Wine Culture Magazine

That herbal note in your wine? Could be the perfume of wild sage and thyme

Delicious-smelling herbs live in the air, food and wine of southern France. Getty Images photo

The French seem to have all the fun. Not only do they have an uncanny way of turning plain-sounding English words into poetry, but swoon-worthy aromas float naturally through the air here, infusing wine with the savoury herbal notes known as “garrigue.”

When you think of scrubland-dotted wine regions, you might think of the Mediterranean-sun-drenched hillsides of southern France. Why wouldn’t you? Peppered along limestone cliffs, fragrant bushes of lavender, sage, rosemary, juniper and thyme grow nestled close to each other, often surrounding a green oak tree or “chêne vert.” This mélange of herbs and scents mixed in with dusty soil is called garrigue (pronounced “ga-reeg). These delicious-smelling herbs live in the air, food and wine—lingering on both the nose and palate.

The word originated in the ancient Provençal language, the langue d’Oc, and garrigue grows abundantly throughout Provence and Languedoc-Roussillon, though in some regions it’s also known as “maquis.” But garrigue is not only a French tasting note. These flavours and aromas exist in wines from Greece, Italy, Spain, Australia and even British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley where, on a warm summer day, the sunlit roads between Oliver and Osoyoos are fragrant with sage and

These flavours are synonymous with red wines of the world, especially those that grow so well in southern France, such as Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre. In the Spanish wine section, look for Monastrell-dominated blends, and in Australian wines, search for GSM (Grenache-Syrah-Mourvèdre). Here in B.C., there are great examples of herb-scented Syrah-based wines to sip and savour.

As autumn and sweater weather approaches, consider exploring B.C., French, Spanish and Australian red wines to find aromas and flavours of garrigue in your glass. What you find might fascinate, surprise and delight you. 

Four garrigue-scented wines to try

Stag’s Hollow Amalia Vineyard Syrah
(Okanagan Valley, $27) Black pepper, chewing tobacco, thyme, blackberry and bramble.

Domaine Lafage Bastide Miraflors Syrah Grenache 2017
(Côtes Catalanes, France, $26.99) Raspberry, wild fennel, white pepper and black licorice.

Las Hermanas Monastrell Organic
(Jumilla, Spain, $12.99) Wild cherry, sagebrush and plum.

Peter Lehmann “The Barossan” Shiraz 2017
(Barossa, $22.99) Maraschino cherry, black pepper, lavender and thyme.

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