Howard Hewitt Article on the Languedoc

Here is an article written by our friend, Howard Hewitt, which originally appeared in Madison Magazine, published in Anderson, IN. It’s more a primer on the great Languedoc region in France than a review of specific wines that you’ll often find on his blog.  Chartrand Imports carries a great selection of wines at all price points from the Languedoc.  You’ll find Howard’s blog here http://www.redforme.blogspot.com/

“Touring the South of France”

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Chartrand Wines rated in Wine & Spirits

Our newest rated wines in the June 2011 issue of Wine & Spirits!

92 pts. Mas Laval 2005 Vin de Pays de l’Herault  $34.00

“Meaty and firm, this is a blend of syrah (50 percent). Grenache, mourvedre and cabernet franc from the Laval family in Aniane.  Despite its age. it feels youthful. with rugged tannins and fresh black plum fruit; game and smoke scents come up in the end, suggesting a pairing with lamb shanks and gremolata.”

91 pts. Domaine Pierre André 2006 Chateauneuf du Pape   $59.00

“From a 37-acre biodynamically farmed estate in Courthézon, this is a meaty, gamey Châteauneuf with sausage-like scents mingling with rosemary, stones and leather. Firm and warm. it needs a meaty dish, like pork and white beans, to match its brooding, earthy character.” June 2011

BB 88  Buenas Ondas 2010 San Juan Malbec  $12.00

“Made with organically grown grapes, this tastes of juicy fresh cherries seasoned with black pepper. It’s a light-bodied wine with tense tannins and lively acidity.  Pour it as you fire up the grill for a steak.” June 2011

88 pts. Mas Laval 2009 Vin de Pays de l’Herault Les Pampres  $18.00

“This says “drink me” from the first whiff, a noseful of just-pressed plumy red fruit.  It’s just as open and inviting in the mouth, with bright, lively acidity that makes it go down easily.  Though not complex,  it wins points for being so alive.  For a faro salad or a roasted pork sandwich.” June 2011 online only

87 pts. Mas Laval 2006 Vin de Pays de l’Herault  $34.00

“Brandied cherry flavors and rye-like spice uncannily recall a Manhattan, an association that is strange yet potentially compelling with smoked meats or the pastrami salad at Brooklyn’s Char No. 4.”  June 2011 online only

86 pts. La Marouette  2009 Vin de Pays d’Oc Sauvignon Blanc  $12.00

“Clean and green in both its guava-like flavor and organic growing regime, this is weighted for roast chicken salads.” June 2011 online only

 

 

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Organic, Biodynamic & Sustainable Wines Seminar

Join Paul Wednesday February 23, 2011 at Wentworth by the Sea in New Castle, NH for the Organic, Biodynamic, and Sustainable WInes Seminar, part of the Winter Wine Festival. He will be pouring a great selection of organic wines and educating you as well! Starts at 6:30 and price of $45.72 includes fee and gratuity.

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Perlage Pinot Grigio voted “Value Wine of the Year” for 2010

We are pleased to announce that our Perlage Pinot Grigio IGT was voted as the WINNER for “Best Value” Organic Wine of the Year by Organic Wine Review!  Check out the video review here.

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Playing with Words

Languedoc is the region in southern France that extends from near Narbonne and the Spanish border in the south, along the Mediterranean shore north to the western bank of the Rhone River. Exactly how you define the place depends to whom you’re speaking or why you’re describing the ancient area. Named for the old language or tongue of the southland, Langue d’Oc, the land is rich in history and metaphor.

Historically the largest quantity production area for french wines, and home of many excellent value reds, Languedoc has struggled recently to upgrade and define its image to wine lovers worldwide. The new AOC, or Appellation of Controlled Origin structure, announced Dec 13 in Narbonne, is an effort in this direction. Whether it will be more successful is another question. The french love to play with words and it is a beautiful language, so why not?

When I started importing in 1985, my first (organic) red wine was Domaine de la Bousquette, an AOC St Chinian, one of the few AOC areas in Languedoc. Had I known the rarity and value it was in 1985, I might have done better promoting Languedoc red rather than organic wine!

Several villages like St Chinian had demonstrated soil and climate combinations or “terroir” capable of producing higher quality wine and were granted AOC status. Most Languedoc wines were labeled VDQS or Limited Wine of Superior Quality. The rest were Vin de Pays, or “country wine”, the lowest price/quality tier. In 1980, a push for recognition of large areas of hillside villages, not distinctive enough for village AOC, allowed Coteaux de Languedoc, or “hillsides of…”

As more villages petitioned for and received village or coteaux AOC status since 1980, there became no need for VDQS status. Meanwhile, many of France’s more prestigious regions were using more royal words like Grand Cru and Premier Cru, for their great and first level wines. It was only a matter of time before the country’s most humble and hard working area would create its own “great wines”.

Now we have a new and improved nomenclature to define and elevate some wines of Languedoc to royal status. As all french wine regions  now compete on the world’s wine shelves, no individual should do so without at least a few Grand Cru! Let the game continue.

As of 2011, 60% of Languedoc AOC wines will be labeled as Grand Vin or Great Wine. This includes the AOC wine towns of Minervois, Corbieres, St. Chinian, Malpere, Faugeres, Cabardes, Limoux, Picpoul and all sweet Muscat wines of the region. These town names now apply to areas quite a bit larger than each of the named villages, as always happens once such a label is created.

The summit label of Grand Cru du Languedoc will only apply to ten small villages with much smaller areas, whose combined production is only 10% of the regions total AOC wine. “Cru” is a great french word for what should be a quite limited vat, production or specific area, often more transient, or maybe more transcendent, than other similar wines from a town or region. Examples of these in this particular system are St. Chinian Berlou, Corbieres Boutenac or Pic St Loup, all smaller than the AOC Grand Vin towns. Check the
attached article and map for more detail.

Now the remaining 30% of current AOC production will be labeled AOC Languedoc, and forms what a press release from Narbonne calls the “base level” of  “wines perfect for everyday drinking”. How did the base level only get 30% of wines while the Great Wines have 60%? One would think the reverse order to equate great wine with limited, low production areas. But the goal is to use language to sell more languedoc wine, while spreading the wealth as much as possible, so a lot of politics came into the word game, as it does in every region.

I’m in favor of selling more Languedoc wine if this helps that goal. It will take time for importers to educate customers and promote new labels, not to mention register them with the US TTB, who controls label wording here. But, a New Year and more Great Wines. And a few more “really great” wines. Who can ask for more!

In our portfolio, look for a new label of Grand Vin on our old friend Chateau Bousquette, which way back when was Domaine de la Bousquette VDQS Languedoc, then Chateau Bousquette AOC St. Chinian. Still the same great wine as I found in 1985, no question about that, and a wonderful bargain with or without the words.

A good languedoc red like Chateau Bousquette really speaks of the local soils and fauna. You can smell the herbal scents of local plants with distinct floral notes, and taste rocky schist and clay soil on your palate. The local varieties of Syrah, Mourvedre, Carignan and Cinsault bring a medley of spicy, rich hints of leather and red fruits. This is a perfect wine for Mediterranean foods with olives, meat or tomato sauces. Chateau Bousquette St. Chinian Rosé brings some of this complexity in a light, refreshing style for the rest of your meals. Enjoy!

Chateau Bousquette

Read PR Newswire Article on Languedoc AOC here

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Holiday Wine Tasting Dec 18th in NH

Join our Pine State rep, Zach Bouchard, for a Chartrand Imports holiday wine tasting at Just Naturals & Co in Bedford, NH on Saturday,December 18th from 2:30-4:30. This is a wonderful store so combine your holiday shopping with tasting our great wines from certified organic grapes! Click here for store link for info and directions!.

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Badger Mountain Winery on Marketplace Morning 11/30/10

Check out this nice segment that aired Tuesday 1130/10

click on Listen to this Story

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Reception for George Cole Quintet, Chartrand Imports Sponsor

Saturday, January 8, 2011

George Cole Quintet – “Eurocana” Jazz

Chartrand Imports will sponsor a wine reception from 7:00- 7:45 pm (between acts) which will be included in price of the event ticket. See Lincoln Street Center website for details and contact info.

7:00-9:30 p.m.

Lincoln Street Theatre, 24 Lincoln Street, Rockland, ME 04861

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Wine Class, Winter Wine Fest

February 23, 2011

Wentworth by the Sea, 588 Wentworth Road – New Castle, NH 03854  603.422.7322

Time and Details TBA

2011 Wine Festival Website

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Sugarloaf Wine Dinner

January 13, 2011

Join Paul Chartrand at the Double Diamond Steakhouse & Wine Bar at Sugarloaf. Time and details TBA.

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December Wine Class

December 1 at Restaurant Grace in Portland, Me 15 Chestnut Street

Join Paul Chartrand of Chartrand Imports at the December Wine Class where he
will give a brief talk about Organic wines. We will taste some of his wines on the evening. Don’t miss it!
Dues $10 to cover the cost of wine.
Location within Grace TBA.

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Across the US

Just back from a midwestern sales trip, where I was happy to work with our IN distributor Derek Gray of GrayBull Organic Wines. He’s done a great job opening up a small specialized wine distribution company serving the Indianapolis area. We visited a number of stores and restaurants together. I arrived during a wine tasting Derek led at MassAveWine.com on Mass Ave near downtown.
This is a wonderful shop selling wine by the glass with Jill’s delicious sandwiches and appetizers. You can also buy a bottle to take home after you find one you like. It is a great combination that I wish could happen in every state, but laws prohibit mixing sales in many states, including our wonderful Maine!
I was again struck by how much sugar and fat appears in almost everything I order when on the road. It’s too bad that so many Americans end up eating such a diet. A little red wine daily might stimulate our appetite for healthy food with less sweets & fats!

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Celebrate or Commiserate!

Finally the elections are over and it’s time to….. that’s right, time to look forward to holidays, friends, and fine meals with accompanying wines! And perhaps it’s time to toast an election win or raise a glass to a good candidate gone down this year. Either way, the cold weather here in Maine is leading me to more red and sparkling wine.

We have some great winter red wines, from Argentine Malbec and Italian Reserve Barbera to Chateauneuf du Pape, Reserva Rioja and Givry Pinot Noir. For sparkling we have French Champagne, Vouvray, Cremant de Bourgogne and Guy Bossard Brut, Italian Moscato d’Asti, and Prosecco. All from organic vineyards.

The grape harvest is over in most of the world and initial reports are pretty positive. Low production in some areas, but overall good quality. We did not import any organic Beaujolais Nouveau this year due to difficult exchange rates and high transport cost. With the latest air transport bomb scares, I’m relieved to not be awaiting a Nouveau arrival next week. But it should be a good tasting vintage and I look forward to trying one soon.

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Harvest on the Harbor

I had a great weekend at several wine tastings in Portland Maine area. Friday evening was at Freeport Wine & Cheese, with ten of our organic wines for tasting and buying. We had a bit of everything with spanish, french, italian, north and south american. All were popular and especially Mas Laval Les Pampres from Languedoc France, a wine made from grapes in transition to organic viticulture. Other popular ones were Nuova Cappelletta Barbera and Navarrsotillo Magister Bibendi Rioja Crianza. A steady crowd made the event fun and informative for all.

Sat I showed wine at Harvest on the Harbor, on the waterfront in Portland. The two 2.5 hr sessions were full of people, over 4000 attendees. It was always busy at our table, the only one pouring only wine from organic grapes. Only a few of over 50 wine tables had one or two organic selections, so we greeted many seeking organic wine or wanting to learn about it.

I could not have done it without great help from Gregg and Anne, my two volunteer pourers from Portland Convention and Visitors Bureau. We showed ten wines there also; many of the same from Friday. Buenas Ondas Malbec was certainly popular here! It looks like Malbec is becoming a new grape variety in favor, as Merlot and Pinot Noir had their seasons in the sun. We have a good one at fair price and organic into the bargain so it was fun to show it. Other favorites here were Orleans Hill Syrah and Badger Mtn Riesling, Mas Laval Les Pampres and Noemus Rioja.

While walking around other tables, I overheard a frequently repeated comment from another wine vendor that goes like this:

“Many (or most) of the (or our) wines made in __________ (in this case Sicily, but I’ve heard others), are grown organically, it’s just that the growers can’t afford (or do the paperwork for) organic certification, so they can’t put it on their labels.”

While there are some cases like this, believe me, not anywhere near as many as some would like you to believe. Organic grape growers I know have worked hard to get there and are proud of their results. They want you to know they’re organic vintners. The days of hiding organic grapes are over. Certification is not nearly as difficult or costly as some imply; the hard part is transitioning to and arriving at organic methods on the farm. Once you get there, very few have not also pursued certification to guaranty their organic claim to customers, and to join the growing family of organic growers worldwide.

Although we applaud all efforts to move to organic growing, you the customer should demand certification so the grower and customer are linked in trust and enjoyment of this commitment to value. Organic growers appreciate this; you support their efforts to stand out, and value the work it took to get there. Organic viticulture is one of the only things we say to describe wine or put on wine labels that actually means something. Think of “old vines” or “special reserve”, “single vineyard”, “estate bottled”, etc. All those imply higher quality, but none are controlled. A certified organic vineyard tells you that farmer spends a lot of time amongst the vines; those vines are enriched and protected by only natural substances that are not harmful to other plants or human health. Those vines are nourished in a way that provides you with a real taste of the wine’s origins, or “terroir”. And that’s what good wine is all about!

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Wine Tasting in Freeport, ME

On Friday, October 22,  2010  Paul will be pouring 10 wines at Freeport Cheese & Wine from 3:30-7:30 pm. See freeportcheeseandwine.com for address, etc.

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Wine Tasting at Harvest on the Harbor

At the Harvest on the Harbor Seafood Splash in Portland.

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Bill Powers Named Legend of Washington Wine

Bill Powers, the founder of Badger Mountain Vineyard and Powers Winery in Kennewick was recognized as one of the 2010 Legends of Washington Wine.

Bill Powers was named a “Legends of Washington Wine” in 2010 and inducted into the Legends of Washington Wine Hall of Fame. He supplies our Badger Mountain Vineyard wines.

Bill Powers planted his Badger Mountain Vineyard in 1982 after consulting with Dr. Walter Clore and, in the late 80s, began exploring the possibilities for low-impact and organic viticulture.  He set out to convert to organic practices in 1988, and in 1990, Badger Mountain Vineyard was the first vinifera vineyard to be certified organic by the Washington State Department of Ag.  Powers was nominated as an “organic pioneer” and growers interested in reducing or eliminating conventional input continue to seek his wisdom guidance on the subject.  Powers’ innovative techniques have helped Washington State move forward to lower input, sustainable, organic-based viticulture.

Powers also led Badger Mountain and Powers Winery to become one of the state’s top producing brands while guiding the second and third generation Powers toward future leadership.  His latest venture has put solar energy and bio-diesel conversion into the business plan for Badger Mountain.

Powers was one of the original members of the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers and, in 1996, was selected as “Grower of the Year” by his colleagues. Powers received the WAWGG “Lifetime Achievement Award” for his industry work in 2007.

Read more about Bill Powers here.

Read more about the Legends of Washington Wine here.

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St. Vincent’s Day Celebration

St. Vincent is the patron saint of vineyards – his saint’s day is celebrated in many towns of the French Burgundy region. I was invited to visit the family of our supplier Guy Chaumont in January 2004, to join in the St. Vincent’s day celebration with the Society of Vignerons of St. Desert, founded in 1840. The society honored the Chaumont family as the protectors of the saint’s statue for 2004, so the day’s activities centered on or were located at the Chaumont family winery and cellar. We began in the morning with the annual meeting of the society, where members came to honor Guy, pay annual dues, and choose by lottery the protector for 2005. This meeting, like many of the events to follow, began with Bourgogne Aligote and brioche, two staples of the table from this area.

Guy Chaumont holding a corkscrew
Guy Chaumont, at the winemakers’ meeting


The society and a few friends next accompanied Guy and the 2003 protector, both carrying the statue in parade to the village’s ancient church, where many more family and friends joined us for a mass to celebrate the intimate connection between the earth, food, wine, and the sacrament of Holy Communion. In this case, the bread and wine were more brioche and Aligote (a crisp white wine made in the area, and named after its grape varietal). A large gathering followed mass in the church. Then the parade left the church to commemorate French victims of WWI & II at the memorial in front of the church. All these events were accompanied by a wonderful brass band with whom Guy Chaumont plays French horn!

Crowd near the altar of the church
People gathered in the church after mass

Aligote bottles on a table
Bottles of Aligote in front of the altar

The marching band preparing for the parade


The parade, with the whole crowd following, went next down the hill to the Chaumont family cellars, established by Guy’s father after WWII. A large tent had been erected to protect us from light rain, and it was filled with more wine and delicacies, including the ever-present brioche and Aligote! We then moved to more serious sparkling wine from the Chaumont family. The cellars were also sparkling and exhibits of winemaking tools were arranged outside. We talked and celebrated for a couple of hours before going back up the hill to the evening banquet for about 150 family members and close friends of the Society.

Carrying the statue on its pallet
Guy, proudly carrying the statue of St. Vincent

The banquet was excellent, as you would expect in Burgundy, and accompanied by special bottles of all types and vintages, supplied by the attendees. Each course began with a fanfare from the brass band and a description of the dish to follow. Each one was followed by dancing to the excellent and eclectic music of a local DJ. We had Cassolette de St. Jacques a la Provencale with some excellent Montrachets and Cortons, and stuffed duck leg with mushrooms, accompanied by many, many reds, including 1955 Clos St. Denis, 1957 Aloxe Corton, 1964 Corton Grand Cru, etc, etc. Each table had their own particular bottles, but there was much sharing and walking around. We finally ended after midnight with hot onion soup to fortify us for the journey home.

Guy Chaumont in the empty banquet hall
The hall before and during the banquet
Wine being poured during the banquet

I left early the next day for the next stage of my journey to Spain and Southern France, of which more photos will follow on our site. However, the Celebration of St. Vincent in St. Desert was certainly the highlight of this trip to Europe and I’ll remember it for many years. The fellowship all day was very warm and the banquet was a great time to enjoy the company of my French friends.

~Paul Chartrand

Statue of St. Vincent
Statue of St. Vincent

Man holding a basket of brioche
A basket of brioche


Outside view of the church
The village church

A small procession carrying the statue
The procession after leaving the church


A crowd of people entering a tent

A tent outside the cellars

Neatly arranged glasses of white wine
Wine!

A wine press
Winemaking equipment on display

Some sort of crazy frame/box used in winemaking


Empty bottles, after a long day
Table covered in empty wine bottles

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