly from Grenache but with a good amount of Carignan as well.
What a surprise. Open early and let breathe for an hour or two as this Bordeaux style wine really opens up. A wonderful value for a 2010, and was sad to see, but not surprised that the 2010 had sold out.
Surpisingly pleasant out of my usual norm but it went down like velvet.