My wife and I recently visited the sleepy Languedoc region of Southern France with our two Son's. This region is on the Mediterranean Sea between Marseille and the Spanish boarder. Vin de Pays is the major appellation, but our favorite region visited was Ctes de Thongue, which produces wines from grapes grown to the west of Pzenas. The winemakers and proprietors were genuinely friendly and quite happy to offer tastes of their wines without charge! Most people don't know that the Languedoc-Roussillon region is dominated by 740,300 acres of vineyards, which is three times the combined area of the vineyards in Bordeaux!
As one might imagine, the wines are designed to match the region's seafood. Dry Ros that is fruity but bone dry, is gaining popularity. Cabernet, Merlot, Carignan Noir, Syrah (red and ros), Pinot noir, Grenache, and Sauvignon are also produced.
We were quite surprised to find that the average price for a Ctes de Thongue wine was Euro 3.99, which at today's currency rate cost only $5.75 US! As the world's largest producer of wine, France's overproduction has greatly benefited wine consumers. The French are even redesigning their labels to help make them more consumer friendly! The market and extreme competition has set the price. Even after an importer adds his profit margin and delivery costs, wines from Ctes de Thongue should cost American consumers less than $15 per bottle.
That my friends represents an extraordinary price to quality value!
People that visit Long Island Wine Country are sometimes put off by the prices. Many of the smaller boutique producers only make 500 cases or less of their wines. They price their wines based on the artisan standards and techniques used to create their wines. And with the dramatically increased flow of tourists to the region, demand is so great that it seems like consumers will tolerate premium prices if they feel that they are getting premium quality.
Does this mean that all Long Island Wines are overpriced? Not at all.
But one must search out some of Long Island's hidden gems to find exceptional values. Here's a few of my recent favorites:
LAUREL LAKE VINEYARDS,LAUREL
2006 Chardonnay, $14.99
Unwooded Chardonnay. It's a light crisp and generous fruit-driven wine, abounding in ripe pineapple, fresh lemon and mineral flavors. The palate displays pineapple and mineral characters with soft creamy finish. This chardonnay is ideal for salads and appetizers.
MACARI VINEYARDS & WINERY, MATTITUCK
Collina 48 Merlot, $9.99
An enticing nose filled with spice, black olives and a touch of bittersweet chocolate, leads to a palate rich with the flavors of sweet plums, dark cherries and a very round velvety mouthfeel. This wine exhibits a satisfying rich, lingering finish.
2007 Sauvignon Blanc, $21.99
This Sauvignon Blanc exhibits a tangy and fragrant bouquet of grapefruit, lime, grass, and lemon blossoms. It has a crisp, vibrant citrus and graphite mineral quality leading to an intense finish.
BEDELL CELLARS, CUTCHOGUE
MAIN ROAD RED $16
Light, fresh and fruity. Cherry, blackberry and raspberry. Racy blends of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.
PINDAR VINEYARDS, PECONIC
A non vintage, rich blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec. Dry, complex, a subtle fruity bouquet dominates the palate. Called Pindar's "Mini-Mythology" after their top of the line Meritage blend.
2007 Johannisberg Riesling, $16.99
A semi-dry white wine, with peach and pear on the nose. Apricot and melon on the palate. Gold Medal Winner at The 2008 Denver International Wine Competition.
OSPREY'S DOMINION, PECONIC
Regina Maris Chardonnay $10.00
This wine exhibits fresh tropical flavors of apple, melon and a hint of pineapple framed by light butter and toasty oak. A delicious crisp chardonnay.
WLFFER ESTATE, SAGAPONACK
2004 La Ferme Martin Merlot $15.00
Dark Red Brick in color. The aroma has wonderful red fruit and cloves with hints of vanilla and spice and a fine touch of oak. The mouth-feel is medium bodied with wonderful coffee, dark chocolate and mark characters.89% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc and 5% Pinot Noir.
PECONIC BAY VINEYARDS, CUTCHOGUE
Local Flavor Merlot 1.5 Liter (Magnum) $16.00
This Merlot possesses delicate hints of plum and blackberry in the nose. This softness carries through to the finish where you'll notice just enough tannin to end on a firm note and maintain the wine's structure. Magnum size equals two standard bottles!
PELLEGRINI VINEYARDS, CUTCHOGUE
2003 East End Select Merlot ,$14.99
Vibrant berries and upfront fruit. Represents Long Island terroir with an excellent finish.
LIEB CELLARS, MATTITUCK
BRIDGE LANE CABERNET FRANC NV, $15.00
On the nose, aromas of cherry, blueberry, and cinnamon are accented by hints of sweet peppers. A soft mid-palate leads to a smooth finish with subtle notes of spiced vanilla. This is a great red wine match for spicy foods.
2006 RESERVE PINOT BLANC $20.00
Soft straw in color this Pinot Blanc exhibits great varietal character. Initial scents of nectarine, pear, and citrus fruits give way to hints of honey and chalk. On the palate this medium-bodied, bold Pinot Blanc is refreshingly crisp with a clean, lingering finish.
JAMESPORT VINEYARDS, JAMESPORT
East End Sauvignon Blanc $15.95
This predominantly stainless steel fermented white has a small portion fermented in oak puncheons. The nose is intensely aromatic with pineapple, mango and key lime.