verouge03.JPG.jpgThe wines of France are often identified by their personality before their physical make-up. When you think Bordeaux, perhaps thoughts of fireplaces, pedigree and ascots come to mind over Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Burgundy is the slightly more quiet, smoldering type – more sweater vest than ascot. And the Languedoc, well that’s the funky, fun free spirit that we’ll be inviting to our holiday parties this year.

The Languedoc, which is a wine producing region in the south of France, doesn’t get the attention of some of his neighbors. It most cases it doesn’t have the cult status or universal appeal of a fine Burgundy or Cote Rotie. But what that results in is more unique and affordable wines for us.

The wines of the Languedoc are more of a free spirit. While many wines in France have very strict guidelines for A.O.C (Appellation d’origine contrôlée ) status, the majority of wines from Languedoc are vin de pays, or wine of the country. While technically this is a lower classification than an A.O.C. wine, it doesn’t mean that you are getting an inferior product. In fact, in the past few years there has been a significant effort to improve quality and the looser guidelines have been attracting more avant-gardes wine makers.

The majority of Languedoc wines we’ve tasted lately have a fun, spicy funkiness to them that make them intriguing and alluring. With a recent focus on higher quality grape varietals like Syrah, Grenache and merlot, these wines are maintaining their playful personality, but now with the substance to back it up. Here are a few of our recent favorites that have us wanting to get to know this region better.

Domaine Le Pas de l'Escalette 2004, around $14
This rich and fairly complex wine has the perfect balance of ripe black fruit coupled with notes of pepper and earth. It warms you up without being to heavy, leaving plenty of room for those tasty little snacks at your holiday party.

2004 Domaine Calvet Thunevin Cuvee Constance Vin de Pays Des Cotes Catalanes, around $13
The price of this wine is almost as appealing as its taste. While not overly complex, this wine lures you in with notes of earth, spice, blackberries and even a slight note of tar (the good kind).

Coume Del Mas Schistes 2003, around $22

This intense wine makes its presence known immediately. The aromas of black cherry, cranberry and spice burst in your mouth, stunning your taste buds for a moment and then leaving them hoping for more.

These wines are just a hint of the great values and flavors coming out of the Languedoc region. With many under $20, these wines can be great a holiday gift or the perfect wine to bring to a party. After all, do you really want to show up with the ascot or the sweater vest?