In France, even the tourist destinations are fun. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. And I’m looking at you, Carcassonne, you fortified medieval village with your impressive towers and walls … and your wine!
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My wife and I rolled into Carcassonne at lunch time years ago, taking a quick break on a long drive on the autoroute across southwestern France from Avignon to Bordeaux. I didn’t know quite what to expect, but the first view of the ancient city’s impressive stone walls and round towers with conical points was beyond impressive.
It was a cool spring day and there wasn’t a tour bus in sight at the moment, although the large parking area was more than sufficient to accommodate them. The town was beyond interesting, with its walls and towers and ancient stone. The cassoulet at a large restaurant on the main square was warm and filling.
So even if the place signaled its affection for tourists with its English menus and English-speaking servers, any impulse to liken Carcassonne to Epcot disappeared when we remembered that Carcassonne is real. The city is recognized as a UNESCO Heritage Site, and these stone structures really are many centuries old.
“Since the pre-Roman period,” UNESCO writes of the old city, “a fortified settlement has existed on the hill where Carcassonne now stands. In its present form it is an outstanding example of a medieval fortified town, with its massive defences encircling the castle and the surrounding buildings, its streets and its fine Gothic cathedral. Carcassonne is also of exceptional importance because of the lengthy restoration campaign undertaken by Viollet-le-Duc, one of the founders of the modern science of conservation.”
Carcassone. It lives on in memory. And those memories come rushing back when I have the chance to enjoy a wine from the region. Saint-Hilaire Blanquette de Limoux Brut, for instance, an excellent, affordable sparkler that I often recommend, comes from Limoux, just to the southwest of Carcassone.
Limoux is covered in the broader Cité de Carcassonne IGP (protected wine producing region), the new European title for France’s old Vin de Pays (“wine of the country”). The region takes in parts of other familiar Languedoc appellations surrounding the walled city including Cabardes, Minervois, and Corbierès.
As an IGP, Cité de Carcassonne may use grapes from any of the appellations with which it shares land, but it’s not bound by the same regulations governing the grape varieties and wine-making procedures that may be used. And IGP wines are often, but not always, less expensive.
Around half of all wines that are produced under the IGP are red blends, according to Wine-Searcher’s info page, and most of the rest are rosé. White wines make up only a tiny percentage. The region’s wines may include familiar varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Chardonnay, as well as more typical grapes of Languedoc including Grenache, Carignan, Picpoul, and Syrah.
If the region isn’t widely known for its wine, that doesn’t slow down local pride. “Sometimes, when a place so steeped in history lives alongside a wine culture,” writes the French wine merchant Pierre Tailleur de Vins, the place bestows its name upon the wine. “This is the case,” Pierre writes, “with the IGP Cité de Carcassonne. Renowned throughout the world, it was only natural for the winemakers to baptize their wines by the same name. Vines surround the city and their wines are its very special ambassadors.”
According to Wine-Searcher.com, critics have rated our featured wine this week – Domaine Laroque 2019 Cité de Carcassonne – as the best available from IGP Cité de Carcassonne.
What’s more, at $10 to $12 at most U.S. merchants, this wine represents outstanding value as measured by Wine-Searcher’s Quality Price Ratio. I absolutely agree! It’s one of the best bargain wines of the year so far. You’ll find my tasting notes below.
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Today’s Tasting Report
Domaine Laroque 2019 Cité de Carcassonne ($10.99)
Labeled 100% Cabernet Franc and “grown in high-altitude vineyards” in the region around the historic French castle village Carcassonne, Laroque Cabernet Franc is a dark reddish-purple wine with delicious if subtle red-berry aromas backed up by the “green” herbal notes typical of Cab Franc and an earthy background perhaps attributable to it being fermented (but not aged) in fresh oak. On the palate it’s mouth-filling and tart, brisk acidity and lasting astringent tannins surrounding good red-berry fruit that lingers. Moderate 13% alcohol. U.S. importer: Aquitaine Wine USA LLC, Berkeley, Calif.; a Jean-Christophe Calvet Selection. (Feb. 21, 2022)
FOOD MATCH: The back label suggests, rather broadly, pairing it with Mediterranean cuisine, pasta, lamb, chicken, pizzas and hamburgers, all of which makes sense. It went very well with a full-flavored pasta with feta and green olives recipe posted in The New York Times last month by Emily Weinstein. (Paywall.)
WHEN TO DRINK: This well structured and tannic cab franc, protected by a taint-free DIAM technical cork, should remain good to drink and perhaps evolve under proper cellar conditions for five or even 10 years.
Wine-Searcher.com’s $12 average U.S. retail matches my local price. It’s an excellent value.
Domaine Laroque’s US importer provides this extensive document about the wine.
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:
Check prices and find vendors for Laroque Cité de Carcassonne on Wine-Searcher.com.
Follow this Wine-Searcher link to find information and listings for dozens of other wines from IGP Cití de Carcassonne.
This Wine-Searcher link will take you on a tour of Cabernet Franc and representative wines from around the world.
Wine Focus February 2022:
Syrah & Open that Bottle MONTH!
Bring your Syrah and join us in Wine Focus in our WineLovers Discussion Group in February, as we combine the topics: Syrah, since Syrah day is February 16; and Open that Bottle Night. Open that Bottle Night is actually February 26, but we like to take the whole month to choose “that bottle” that’s been hanging around your cellar or wine rack for a long time, waiting for just the right occasion. This is the occasion! Just go ahead and open it.
You are welcome to join us! Check in at Wine Focus February 2022, and say hello!
Wine-Searcher.com is the place to go online if you want to find where to buy a particular wine that interests you. What’s more, Wine-Searcher.com offers so much more. It’s well worth a visit just to discover its many features, including its popular list of the world’s Top 10 Best Value Wines.
Good wines we’ve tried under $10.99!
Want tips to still more good, inexpensive wines? Here are Wine-Searcher links to vendors and prices for a bunch more wines for $10.99 or less that I’ve told you about in recent years. In some cases the prices may have risen over the $10.99 mark since I reviewed them, but they should still be excellent bargains. Please tell us about your favorites!
- Laroque Cité de Carcassonne
- Famille Perrin 2019 “La Vielle Ferme” Rouge ($7.99)
- Querceto 2019 Chianti ($10.99)
- Porto Kopke Fine Ruby and Tawny Port ($9.99/375ml)
- La Fiera 2016 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo ($8.99)
- La Vieille Ferme Vin de France Rosé ($8.99)
- La Fiera Montepulciano d’Abruzzo ($8.99)
- Laroque Cité de Carcassonne Cabernet Franc ($9.99)
- Domaine de Pouy 2016 Côtes de Gascogne ($7.99)
- Alamos Mendoza Malbec ($9.99)
- Caposaldo Chianti ($8.99)
- d’Arenberg McLaren Vale “The Stump Jump” ($9.99)
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