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CHICAGO, IL. – Tasting Languedoc wines on the 33rd floor overlooking Lake Michigan isn’t a bad way to spend a Tuesday afternoon.

Retailers sample Languedoc wines at W. Lakeshore, Chicago

That was just what I did April 3 in downtown Windy City participating in one of three U.S. L’Aventure Languedoc tastings with U.S. distributors of Languedoc wines. The event is geared mostly for retailers and other buyers but it’s educational and interesting to hear what retailers are looking for and what importers, winemakers, and Languedoc leaders think retailers should be looking for when promoting Languedoc wines.

I’m starting to get more invitations of this nature but it’s hard for me to justify taking a day off work, the cost of parking, the drive, hotel, etc. But meeting a good friend for dinner was enough for a little ‘what the heck’ trip to Chicago.

I spent a week in the Languedoc in January learning about organic wines. The wines I tasted were made almost exclusively with traditional methods and presented by 10 different distributors.

I left again convinced of the tremendous quality for value the Languedoc offers winos.

The reds are full bodied and rich, the unusual whites are crisp and often soft on the palate. The Roses, right next door to Provence, are soft but perfect for summer sipping.

I’m not a big sparking fan and left generally unimpressed with the sparklers, but one strike is a pretty good batting average.

What most impressed me, though, was the education session put on by the Benson Marketing Group which promotes Languedoc wines. Account executive David Cohn told me his company likes to include an education component and not just a wine tasting. He’s right. I’m sometimes shocked how little retailers know about a given region or its wines. Now, no retailer can be an expert of all the world’s wine regions but a specialty tasting like this one makes sense when it includes an education component.

Two retailers joined Frederic Jeanjean, President of the Languedoc AOC, to talk not just about the wines and the region, but also how the wines should be promoted or presented to consumers.

Languedoc wines are a great value, most drinking well above that magic $12-$16 range you’ll pay.

Nice view of Lake Michigan, Navy Pier from 33rd floor.

Barbara Glunz, from one of Chicago’s oldest wine shops – the House of Glunz, urged retailers to learn more. “I think people come to us because they want to learn something,” she said. “People love a wine with a story. And if they learn something they’ll want to come back to see what else you know.”

Discussion including pronouncing the French names, the always-controversial topic of French wine labeling was part of the 45-minute session.

“We don’t want to copy the other appelations,” Jeanjean said. “We want to be unique. Even though we were one of the first regions of the world to produce wine with the Romans, we are young. This is our Renaissance period.”

Here are some labels I tasted and thought were standouts:

Chateau des Karantas Languedoc – The Karantas wines from the La Clape region are affordably priced and really nicely-balanced, full-bodied wines. They are distributed by Carroll Distributors in Indiana.

Gerard Bertrand Wines – Bertrand was named European Winery of the Year by Wine Enthusiast and tasting a couple of the wines proved the accolades. I tasted my first-ever PicPoul wine at the Bertrand table and enjoyed the light and soft white.

Les Deux Rives CorbieresLex Deux Rives wines were consistently good from the white, rose through the Chateau d’Aussieres Corbieres which was the best red blend I tasted all day. This is another label widely distributed, including Indiana.

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