Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Au Revoir, Languedoc!

Our last full day in Montpellier…a day for packing and cleaning. We’ve time to roam around the old city centre once more. It’s become a favourite place to wander and, even today, we discover streets and alleys that we haven’t visited yet.

Along one of these new-to-us alleys, we find some small restaurants and pick one, Le Prince de Minorque, with tables out in the alley, for lunch. It’s the last day, so we go for a couple of classics: Michèle takes Steak-Frites and I go for the Duck Confit Parmentière.

We select a bottle of Clos de Clapisses 2007, Vin du Pays Coteaux du Salagou, 12.5% ABV, produced by Bruno Peyre in Octon (60 kilometres east of Montpellier). It’s 100% Carignan, harvested by hand. Although growers cut its production by 2/3 over the past 20 years, Carignan still is the most planted grape variety in Languedoc. But it really gets no respect. It has very high yields, making a lot of very ordinary wine. With its deep colour and rustic tannins, winemakers traditionally use it as a blending grape. But some young winemakers are trying to rescue Carignan from the depths of contempt. This wine has aromas of red fruit (carbonic maceration), dried herbs (the Garrigue), and liquorice. Definite tannins but not aggressive. Good length. Excellent with both the steak and the duck. Keep up the good work, Bruno!

For dessert, two more classics: Crème Brûlée and melting chocolate cake. With two espressos, it’s a perfect final lunch.

Ah…and dinner? Dinner is with Bob and Nathalie at Les Vignes, also in the old city centre. The aperitif is at our apartment; it’s the L’Etincelle 2008 that we bought at Mas Cal Demoura. Delicious.

At the restaurant, for appetizer we take foie gras and lobster raviolis. With these two appetizers I chose a Muscat Sec 2008, Vin de Pays D’Oc, 13.5% ABV, produced by Domaine de Valcyre Benezech in Valflaunès, 25 kilometres straight north of Montpellier. I’m usually pretty good (yet modest) with matching wine with food, and I like to stretch the envelope, but this wine doesn’t work at all. It turns out to be very dry, and I was expecting something at least a bit off-dry. (Yes, I know that “sec” means “dry”.) You know, you want the restaurant sommelier to steer you in a better direction but sometimes, you don’t ask, they don’t tell. It’s through our mistakes that we gain wisdom.

For the mains, most of us take the filet de Taureau de Camargue, with a thyme sauce and cèpes risotto. For a wine, I have a good idea but, this time, I ask the sommelier for some advice! Maybe there’s a hidden treasure on the list? She suggests Clos Sorian 2005, Coteaux de Languedoc, 13% ABV produced by Alain Martin in St-Bauzille-de-la-Sylve, 40 kilometres due west of Montpellier. A blend of Grenache and Syrah, it has aromas of blackberry, garrigue, sweet spices, and liquorice. Good acidity and soft tannins to balance the fruit. Great with the bull.

A marvellous end to a fantastic trip. Merci, Languedoc!

For photo highlights, go to http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=10627&id=100000148392134&l=ddc51dd8ba

P.S. Through our four weeks in Montpellier, it didn’t rain once (although the rain caught us one day outside of Montpellier). As our plane takes off to leave, the rain begins to fall. Montpellier gets 40 mm of rain that day.

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