In preparation for making Moroccan Lamb & Cherry Tagine, I went looking for a wine that could complement the dish’s spicy and sweet nature. I employed similar prowess when I was searching for a mate of my own – someone to complement and appreciate the same in me. I succeeded… 

I could have pulled a steady-as-the-sun zinfandel, but wanted to try something new, get something special… frankly, I wanted Mediterranean. (The metaphor is over, by the way. Joel is Dutch.) My mind wandered to little seaside cafes along the French and Spanish coasts serving food reflective of their own heritages, but also influenced by the spices and peculiarities of the countries across the water.

I did a little research and determined that a red from The Languedoc-Roussillon would do well. This French region stretches along the Mediterranean coastline, creeps up along the Spanish border for a ways, and then butts against the Rhone on its northeast side, forming a crescent shape. The Languedoc is one of if not the oldest grape-growing region in France, first tended to by Romans between 150 and 125 B.C. Over the centuries (millennia, really), the region focused on quantity instead of quality and was known dismissively as a producer of table wine. That has been changing. The region is returning to its roots, no pun intended, and focusing on Grenache instead of the high-yield grapes that ousted Grencahe years and years ago. Good wines are now coming about and the region is finally forming its own identity, embracing its inherent power and potential as opposed to grappling with foreign fruit and chasing noveau riche success through the imitation of trendy techniques.

Languedoc-Roussillon encompasses flat and coastal, as well as hilly and mountainous terroir. The wine I selected, a Grenache-Carignan blend from Gerard Bertrand, is from the Fitou AOC. The principal grape here is still carignan, and wines must be at least 40% of such to carry the appellation. Grenache, mourvedre and syrah are the usual second fiddles.

Joel says the nose of this wine is cut grass and roses. I say cherry and other red fruit. So, there you have it…not at all. Although, according to my research an aroma of rose petal is indicative of red wines from this region. Did I mention my husband is Paul Giamatti?

On the palate this is a soft and well-rounded wine. Next to the piquant tartness of the tagine, it was like drinking a satin pillow. It is herbaceous with a very, very subtle spice at the tail end, and a good, long finish.

 It instantly carried me to a table on the terrace of a cliff-side café overlooking the Mediterranean. Mission accomplished. 

Obviously, I recommend drinking it with spicy dishes and/or lamb – while daydreaming.