Hecht & Bannier Languedoc Blanc 2012
Formed in 2002, Hecht et Bannier produces wines that are reference points for the Roussillon, Languedoc and Provence. Founders Gregory Hecht and François Bannier note: “To conserve the typical Mediterranean strength in our wines while preserving balance and crispness, this is our mantra for all the appellations we produce.” This cutting-edge firm is one of the south’s most exciting projects in recent memory, and promises to be a formidable player with dramatic impact in the region.
Hecht & Bannier is at the forefront of a revolution in quality in the diverse appellations of Roussillon, Languedoc and Provence. From Côtes du Roussillon Villages to Languedoc Red to Côtes de Provence Rosé, each of Hecht & Bannier’s wines is typically based on 5-10 different parcels found to be of exceptional quality. These blends are then vinified and bottled to best represent each appellation in the range.
All Hecht & Bannier crus are aged for two years in large, traditional “Demi Muids” (600L) wood barrels that insure preservation of fruit quality and impart “resistance” to the wines allowing them to age well. A portion of each wine is aged in neutral concrete vats to focus the expression of fruit and appellation.
The Wine Advocate June 30th, 2011, noted: “Gregory Hecht and François Bannier’s are living up to the challenge they set themselves, namely to render, as négociants…wines that can stand comparison with those of each respective appellation’s top estates.”
An extensive appellation producing a diverse selection of good-quality and value-priced wines, Languedoc-Roussillon is one of the world’s largest wine-producing region, spanning the Mediterranean coast from the Spanish border to Rhône. Languedoc forms the eastern half of the larger appellation, while Roussillon is in the west; the two actually have quite distinct personalities but are typically grouped together. Languedoc’s terrain is generally flat coastal plains, with a warm Mediterranean climate and a frequent risk of drought. Roussillon, on the other hand, is defined by the rugged Pyrenees mountains and near-constant sunshine.
Virtually every style of wine is made in this expansive region. Dry wines are often blends, and varietal choice is strongly influenced by the neighboring Rhône Valley. For reds and rosés, the primary grapes include Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, Cinsault, and Mourvèdre. White varieties include Grenache Blanc, Muscat, Ugni Blanc, Vermentino, Maccabéo, Clairette, Piquepoul and Bourbelenc.
International varieties are also planted in large numbers here, in particular Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. In Roussillon, excellent sweet wines are made from Muscat and Grenache in Rivesaltes, Banyuls and Maury. The key region for sparkling wines here is Limoux, where Blanquette de Limoux is believed to have been the first sparkling wine made in France, even before Champagne. Crémant de Limoux is produced in a more modern style.
With hundreds of white grape varieties to choose from, winemakers have the freedom to create a virtually endless assortment of blended wines. In many European regions, strict laws are in place determining the set of varieties that may be used, but in the New World, experimentation is permitted and encouraged. Blending can be utilized to enhance balance or create complexity, lending different layers of flavors and aromas. For example, a variety that creates a soft and full-bodied wine would do well combined with one that is more fragrant and naturally high in acidity. Sometimes small amounts of a particular variety are added to boost color or aromatics. Blending can take place before or after fermentation, with the latter, more popular option giving more control to the winemaker over the final qualities of the wine.