Castelmaure, Corbieres AOP, Languedoc-Roussillon, France, 2012, 13.5% abv, US$9.99

Corbières is an Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) (or since 2012, Appellation d’origine protegee, AOP) for wine in France’s Languedoc-Roussillon region.

Located in the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains, near Narbonne and close to the France-Spain border, it’s the region’s largest AOC, and in 2005 was responsible for 46% of the region’s total wine production. About 12,000 ha of vines are planted there with red wine dominating production at 95%. Whites and roses make up the remaining 5% of wines produced.

There is much debate in France regarding exactly who was first to grow and/or introduce vines to this region – the Romans, Greek or Gaul. But all involved agree the first vineyards themselves were in Narbonne in 125 BC. So much wine was produced here it was actually transported to Ancient Rome.

Carignan is the most common red grape variety and produces dense, herbal wines followed by Grenache, Syrah and lesser-known Liedoner Pelut and Mourvedre gaining in popularity. The white wines produced are most frequently made from grapes that are curiosities to most including Bourboulenc, Macabeo, Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Muscat, Picpoul, Terret, Marsanne, Roussanne and Rolle. The region also boasts Limoux, a sparkling wine named for the centre it comes from that predates the bubbly made in Champagne.

Due to its size and geography, Corbières encompasses an enormous variety of soil types and microclimates. The most admired one being ‘Corbieres Boutenac’ or ‘Golden Triangle’ which has a limestone base with poor soils perfect for grape growing. The region has France’s sunniest climate and most of its quality vineyards have some elevation here where the Atlantic’s Tramontane winds aerate the grapes and provide protection from rot and other diseases. Yields are very low – mostly because of the arid climate – and this helps with the production of the intensely herbal wines.

This wine was made and bottled at a local cooperative, Les Vins du Littoral Mediterraneen in St. Felix de Lodez. Coops bottle most of the wines in this region.

This wine is clear and bright medium ruby with legs. On the nose it’s clean and developing with medium plus intense aromas of black fruit – blackberry and currant – black tea, meaty garrigue and herbal notes.

The palate is dry with medium plus acidity, medium plus tannins with slight grip, medium body and medium plus alcohol. The medium plus intense flavour characteristics include black currant, blackberry, Lapsang-Souchong tea, dry herbs (rosemary, sage and thyme), salami and the finish is medium.

This wine is WSET ‘Good’. The fruit concentration, acidity, tannic structure and finish are all very good but the wine escapes a higher designation because it’s slightly hot on the finish and the alcohol has not been integrated completely into the other components. The body is slightly light at only medium. That said, it’s a smoking deal at only US$9.99 a bottle. At that price, don’t hold, drink now and enjoy this great daily drinker.

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