David 5 May 2016
The south of France is the perfect spot to discover uncomplicated, good value wine and I have a cracker from the Languedoc that I think you’ll like.
Le Paradou Grenache 2013
This wine is made by brothers Alexandre and Frédéric Chaudière, whose family also run the respected Château Pesquié in Ventoux, an appellation in the southern Rhône. I’m a fan of Pesquié and offered one of their wines earlier this year and it was this connection that lead me to Le Paradou.
The brothers are interesting. Alexandre boasts extensive winemaking credentials and experience from both France and around the world, while Frédéric has degrees in Philosophy and History from the Sorbonne. In 2005 they decided to do their own thing, separate to Pesquié. Initially starting their search in Luberon, about 80km south of Ventoux in Provence, they ended up much further west in Languedoc and it was here they created their Le Paradou range of wines.
I’ve always been a fan of the Languedoc, so it came as no surprise to me that the brothers ended up there. The region has traditionally produced commercial wines for the mass market, but in the last decade or so there’s been a distinct shift. With lots of sunshine, relaxed regulation and most importantly, affordable land, a new generation of ambitious winemakers see it as the perfect place to realise their dreams.
Wine has been made in Languedoc since Roman times and nowadays it’s the largest wine region in France - almost 3 times the size of Bordeaux. Situated in the southwest of France, it runs along the Mediterranean coast, from Montpellier around almost as far as the Spanish border. This is quintessential south of France, with its rugged wildness and relaxed pace of life.
Despite the recent changes, the historical perception of Languedoc weighs heavily on the French psyche. It’s never been one of France’s prestigious wine regions and prices remain modest - great if you’re looking for value wines.
The classification system in Languedoc is complicated, not helped by the fact that it’s still evolving. Only a handful of appellations currently stand out, one of which is undoubtedly Minervois, due east of the magnificent medieval town of Carcassonne and renowned for its reds. It’s here that the brothers have their Grenache vineyard and like Pesquié, the emphasis at Le Paradou is on minimal chemicals in the vineyard.
Appellation rules require Minervois reds to be a blend - one that used to be dominated by Carignan - but not any more. Mourvèdre and Syrah now must account for at least 20% of the blend, and Grenache has to be a minimum of 60%. White wine may also be produced, but it's only done here in small quantities.
The brothers describe their Le Paradou wines as only Frenchmen can… “fresh and sexy.” They use 100% Grenache to achieve the style they’re after. It’s a variety we know well in Australia, typified by flavours of raspberry, cherry and spice. But in in doing this they have foregone the right to use the Minervois name on the label. It carries instead the simplest classification for French wine, the generic Vin de France.
The Le Paradou Grenache sees only a short maceration (ie. time in contact with skins when fermenting) and sees no oak. Both techniques keep the wine fresh and lively and avoid aggressive tannins.
The wine is a dark plummy red colour with a slight bricky edge. On the nose and palate you’ll find stewed strawberries, musk and plum jam with earthy, spice notes and fresh green herbs. Medium-bodied, its subtle astringency and smooth fine tannins follow through to a lovely dry finish. Uncomplicated and delicious.
“Limpid and dark ruby colour. Nose of black and red berries with spicy notes. In the mouth, good concentration, roundness and freshness in the same time. Crunchiness of the grapes, cherry and blackcurrant aromas with hints of pepper. Very easy to drink! Food & wine pairing: Very easy to associate with many simple dishes - charcuterie, red snapper with Serrano ham, grilled white or red meats, pizzas... It can also be paired with more structured dishes like daube d’Avignon (venison).” Winemaker’s notes.
“Raspberry, juicy cherry, sweet herb, sawdust (not oak) and spice. Medium-bodied, straightforward, juicy wine with light grainy tannin, subtle bitter chocolate flavours and superb ease of drinking. Not sweet or alcoholic. Just delicious. Good stuff.” 90 points, Gary Walsh, The Wine Front.
“… possessing an almost Pinot Noir lightness and suppleness, enjoy this delicious effort…"Wine Advocate, 88 points.
The Chaudière bothers have succeeded in bringing freshness to this classic of the south of France. Amazing value.
I can offer it for $23.50 a bottle. SOLD OUT