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The wine-producing area of Languedoc-Roussillon, with a vinous history dating back 2,600 years, extends from the Mediterranean in the east to Atlantic influences in the west where cooler temperatures and moisture-laden winds result in wines whose style is somewhat lighter with higher acidity. While red wines dominate production white wine is also made in some quantity including some sparkling wines.

Wines of the Languedoc

vineyard near the mediterranean sea in the banyuls appellationThe wines produced in the Languedoc have benefitted, together with wine-drinkers, from a dynamic wine revolution in the last three decades. Much of the eastern Languedoc has a history of swelling the former European Union wine lake. Government grants were formerly provided for grape growers and wine-makers to produce wine that few people outside of a loyal local customer base wanted to drink. In fact much was converted into industrial alcohol. Total wine production fell from 29 million hectoliters in 1990 to 11 million in 2010 and between 2005 and 2009 almost 20% of the vines growing in the eastern fertile lowland areas were pulled up.

The early pioneers in this quality revolution included Australians who recognised the potential of the climate and soils of this part of France were capable of producing wines of a much higher quality than had hitherto been realised. Unsurprisingly their efforts caused some dissatisfaction amongst locals, and even the vandalisation of some chais until quite recently, but the reception that these wines received from critics and consumers alike gave impetus to a new focus on quality. Although many of the new wines were then classed as Vin de Pays, now referred to as wines of Indication Geographique Protégée (IGP) which means that its origin is protected and governed by certain regulations, the region's AOC wines have also inproved in quality. Whilst historically the Carignan grape was dominant for red wine production in the Languedoc there is an increasing emphasis on other varieties such as Grenache and also Syrah which is being planted more widely especially at higher altitudes.

The Wines of Western Languedoc

The AOC wines of the western Languedoc include some familiar names such as Minervois and the tougher and more rustic style of Corbières which is the biggest producer of AOC wines in the whole of Languedoc-Roussillon. One of the most rewarding appellation is that of Fitou whose Mont Tauch co-operative has done so much to raise the profile of its wines. Limoux, south of Carcasonne, is the appellation that benefits the most from the Atlantic influence. Its two sparkling wine styles Blanquette de Limoux, made from the Mauzac grape variety, and Crémant de Limoux, made from Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Pinot Noir, have long been popular within France. It is, however, Limoux's barrel-fermented still white wine, often made from 100% Chardonnay but which may also include Chenin Blanc and Mauzac, that really impresses. Some red is also produced from a blend which must include a minimum of 50% Merlot. This appellation is seen as having great potential with the Pinot Noir variety for the production of red wine.

The Wines of Eastern Languedoc

The eastern Languedoc has witnessed the majority of the reduction in vineyard area with a concommitant raising of the profile of its wines thanks to the new wave of quality conscious growers and wine-makers. Occupying the hinterlands of an arc tracing the mediterranean between Agde in the south and Nîmes in the north is an area of diverse terroirs. Pic St-Loup in the Cevennes foothills produces red wines from Syrah which are infused with the aromatic qualities of the region's herbs; St-Chinian produces fine white wines as well as red wines from both Carignan and Syrah along with some rosé. The vineyards of Faugères overlooking Béziers to the south produce red, white and rosé wines from meagre soils in which other crops would struggle to grow. Traditional grape varieties are increasingly supplemented by those from outside the region such as Roussanne, Marsanne, Rolle (Vermentino), Viognier, Cinsault, Syrah and others.

The Wines of Roussillon

Demarcated by the eastern Pyrenees, the border with Spain and the Aude to the north the wines produced in Rousillon benefit from the average of 325 days of sunshine per year that this sub-region receives. Roussillon is traditionally the home to a number of Vin Doux Naturelles which are actually produced in a similar way to port with fermentation being stopped by the addition of grape brandy giving wines that retain a degree of natural sugar from the grapes while receiving a boost in alcohol from such addition. These VDN wines are matured either in barrel or in bottle as is also the custom with port. The most famous of these VDNs is Banyuls - made from Grenache grapes grown on steep terraces and an excellent partner for chocolate-based desserts. Others include Rivesaltes and its white cousin Muscat de Rivesaltes. Some dry wines are made here as well although they take the name of Collioure, named after the fishing village and artist's enclave on the coast.

Côtes du Roussillon and Côtes du Roussillon-Villages AOCs make dry red wines from old Cariganan vines with Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault and Mourvèdre being increasingly planted. The “villages” wines are certainly a step up in quality with some interesting IGP whites being made from many different varietals including Grenache Gris, Malvoisie, Rolle, Marsanne and Roussanne. It is worthwhile keeping an eye on developments in Roussillon as experiments with new combinations of terroirs and grape varieties continue especially in the area of the upper Agly Valley which is attracting much inward investment.

  1. La Picoutine Cinsault Grenache Rosé, Vin de Pays d'Oc, 2012

    La Picoutine Cinsault Grenache Rosé, Vin de Pays d'Oc, 2012

    La Croix produces wines of great value and consistency and its La Picoutine rosé makes for a great refreshing summer drink. It is a lively blend of Cinsault and Grenache grapes which come together nicely to forge a nose of summer berries with a zesty strawberry palate.

    Colour Rosé Wine
    Grape Variety Cinsault, Grenache
    Country France

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  2. Mont Tauch, Les Garrigues Grande Reserve Grenache Noir, Tuchan, 2011

    Mont Tauch, Les Garrigues Grande Reserve Grenache Noir, Tuchan, 2011

    This is a lovely example of the Grenache Noir grape's capacity to please and is approachable even when still very young and usually works best with food rather than as a drink on its own.

    Colour Red Wine
    Grape Variety Grenache
    Country France

    Out of stock

  3. Mont Tauch, Les Garrigues Grande Reserve Grenache Noir, Tuchan, 2012

    Mont Tauch, Les Garrigues Grande Reserve Grenache Noir, Tuchan, 2012

    A soft and generous Grenache wine that offers delicious drinking now.

    Colour Red Wine
    Grape Variety Grenache
    Country France

    Out of stock

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