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Finding the Right Words for the Red Wines of Languedoc

Nonetheless, words like rustic are useful even if only as a device for remembering what I was thinking as I drank the wine, which makes it necessary to explain further in plainer language.

The word “rustic” is derived from the Latin rusticus, which means “the country.” It was originally used to describe wines that lacked refinement, that were simple and rough. In our modern age, where the mainstream is full of soulless, overly polished wines, rustic has also come to connote a sort of handmade distinctiveness. Again, context is everything.

As I do each month, I suggested three bottles, to be consumed with family or friends with meals in a relaxed setting. The three Languedoc reds were: Domaine d’Aupilhac Languedoc Lou Maset 2018, Domaine Faillenc Sainte Marie Corbières Rouge 2019 and Domaine de l’Hortus Pic Saint Loup Bergerie Classique Rouge 2019.

The d’Aupilhac was the wine that had me thinking rustic — I loved it. It was a once-typical Languedoc blend, 40 percent grenache, 40 percent cinsault and 10 percent each of carignan and mourvèdre; dry, with flavors of dark and red fruits and an underlying herbal edge, with tannins that outweighed the density and concentration of the wine but were not overwhelming.

What made it rustic to me? The herbal qualities and the tannins, which made it feel a bit rough, and very much of the Languedoc. The wine was refreshing and energetic, and it was my favorite of the three bottles.

The Faillenc Sainte Marie also seemed a tad rustic. It was mildly herbal, with rough tannins, and lively, but it was a good deal more sweetly fruity than the d’Aupilhac.

It might have been its blend of grapes — equal thirds syrah, grenache and cinsault. But more likely it was the alcohol level, 14 percent as against d’Aupilhac’s 12 percent. The increased ripeness of the grapes results in a higher sugar level, which, when fermented, means more alcohol. The sweet fruit made it seem slightly less distinctive than the d’Aupilhac.

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