Surprises — good — with Pays d’Oc wines at lunch

I was kind of surprised at a luncheon last week to find that a former table-wine area of France has really grown up nicely. Several of the Pays d’Oc IGP wines I sampled were much finer than I had anticipated. This region (mainly in the Languedoc-Roussillon area) is also marketing their wines at a somewhat higher level, too: as more of the Pays d’Oc wines reach the US, they are targeting $10-$14 for many of their “entry level” wines, with some going a few dollars higher. Here are three of the wines that impressed me during our very French meal at Capsouto Freres in New York.

2010 La Forge Estate Sauvignon Blanc. One of the most successful wine and food pairings at this lunch: perfect with the Spinach Souffle. In fact, the pairing made both the food and the wine better. It’s a fairly low alcohol wine by current standards, at 12.5%. Floral and herbal aromas moved into the flavors, which had some sweetness. The palate and body showed more roundness than expected due to a touch of neutral oak. A light but longish finish had a persistent citric note.

2010 Domaine de Larzac Roussanne Chardonnay, surprised me by coming down on the flinty side of chardonnay – more austere than I had expected. Still, there was also some roundness, and the two grapes’ flavors were nicely integrated, and with balanced acidity.

2010 Domaine Gayda “Figure Libre” Cabernet Franc. Paired well with lamb and duck. Aromas of big, dark cherry made you want to put the wine in your mouth right away. A good idea, because the flavors did not turn out to be overly fruity, as might be expected. Structure and tannins were balanced, and there was a nice bite of acidity, too.