The Languedoc is an exciting area for wine lovers. The place is positively bursting at the seams with small domains making all sorts of interesting wines. Admittedly a lot of it isn't the best quality in the world, but if you're on holiday in the south of France you may find yourself positively bamboozled with choice.
The great thing about the Languedoc is that there's something for everyone. The problem is overwhelming choice and chequered quality levels. There is little to be found on the labels that will reassure you of the quality inside the bottle and the whole Languedoc area is absolutely vast in terms of wine production. To put it in context, there's more wine made in the Languedoc than in Australia, Bordeaux, Chile and South Africa combined. The only way to navigate the region is by taste. You just have to taste and taste and taste again until you find something you like, which is where your local friendly independent wine merchant comes in – they've done all the hard work for you!
About 10kms north of the beautiful town of Carcassonne, we found Domaine de Ventenac. They're in an appellation called Cabardes which is nestled in between the mountains of the Massif Central on one side, and the Pyrenees on the other. The climate here is an interesting mix of Mediterranean and Atlantic influences. The Mediterranean brings warmth and sunshine, the Atlantic brings rain and showers which means they have an extraordinary capacity to grow all sorts of thirsty, sun-loving grapes. In order to use the AOC Cabardes, you have to include at least 40% Bordeaux grapes and 40% Mediterranean grapes. An interesting mix indeed. They have the added freedom of stepping outside the strictures of the appellation system, and making wines at Vin de Pays level.
Domaine de Ventenac is an all-male team. Les hommes get to flex their winemaking muscles by shaping the fruits of their land into a diverse range of wines and styles. Their terroir lends itself to a bit of flexibility – they can make clean, simple, fruit-driven wines that exhibit varietal typicity or they can make terroir driven wines that have more complexity and show the unique flavours they develop when grown on their specific vineyard sites.
Domaine De Ventenac Colombard Chenin 2012
A bright, fresh and fruity wine with intense grapefruit and lemon flavours and aromas. The addition of a small proportion of the lesser known Gros Manseng intensifies the citrus freshness of this attractive wine.
Domaine de Ventenac Chardonnay 2012
The aim here was to create a wine with minerality and freshness balanced with ripe, exotic fruit flavours and velvety texture. The wine is not barrel aged, but does spend some time on fine lees to develop some complexity, body and a slight toasty flavour. These flavours harmoniously blend with the ripe exotic fruit and honey notes of the grapes.
Domaine de Ventenac Merlot 2012
A beautifully expressive Merlot showing the attractive flavours we associate with this grape variety. The wine has a ripe, red fruit flavour with some delicate chocolate and orange peel undertones. Drink and enjoy when youthful and bright.
Chateau de Ventenac Reserve de Jean 2011
The Chateau Ventenac range is named differently to signify the change in emphasis. This Reserve de Jeanne wine is an AOC designated wine which means it is created to reflect the Cabardes appellation rather than purely the grape varieties it is made from. The blend comprises 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 35% Syrah and 5% Grenache in accordance with the 40:40 rules of the appellation. The wine is intense and concentrated with ripe red fruit flavours and some warming spicy notes.