Last night at dinner I was asked to recommend a wine to go with a dish containing warm Chorizo.
Normally I would go straight to the country of origin for both wine and food, in this case, Spain, but as we are in the South of France my guest wanted to stay in the country and drink something French.
The choice was an easy one in terms of location, I had to choose a wine that came from a hot area. Chorizo, at least the one which I was serving, is spicy and generally hotter climate wines will stand up to spice and heat. So that ruled out a lot of France.
I also had to choose a wine made with grapes that would accentuate the spices in the food but not be over powered by them. So cooler climate grapes (delicate and easily over powered) and tannin heavy (tannin enhances spice...not in a good way!) grapes were out.
Shiraz would work, especially from the Rhone Valley, with it's peppery spice and dark ripe plummy fruit but I decided to stay closer to home and choose something with in arms reach as it were.
I wanted a blended wine that would not only pair really well with the Chorizo but would taste warm with ripe fruit, dried meat and have a dustiness that showed where it came from just like the meat we were about to eat.
Hopefully this would open up new avenues for my guest to travel and explore later.
I chose a Minervois red from La Liviniere in the Languedoc region which is to the east of Carcassonne and a 3 hour drive from my house.
To be more specific I chose the Clos des Roques 2007
I visited Minervois La Liviniere a couple of years ago on a fact and wine finding mission and was plesantly surprized at the quality of wines available.
Minervois has been around forever and is widely known for rustic, earthy wines made from the "GSM blend", a blend of Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvedre.
The reputation for Minervois was, to be honest, not one of fine wines but more one of cheap "vin rough" reds sold by farmers at the local markets.
You can still find the rough stuff but recent changes to quality control and regulation have led to a surge in winemakers who are passionate about their product and who are creating well made, quality wines.
So how do you find the good ones?
Well, first of all you need to know where to look.
Minervois is now broken down into 3 sub-regions: Minervois (pretty much the whole region, 220 producers and 30 co-operatives), Minervois La Liviniere (a small collection of 6 communes in the north of the region with 32 producers and 3 co-operatives) and St. Jean de Minervois (a commune in the NE corner of Minervois producing sweet "Vin Doux", 7 producers and 1 co-operative)
The most reputable wines come from Minervois La Liviniere and the producers there are quick to tell you that they are proud to have their own "appellation", testimony to the world that they are serious about their craft and stand behind their product.
There aren't any huge conglomerations in La Liviniere, all producers are small, generally family run and have history in the region. They have passion about the land, the terroir, the indiginous grape varieties and about the quality of their wines.
I have to say that I tasted many wines when I was there and was never disappointed with the quality and range of styles. I was expecting some heavy, dark, chewy wines but was rewarded by something refined with depth and incredible flavour.
Don't get me wrong, these wines aren't all light and fluffy, the temperature (heat) won't allow that and neither will the grape varieties. The wines are dark but with ripe fruit (no fruit bombs that I found) and smooth tannin. They are complex, in a good way and they have a lot to say. To those who like to sniff their wines, they are beautiful. They are also well made, you can taste the refined quality.
So, if you are in the mood to try something from a "born again" region try something from Minervois La Liviniere, you won't be disappointed.
Anyway, getting back to the Chorizo, it worked, totally!
The blend of grapes worked completely with the spice and intense flavours of the warm Chorizo making dinner a success. You can't argue with that!