By: Nicole Campbell

Despite spending the last 3 months living in Bordeaux drinking and living a French dream, I had yet to explore France’s other wine regions. A typical Torontonian it seemed like I was living in the centre of it all and that I would get to those other regions eventualllllly.

Eventually has finally come with a week-long trip through France culminating in this weekend’s upcoming Hospice de Beaune. Starting from Bordeaux our first stop was Languedoc, in the south of France.

A Languedoc town.

Languedoc is famous for making huge volumes of mediocre wine, mostly sold as table wine quickly sopped up by thirsty French men. Those thirsty French are feeling less soif these days; in the 1960s the average French adult consumed three big glasses of wine a day, today that number is closer to one. This has meant big problems for many Languedoc properties struggling with huge volumes and dwindling demand.

Thankfully, despite the regions problems there are some producers making innovative, delicious wine at phenomenal prices. One of those producers is Laurent Miquel whose family has been making wine for 8 generations. I don’t have to tell you how great the wines are, you can read all about it here and here and here. The wines have also made it into the LCBO and have got some great local press.

What I can tell you is how special it was to visit his new property, Chateau des Auzines.

over the bridge and up up up.

Auzine is located in the hills of Corbieres, over an ancient bridge and through winding roads of lush greenery. We were greeted by Neasa Miquel, Laurent’s utterly charming Irish wife and the marketing director at Laurent Miquel. Neasa is the antithesis of the stuffy wine-snob: a warm and knowledgeable professional, humble and down-to-earth. While Laurent was busy in Japan sell, sell, selling (the life of a traveling winemaker), Neasa spent the day showing us the property, taking us through a tasting and cooking us a fantastic cassoulet dinner as we warmed our cold hands by the fire- using old vines as wood, no less.

Neasa and me (plus Syrah the dog).

Neasa started by giving us a tour of the property along with Laurent’s father Henri, who manages the winery with Laurent. The chateau, winemaking facilities and vineyards were stunning and completely different than the comparatively stark landscapes in Bordeaux.

Neasa and Laurent bought Auzines in 2008. The property encompasses over 200 hectares of rocky land filled with hills, vineyards and trees. Since 08 they have torn up fields of old vines, moved or crushed giant rocks, put up a fence to ward off wild boars with an appetite for grapes and have plans for a man-made lake to solve the problem of too-dry soils.  Then there is the task of replanting: along with their signature grapes Syrah and Viognier, the land will be planted with traditional Spanish white grape Albarino- who says there is no passion left in winemaking? This just may be France’s first wide-scale Albarino vineyard, and with Languedoc on the edge of Spain it is both playful and logical. Even the French here is spoken with a Spanish twang that makes it seem other-worldly (see: I could not understand a word).

I was completely impressed with the quality of wines we tasted at prices unheard of in Bordeaux (surprise, surprise). Laurent Miquel and Les Auzines is certainly a winery to watch as they continue to grow and develop.

The Chateau.

The vineyard views.

Henri picking us strange fruit none of us could identify.

French 'garrigue' (herbs) grow everywhere, imparting the wines with their scent and flavours. Some wild thyme.

The properties rocky soils.

Touring the vines: Neasa, me, Steven (@liffordwine Grand Fromage) and Henri.

Tasting with Neasa.

One of many Laurent Miquel bottles opened...

Red teeth, happy people.

Nicole Campbell is a wine blogger and
all around worker bee for Lifford Wine Agency, Ontario’s
largest supplier of wine to the hospitality industry. Currently living in
Bordeaux, getting first hand experience as a stagiaire for negotiant
Compagnie Medocaine. Follow her on twitter @liffordnicole.