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In recent years, Minervois and neighboring appellations in the Rhône Valley have enjoyed a string of excellent vintages, but none better than 2012. For our money, Château Eulalie’s 2012 Plaisir d’Eulalie Minervois is the finest Plaisir to date, and considering the excellent quality of the 2010 and 2009 Plaisirs that says a lot. In many ways the 2012 Plaisir d’Eulalie combines the best of both of those exciting vintages. The 2012 offering mixes juicy, deep fruit flavors with rich, polished tannins, adding a certain flamboyance and intensity to the wine as it assures further development. The 2012 Plaisir is an intense, full-bodied wine that once again captures the heart and soul of the hallowed ground of Minervois (the Romans named this special place after their beloved goddess Minerva). With just a little aeration, it offers up an alluring bouquet of black cherry, fennel, violet, and dried Provencal herbs and flowers that evoke the scented, sun splashed countryside of Provence. What is even more pleasing is how the wine’s complex, constantly evolving bouquet seeps into the marrow of the wine and wells up onto the grateful palate. Full of juicy fruit flavors and ripe tannins, the 2012 Plaisir once again strikes the ideal balance between fruit and structure. For optimal enjoyment, we suggest serving the charming 2012 Château Eulalie Plaisir d’Eulalie at cool room temperature (60º-65º F) after affording it 15-20 minutes of aeration. Salut!
Although young and still quite fresh, the 2012 Château Sainte Eulalie Plaisir drinks beautifully already with little or no accompaniments. Yet, consuming the enticing 2012 Plaisir without the benefit of food would provide only half the pleasure, so we suggest pairing it with stews, grilled meats, and flavorful pastas. Chicken, beef, lamb, and pork dishes all provide splendid accompaniments to this wine. Some of our favorite pairings with the 2012 Plaisir d’Eulalie are pasta with white beans and vegetables and penne with grilled spicy sausages, peppers, and onions. Each of these dishes highlights the sensual side of Château Sainte Eulalie’s 2012 Plaisir. Roast pork tenderloin served with an herb encrusted black olive tapenade makes a splendid companion, too. In addition, this juicy Languedoc offering does equal justice to traditional Mediterranean favorites: tomato laden southern Italian favorites, Eggplant Parmigiana, lasagna, and of course pizza. In fact, most dishes made with fresh tomatoes, herbs, and wild mushrooms are good bets to serve with this wine. Hummus with pesto and red pepper provides another tasty pairing. Salami, pepperoni, soppressata, and other smoked meats offer superb pairings as well, especially in the company of aged, hard cheeses. Enjoy!
Château Sainte Eulalie has quickly become one of our favorite properties in the South of France. Under the ownership of Laurent and Isabelle Coustal, Château Sainte Eulalie has joined the top echelon of Languedoc producers. The Coustals are originally from Bordeaux where Laurent continues to work. This dynamic couple has resurrected and restored the ancient Minervois vineyards surrounding their domaine, including the old vines at Château Eulalie. The Coustals grow Syrah, Grenache, and Carignan, the three traditional and most important grape varietals of Languedoc.
Isabelle Coustal serves as the winemaker and artisan in residence at Château Sainte Eulalie. She fashions several wines from old vines, including Plaisir d’Eulalie and La Cantilène. Both red wines spring from old vines from some of the Languedoc’s most renowned terroirs. Plaisir d’Eulalie is picked entirely by hand and bottled unfiltered in order to preserve its freshness and rich, haunting flavors. After more than a decade of outstanding work at Château Eulalie, Madame Coustal has earned her reputation as one of Languedoc’s premier winemakers.
Languedoc is the world’s largest single viticultural area, encompassing many appellations and distinctive sub regions – all of which are capable of producing fine wine. This sprawling viticultural wonderland stretches all the way from the Spanish border in the southwest, within sight of the towering Pyrenees, to the banks of the Rhône River far to the northeast. Languedoc cuts a huge swath of dry coastal plain and sheltered mountains from which flow the guts and the glory of French viticulture.
The Languedoc, whose name is synonymous with the language of southern France, was the first part of ancient Gaul to be extensively planted to the vine. And long before the Romans and Caesar’s legions had subdued the Gallic tribes, wine was big business in Languedoc. The Phoenicians passed this way, and not surprisingly the region’s beauty and superb conditions for the cultivation of the vine did not escape the first Greek colonists who planted vines there, making Languedoc the cradle of French viticulture in the fifth century BC. For nearly two thousand years, Languedoc remained the “big dog” and premier purveyor of wine to France and the world. Sadly, the glory of France’s most historic wine region – the birthplace of troubadours and Provencal, the lyrical language of poetry – ended in the 19th century with the advent of phylloxera.
Phylloxera, the most dreaded of all vine diseases because it attacks the roots and systematically sucks the life out of a vine, devastated the vineyards of France in the 19th century, targeting Languedoc as its prime host. Following the phylloxera outbreak, the Languedoc lost most of its premier hillside vineyards, old vines and premium varietals. Subsequent replanting was undertaken using inferior grape varietals that would quickly bring high yields and much needed cash. Moreover, the great hillside vineyards descended to the plains, where soil, drainage and exposure (terroir) were inferior to the older, loftier heights of legend and lore. Unfortunately, throughout the late 19th century and most of the 20th century as well, the Languedoc languished in the doldrums of viticultural obscurity, unless of course one considers every day plonk as a beverage of choice. Once the proud bastion of French viticultural excellence, the Languedoc became the world’s major source of huge quantities of insipid wines, whose main virtues were none other than high alcohol and cheap prices – all of which were subsidized by the French government.
Today, the Languedoc is returning to its former glory. The worldwide demand for cheap, coarse wine no longer exists; the emphasis today is on quality rather than quantity. In addition, the only official incentive for grape growers is to plant premium varietals, move back to the ancient hillside sites, and produce less wine of greater quality. Since the 1970s that is exactly what has been happening, which has led viticulturalists and critics alike to proclaim a veritable Renaissance in the Languedoc, especially in the favored appellations of Minervois, Corbières, Pic St. Loup, and several other choice hillside vineyards of the Languedoc that have produced fine wine for millennia.
Château Sainte Eulalie’s 2012 Plaisir d’Eulalie Minervois is a natural with all types of cheeses from cow, goat or sheep’s milk. Pecorino, Brie, and mild Chèvre all pair beautifully with Isabelle Coustal’s memorable 2012 Plaisir d’Eulalie. Add some toasted walnuts to the cheese selection and you’ll almost certainly need to have an extra bottle of Château Eulalie’s Plaisir on hand because no one will want to leave the party. For more specific wine and cheese pairings or to make an inquiry regarding the world’s finest cheeses, visit us at www.cheesemonthclub.com and enjoy the exciting world of international cheeses.
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