Import Selection: Marsanne, 1990. Reserve St. Martin

Les Vignerons du Val d’Orbieu is an association of shareholders formed in 1967. The Group’s members are all wine producers in the French Languedoc region. This vast wine growing area in the south of France, known as the Midi, is to French wine what the American Midwest wheat belt is to grain: it produces virtually half the wines of France.

Cultivated by the Romans some 2000 years ago, the region had enjoyed a reputation for quite decent wines, until the phylloxera parasite devastated the vineyards late last century (see WOMC Newsletter June ’91). In the after­math, the high-yield flatland vine­yards got replanted, while the hill­side vineyards were, for the most part, ignored. For nearly a centu­ry production there amounted to nothing much more than vast quantities of vin ordinaire.

The founder-members of the Val d’Orbieu association sought to establish amongst themselves an efficient, modern, joint operation. Their prime objective was a coher­ent strategy of product definition and quality control. With admira­ble foresight, they encouraged their vintners to concentrate efforts on planting “noble” grape varieties in the well-drained hilly areas.

Today, Les Vignerons du Val d’Orbieu is the leading cooperative wine producing group in France, offering finely-crafted, premium varietal wines at very attractive prices.

About five years ago, with re­gard to these progressive efforts, the French government awarded Appellation Controlee status to thousands of acres of Languedoc vineyards. This official recogni­tion of their now superior quality has placed much of the Midi’s Corbieres and Minervois sub-districts on a competitive par with Bordeaux and Rhone.

The noble Marsanne grape, from which our selection comes, is the predominant white varietal of the Rhone Valley. It produces a full-bodied dry white wine, and is responsible (with its sister grape, Roussanne) for that district’s greatest dry white wine, the rare Hermitage Blanc.

With a brilliant pale gold color this selection offers a complex, ap­petizing, tropical fruit nose. It is very full-bodied in the mouth with­out being too heavy, dry, but not astringent, smooth, and finishes clean, with nice fruit flavors lin­gering.

Serve chilled with baked fish, roast Cornish Hen, or a mild­ly spiced veal chop.

Cellaring Notes: Drink now and through early 1993.

Reviewed by Larry Tepper

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