Category Archives: Food and Drink

French wines: Cotes de Malepère

The walled city of Carcassonne, a major touris...

Carcassonne (Image via Wikipedia)

Popular with tourists and people – often from the UK – looking for a holiday or retirement home, L’Aude in the Languedoc region of France boasts two extremely pleasant wines. Côtes de Malepère refers to an area lying to the south-west of Carcassonne and northwest of Limoux (famous for its cheap bubbly Blanquette de Limoux).

Indeed, Côtes de Malepère wine has been judged of sufficiently high quality to be officially declared an Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) as of 11 November 2006. Having attended the annual festival La ronde du Malepère for several years and seen, or rather tasted, for myself the quality of the wines on offer, I must say it was entirely deserved.

If you’re in the area at any time, you can always visit the various producers to taste their wines, but if you happen to be in the area during the month of October I highly recommend taking time to go to the Ronde du Malepère, if ever it starts back up again. Alas, it’s currently on hold.

La ronde du Malepère was not just a wine tasting event: there were open-air restaurants, a giant wine press providing free – and delicious – freshly-pressed grape juice (children love this), open-air restaurants, all sorts of local produce and dishes (there was this amazing raisin and almond cake, all light and fluffy, and crying out to be devoured and washed down with a cup of good coffee), exhibitions by local craftsmen, with extra ambiance supplied by roving brass bands (bandas) in varying states of inebriation as tradition demands. Held in a different, highly picturesque village in the area each time, so it’s a good idea to bring your camera as well.

French Wines: Fronton AC

Fronton is considered to be the local wine for Toulouse, although most of the land given over to the appellation is closer to Montauban, some 70 km to the north.

Traditionally made with at least 50% volume of the local Negrette grape (blended with Grenache, Syrah, or other varieties), these wines were reportedly used, in the bad old days before there were rules about this sort of cheating, to improve the quality of Bordeaux wines – and in some cases, actually sold {as} Bordeaux wine. Since the regulatory foot has been put down, the quality of Bordeaux wine has improved, because it had to if they wanted to preserve their reputation and sales, and Fronton AC (previously Côtes du Frontonnais) has become more widely appreciated in its own right.

It’s a wine best drunk fairly young, between 2 and 5 years of age for the reds. Being relatively light, yet fruity, it goes well with summer meals. The traditional colours are red and rosé, although some producers also make a white wine.

My personal favourites are:

  • The cooperative Cave de Fronton, particularly for its Comte de Negret brand red wines
  • Château Bouissel, who make a delightful rosé
  • SARL Vigouroux, who produce a surprisingly good sweet white wine (especially surprising as I don’t like sweet wines as a rule), with some very good reds and rosés to boot

There are other, quite reputable, producers whose wines may be encountered in restaurants throughout the area. Some may be found as far abroad as Paris. I find their wines pleasant, but lacking the extra something of the three I have mentioned above.

There are also a number of young, highly dedicated, producers who are making serious efforts to create top quality wines, and some of them will almost certainly be crowned with critical acclaim in a few years’ time. However, my opinion after tasting a number of these wines at the Saveurs du Frontonnais 2005 show was that their wines had not yet achieved the proper balance. A definite case of “watch this space”.