Wine making in Languedoc Rouissillon area of southern France was originally the work of Greeks who began cultivation around the 6th century BC. After the Roman conquest viticulture developed quickly, then continued under the Visigoths in the 5th century. As the monasteries of the 9th century grew, so did the hillside vineyards, and today the area is responsible for nearly one-half of France's total wine production.
The soils, baked by the hot Mediterranean sun, are fabulously diverse, with areas of quartz scattered between the more common black schist, limestone and clay. There is infrequent rainfall, and what does fall quickly evaporates from the heat of the sun and the Tramontane, the blustery wind that blows from the northwest on many days of the year. In fact the windblown, arid hillside soils are suitable for little else other than grape vines and the olive trees.
While the area has many AOC designations, some of the real excitement comes from the basic table wines or vin de pays, which can be distinctive, high quality wines, and are the face of the new Roussillon. Young wine-makers are experimenting new techniques with old established grapes, reducing the yield to extract concentrated flinty, mineral wines with a lot of character.
A great example of this are the wines coming from the young and energetic Jean Marc Lafage the producer of one of our other favorite, value priced whites, the Cote Est. The Domaine Lafage Novellum Chardonnay is a custom cuvee from importer Eric Solomon and a hot item in his portfolio. As Robert Parker puts it "Jean-Marc Lafage and Eric Solomon continue to render truly mind-boggling values."
The 2008 vintage adds 30% new French oak to the process with the rest fermented in stainless steel. But one of the things that makes this wine so delicious and unique is that is aged on the lees of Viognier for 3 months giving it peach and stone fruit as well as the more typical apple, pear notes. It is crisp, lively and refreshing and in the store just in time for summer! But get it now because this popular item does not last long on the shelves! $12.99