The Languedoc-Roussillon is buzzing like a beehive! Everywhere you look, day and night, people are in the vineyards harvesting grapes, both by hand and machine.
It’s an honor to witness and support this tradition which has existed in the Languedoc-Roussillon for over 2,000 years. We feel blessed!
The small-scale, independent winemakers whose wines we sell harvest almost exclusively by hand.
A great deal of care goes into hand-harvesting grapes.
Hand-harvesting means the grapes arrive at the winemaking cave intact, without the skins having been broken, so there is no oxidation of the juice prior to fermentation. When our winemakers use machines, they generally harvest at night when the grapes are cool. This ensures maximum freshness until the grapes begin fermentation in the tanks. Fresh grapes = delicious wines!!
The brief video below details why destemming grapes before vinification matters!
What happens once the grapes are harvested? It depends on the grower and how the wine will be vinified and sold.
In broad terms, there are three kinds of wine sellers in this region: independent winemakers, large-volume producers and/or sellers called negotiants, and caves cooperatives which serve very small growers.
The independent winemakers are the small producers about whom we are wildly enthusiastic. Our wines are made at the domaine or chateau where the grapes are grown. The people who planted the vines also care for the soil, prune the vines, harvest the grapes, make the wines and bottle the wines with their own labels. That is why we call our wines “root to sip."
Both negotiants and caves cooperatives play important roles in Languedoc-Roussillon winemaking. While the negotiants might grow some of their own grapes, in general, they buy grapes, and sometimes wine, from others. Then they bottle and sell under their own label.
The caves cooperatives provide a much-needed service to small growers who don't have enough grapes or financial resources to produce their own wines. Each cooperative has its own winemaker and winemaking facility. These facilities were built in the 1930s and 40s and are often absolutely beautiful.
The below photo shows a small plot winegrower just returning from the cave cooperative in Cruzy, a village next to ours. You'll see similar sights everywhere during the harvest, with small tractors buzzing about from the wee hours of the morning to very late at night.
By supporting small growers, the cooperatives keep the region alive and flourishing. They're a big part of why the Languedoc-Roussillon is so spectacular. However, because the grapes are cultivated in many different soils under widely varying horticultural practices, the cooperative wines lack the distinctive terroir we so love in the independent winemakers whose wines we sell.
We did, however, discover a delicious Fitou appellation, Cascastel, that we couldn’t resist! In fact, this cooperative wine received the gold medal just a few weeks after we chose it!
Our lucky wine club members will get the first taste of Cascastel in the next club shipment. After that, we'll add it to our online Wine Shop so everyone can enjoy!
Carol (The Princess) with a carton of hand-harvested Syrah grapes, standing next to Philippe Gaillard of Château Gilbert & Gaillard.
Château Gilbert & Gaillard's brilliant young winemaker is Marine Faugier. She also happens to be our neighbor!
Below you'll find one of her wines, a delicious rosé.
85% Mourvèdre, 15% Grenache
Mourvedre is the KING grape for rosé and imbues this wine with a lovely flavor.
Serve this super drinkable and flirtatious rosé with roasted turkey sandwiches, curried mayonnaise, and slices of vine-ripened tomatoes.
Life is good!
People often ask if it's necessary to open wines before drinking so they can "breathe." And how long will the wine last after it’s been opened? We have answers!
Allowing a wine to breathe simply means exposing the wine to oxygen. So just opening the bottle won’t help because the neck of the wine bottle is too narrow.
The wine must be "decanted," or poured into a vessel with a broad base, so the surface of the wine is exposed to oxygen. Now the magic of breathing begins!
One of our favorite pastimes is searching the brocante (flea markets) for old crystal decanters. These unique and inexpensive (€5 or so) vessels work perfectly. But you may decide you’d like to buy a beautiful traditional decanter.
All of our Languedoc-Roussillon red wines benefit from decanting. Generally, the longer a wine will keep in the cellar, the longer the decanting time should be when the wine is young. For example, a two-year-old wine that you have been advised will drink perfectly in ten years should be decanted at least two hours before enjoying. But when that same wine is close to ten years old, decanting for 30 minutes to one hour should be enough.
Another general rule: wines made from Mediterranean red grape varieties benefit the most from decanting because the blends contain enough tannins and phenolic compounds to give the wine a long life. These include Syrah, Grenache, Carignan, Mourvèdre and Cinsault.
We test wines every week to see how long we still love them after we open them. Best not to decant the whole bottle if you’re not going to drink it all. Instead, pour a glass or two of wine an hour before serving. Then, "aspirate" the bottle (remove the air) with a vacuum pump such as a VacuVin Wine Saver and store for later.
We like to aspirate our bottles then refrigerate. Most red wines will keep for two to three days, but we've had several drink really well after a week!
If you decant the full bottle, you can also pour any remaining wine back and aspirate. The wine will likely be best within 24 hours. Experiment for yourself!
Not far from our home in the Languedoc-Roussillon, you'll find the salt beds of the Salin de Gruissan near the Mediterranean. Salt has been harvested here for centuries, as far back as the Roman Empire.
The sun, wind, and dry climate of the Mediterranean create the perfect alchemy for the area's renowned salt production, including fleur de sel, an artisanal seasoning used in fabulous local seafood dishes.
The salt fields were originally marshes bounded by sea waters. The pink hues of the "Salin" are from the magical dunaliella salina, an algae that thrives in high-saline environments.
Our favorite restaurant in this area is La Cambuse du Saunier, right on the edge of the salt beds. In this video, you'll see our waiter skillfully fillet a salt-crusted Turbot, a fish native to the Mediterranean. (We suggest using earbuds because of the festive background noise).
We recommend La Rochelierre Camille Blanc with this dish and other salt-crusted fish dishes. Bon appétit!
Our new rosés have arrived! Languedoc rosés are some of the best in the world and tend to sell out quickly, so we invite you to check them out here.
These refreshing rosés are perfect for the warm weather, enhancing the fresh flavors of summer and keeping the mood lively.
This month, we've paired a Magical Puff Pastry Tomato Tart (recipe below) with Le Rosé Gariguette, Chateau de L'Engarran Rosé, or (and!) Asphodèles Rosé. Enjoy!
We are thrilled that our new rosés have arrived! These beauties tend to sell out quickly, so we invite you to check them out here.
Languedoc rosés are some of the best in the world. What gives them their gorgeous pink, peach, and rose colors? How is a rosé wine made, versus a red or a white?
Wine color is derived from the pigment in grape skins. The shade depends on how long the skins are in contact with the juice prior to fermentation. White wines have little or no contact, whereas red wines have considerable contact. Rosés fall somewhere in between and can exhibit a range of lovely pink and orange hues within a span of a few hours.
The two main vinification methods for rosés are pressurage and saignée.
With pressurage, freshly harvested grapes are loaded into a tank or a press for several hours and then gently pressed to drain the juice. The juice is chilled in a tank, yeast is added, and slow alcoholic fermentation begins.
With saignée, rather than being pressed by machinery, the individual grapes are crushed by the weight of the clusters themselves. The resulting juice, along with the skins, remains in the tank for several hours.
The tank is then “bled” (thus the term saignée) through a tap at the base of the tank. The juice is chilled and yeast added, initiating a slow fermentation that converts the juice sugars into alcohol.
As with all Languedoc-Roussillon winemaking, innovation and creativity help create these world-class rosés.
Domaine De Saumarez
Fleur De Liz Rosé
Named for the winemaker’s wife, this beautiful salmon pink wine is made from organic Syrah and Grenache grapes harvested in the cool early morning.
Delicious pomegranate and strawberry flavors. Great on its own or with a summer barbecue!
Domaine Clos d’Elle
2018 Entrecoeur Rosé
All six of the tasters at one of our rosé tastings this spring chose this wine!
This soft peach-colored rosé is made from grapes in the 2nd year of organic conversion—Syrah and, interestingly, Viognier. The result is stunning! Wild strawberry flavors and sooo soft in the mouth.
Music, especially jazz, is one of the many great reasons to visit the Languedoc-Roussillon, the Supernatural South of France.
It's one of life's great truths — jazz and wine go hand in hand. And when the two meet at one of the many outdoor Languedoc music festivals this time of year, the result is a bon vivant's dream!
Late summer is when the Languedoc-Roussillon region celebrates with wine and music, before the harvest begins. People come from all over to attend festivals, enjoy world-class musicians, and taste fabulous wines.
In fact, today we're attending the Fiest'A Sète, a jazz and world music festival where we're listening to the Cuban artists Omara Portuondo and Ana Carla Maza. You'll find some wonderful video clips of these talented performers here and here.
Here's a shot of the view from our seats at Fiest'A Sète, at the aptly named Theatre de la Mer...
Another festival well worth checking out is Jazz à l'Hospitalet, which pairs wine, outdoor dining, and music. Lisa Simone (daughter of Nina Simone) was one of this year's artists. Get a taste of Jazz à l'Hospitalet here.
And the late summer feast of music and wine goes beyond jazz! Festapic takes place at the base of Pic Saint-Loup mountain. The first event was organized to support the winemakers of Pic Saint Loup who'd suffered a devastating hailstorm. It was such a success that it's now entering year three — a beautiful example of how the rich cultural expressions of wine and music enhance and nourish each other.
We hope you're enjoying your own outdoor music festivals, wherever you are — with wine!
For the perfect summer festival experience we recommend:
Domaine Terrasses de Gabrielle
2017 SOIF L'IDÉAL
This "ideal" thirst quencher blends the acidity of Grenache Blanc and Vermentino with the honeyed pear and peach flowers of Roussanne and Viognier.
We also recommend the seven light and lovely rosés that just arrived in our latest shipment. These will be available starting August 5! Stay tuned...
This month, our entire Princess and Bear team is "on the ground" exploring the Languedoc-Roussillon region, visiting our fabulous winemakers, and tasting the latest vintages so that we can bring you the best-of-the-best!
So far we've visited the appellations of Faugéres, Terrasses du Larzac, and La Livinière where we toured the vineyards and experienced the beautiful cuvées of five of our winemakers.
We walked the 100 year old vineyard of La Voûte du Verdu with Mélanie Estival, a fourth-generation winemaker (photo above). La Voûte's winemaking cave sits atop the Verdus River in the medieval town of St. Guilhem le Desert. Le Désert Blanc and Grand Saut are two of the wonderfully complexwines produced by La Voûte du Verdu.
In the video below, our team tours the reclaimed biodynamic Grenache vineyard of Simon and Monica Coulshaw of Domaine des Trinités in the Faugéres appellation.
You'll notice the "garrigue," the rich, often aromatic, vegetation that intermingles with the vines, and the schist soil which provides minerality and freshness.
The wines of Domaine des Trinités arrived in the most recent shipment and will be available for purchase soon!
We dropped in on another of our winemakers in the Faugères appellation—the delightful Pierre Urbain of Mas Nuy. Like the Bear, Pierre is a former surgeon turned Languedoc wine lover!
Beginning in 2014, Pierre started a range of PGI (IGP) wines, harvesting the grapes at night and making the wine in concrete vats to preserve the freshness and varietal identity of his wines. We carry three of these IGP wines, Robe Blanche, Quartz Rosé, and Athanor. We also offer La Catieda (Pierre’s top cuvée white) and Fou de Rec.
Pascal Riviere of La Jasse Castel is one of the women winemakers fueling the Languedoc wine renaissance. Our team caught up with her in the charming village of Montpeyroux where we shared an al fresco meal.
Pascal's vineyards include a century-old Cinsault, an ancient Carignan, a purebred Syrah on the edge of an oak forest, and a Grenache in the heart of the Seranne landscape. Her exquisite wines include Bleu Velours, El Abanico, Légrisee, and La Jasse.
Our final stop was in the Minervois-La Livinière appellation where our team (including Gigi!) shared a few laughs and tasted the incredible wines of winemaker, Michel Escande of Borie de Maurel.
Taste La Féline, Le Gypse, Belle de Nuit and Cuveé Sylla to see why Michel was dubbed “The Wizard of Feline,” by the international wine press!
We hope you're having a wonderful summer and finding time to relax and take in the simple pleasures. For us, this means delicious, fresh, easy-to-prepare meals paired with one of our extraordinary "undiscovered" wines from the Languedoc-Roussillon.
We invite you to try these easy, savory summer dishes: Quick Caprese with Garlic Crostini and Super-Easy Summer Salmon. Recipes below.
Compliment with 2017 Soif L'idéal—an "easy drinker" but with enough acidity to hold up to a great meal. Enjoy!
An "ideal" thirst quencher! The acidity of the Grenache Blanc and Vermentino blends with the honeyed pear and peach flowers of the Roussanne and Viognier to create a lively and engaging wine.
Winemaker Olivier Pascal of Domaine Terrasses de Gabrielle comes from generations of winemakers. He and his delightful, hardworking wife, Fabienne Los Huertos, tend the vineyards her family has owned for generations and work their creative magic in the cave where their small batch wines come to life.
La Livinière creates the kind of extraordinary and unique wines that inspired us to introduce Languedoc-Roussillon winemakers to the U.S.
La Livinière is a small "Cru," or "group of excellence," comprised of 41 winemakers within the Minervois-La-Livinière appellation. This Cru exemplifies the balance of creativity with tradition that is the hallmark of Languedoc wines. In fact, La Livinière was the first Cru to be recognized in the Languedoc!
Winemaker, Michel Escande, the “Wizard of Feline,” is pictured here. He and his Cru La Livinière domaine, Borie de Maurel, are part of the Princess and Bear family (check out his 2016 La Féline).
We invite you to experience the exceptional wines of La Livinière for yourself! The wines of La Rouviole and Rouanet Montcelebre just arrived and will be available for sale on our website soon!
Summer means BBQ season! Time to gather with friends and family to celebrate!
Spread the picnic blanket, fire up the grill, and share delicious wines while this beautiful season is in full swing!
We recommend red wine with many classic summer foods like barbecue, coleslaw, and potato salad (keep reading for the best potato salad recipe ever—really!)
If you're a Princess and Bear Wine Club member, the red wines you've received (La Diva 2015, La Pimpanela, and Grand Saut) are perfect with barbecued meats and chicken, especially when slightly chilled.