How do you choose a good local wine when there are literally hundreds to choose from? Over 4 years ago, Gregg Meesters turned from wine-drinker to wine-enthusiast and trained as a sommelier. He recently passed his WSET exam and gained the Languedoc-Roussillon Masters certificate. We thought he’d be a good person to ask for a few tasting tips when it comes to discovering wines of this wonderful region.
“Ok I admit, maybe the title isn’t exactly the way the saying goes, but when talking about Languedoc-Roussillon, it is the first thing that comes to my mind… Wine! And the reason for that is simple: it is the world’s largest wine producing area by volume: 12 million hectolitres of wine are produced here every year!!! No, you couldn’t drink that in this life and the next, or the next, or even the next… But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try!
So how do you go about finding and visiting nice wineries in this enormous ocean of wine? For me, and the rest of the team at Vin en Vacances, it’s a passion/hobby/job (yes, in that order), and a very satisfying one I might add. At Vin en Vacances, we take pride in finding the best possible wineries of the region to show people a good time, and like with everything, it is much easier when you’re in the game then when you’re on the side-line.
So here are a few tips to guide you in your quest for liquid gold.
1. Know what you like: every time you buy a bottle try to identify the wine. What grape(s) is it made of, what do you (dis-)like about it, and very important, where does it come from. If you know this you’ll know what to look for the next time (or avoid!) and you’re one step closer to finding your favourite Languedoc-Roussillon wine.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask: in a restaurant, in a wine shop, those people are there to help you find a bottle of wine you like. Don’t let yourself be intimidated by the lyric descriptions that some “professionals” tend to use. If you like a wine that reminds you of “sweaty socks”, just say so. Chances are they’ll know what you are talking about.
3. Big isn’t bad: big wineries like Gérard Bertrand or Paul Mas are a great help for the development of the region. They have the means to produce a number of wines where you can be sure to find a wine to your liking and that fits your budget.
4. Technology is your friend: you can find heaps of information out there if you’re planning a wine visit. Do they sell at the cellar? Do they offer visits? If they have a site in multiple languages, they will probably be able to help you out in English. Also apps on your smartphone like Vivino help you keep a database of the wines you’ve drunk. You no longer have to remember the wine, just put it in your database and look it up when you get home!
5. Pay to taste: paying for a tasting is a good thing and most wineries will drop the tasting fee if you buy a bottle. You should look at it as a compensation for their time rather than for the wine itself. Although most of the wine growers would love to spend all day discussing and tasting their wines with you for free, they simply don’t always have the time and as the saying goes, time is money. And if you didn’t like what you’ve tasted, you don’t feel obligated to buy a bottle!
6. Designated driver: most wineries make more than just one wine so you’ll soon be over the limit when you are tasting their whole range, so arrange who’ll be driving BEFORE you start tasting …
7. Fun for everyone: maybe not all your family members share your love for wine so either find other wine-lovers to go with you, or make it an exciting day out with something to see and do for the whole family.
That’s what we did last Sunday with our two young girls. We left Le Petit Viala for a visit to Domaine Saint Hilaire in Montagnac. They celebrate their 200th birthday this year and are organizing all sorts of events throughout the year. And while we enjoyed their wines and a food truck-lunch, the kids had a great time running around in the park, riding in the back of a truck and crossing Monty Pythons Bridge of Death!
And last but not least…
8. rely on the professionals, like our team, to guide you through the many well kept secrets the Languedoc-Roussillon has to offer. We drive you to a number of fantastic wineries and make sure you get a good taste of nothing but the best!”
If you would like to arrange a wine tour with Gregg – let us know below!