This region can boast to having a long history of wine making. It runs up from the south-east tip of the Pyrenees across to the Rhone delta. Records of vineyards in the Languedoc area predate the Roman Empire, with the first vines undoubtedly having been planted by the ancient Greeks. Languedoc has been a part of France since the XIII century, w...
This region can boast to having a long history of wine making. It runs up from the south-east tip of the Pyrenees across to the Rhone delta. Records of vineyards in the Languedoc area predate the Roman Empire, with the first vines undoubtedly having been planted by the ancient Greeks. Languedoc has been a part of France since the XIII century, whilst Roussillon was attained from Spain during the XVII century. The wines from here were extremely reputed during the Middle Ages, with some wines profoundly thought to have miraculous healing powers. During the industrial revolution, and given the extremely favourable climate of the region, wines started to become mass-produced to help supply the growing labour force in France. This led to the two regions being known as the “mass-produces-of-wine” as the volume of production increased rapidly at the expense of quality. In fact, this is still a reputation that haunts the region today, with many people having the misconception that wines from here are of mediocre quality. The last three or four decades have seen vast improvements, and the Mediterranean sunshine helps grapes reach excellent maturity and produce powerful, expressive wines. The two regions were united into one administrative region during the 1980s, and with almost two-million hectolitres of AOC wines produced per year, it is the biggest wine producing region of France (some ten million hectolitres in total).
A great deal of wines from the region are known as VDN. The technique used for making these wines is similar to how Port, Madeira and Marsala are produced, as well as sharing some practices that are used for making Sherry. During alcoholic fermentation, once the alcohol level reaches 5-6%, the fermentation is stopped by adding distilled wine. This method preserves the natural aromas and sugars of the grapes.
If a VDN has rancio specified on the label, it means that the wine has to have spent a number of years aged in oak barrels that are exposed to the outdoor conditions, and are never topped up. This accelerates the oxidation of the wine, which in turn intensifies colour and flavour as well as adding body.
Situated at the most southern part of the region, is the district of Roussillon. The sunny and dry climate here creates the best conditions for maturing grapes. Côtes du Roussillon is a more generic AOC, producing red, white and rosé wines from a multitude of grape varieties such as: Grenache Blanc, Malvosie, Marsanne, Maccabeu, Carignan, Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre.
Within and around this AOC are several others. Three produce VDN wines: Banyuls and Maury (red wine with majority of Grenache) as well as Muscat de Rivesaltes (white, made from Muscat-a-petit-grains and Muscat d’Alexandrie).
Côtes de Roussillon villages is an AOC reserved only for red wines and has a slightly stricter regulation for vine cultivation and vinification.
Corbières is an AOC that covers a vast area and consists mainly of red wines from Syrah, Mourvèdre and Carignan. Fitou, an AOC since the 40s, produces full-bodied and structured reds from Grenache and Carignan, which can age well.
In the north of Roussillon is Minervois. It was in Minervois where the first traces of the phylloxera aphid (a parasite that almost wiped-out all European vinyards in the 19th Century) was found. To the west of Minervois is an AOC more well-known for its crèmant sparkling wine: Limoux. The crèmant is usually labelled as Blanquette-de-Limoux, and although a lot of red wine is made from Merlot, it is the sparkling wines that dominate this AOC. Made using a majority of Mauzac, sparkling wine has been produced in this area long before Dom Pérignon started experimenting in champagne and despite the extremely warm climate, the wines are dry and mineral.
Between Narbonne and up to and around Montpellier is a landscape is of endless hills of vineyards, where Syrah, Grenache Noir and other grapes easily reach perfect maturity. Many AOCs, such as Montpeyroux, La Clape, Faugéres, St-Chinian and Pic St Loup, are well known for producing really powerful, full bodied and complex red wines, sometimes with more than 15% alcohol, which can age well over 20 years. The Three AOCs of Muscat-de-Frontingnan, Muscat-de-Miravel and Muscat-de-Lunel produce VDNs with Muscat-à-petit-grains. The dry white wines from the region, made from an even greater variety of grapes than the reds, are often rich, full bodied whites that are more suitable to gastronomic needs rather than easy drinking.
Grand Languedoc wine, Languedoc Montpeyroux appellation d'origine contrôlée, "les initiales de DIVEM" 2014, made with Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre. This wine has a complex pallet of red fruits that are perfectly complimented by hints of kirsch and liquorice. In the mouth, the wine is powerful yet very smooth, and perfectly balanced.
Great Roussillon wine, Côtes de Roussillon Villages 2012, appellation d'origine contrôlée, "Domaine de Rancy" made from Carignan and Mourvèdre. The richness of the old vines give a profound deep ruby colour. Floral notes envelop a deeper smell of plums and black figs. The wine is well balanced, and will seduce by its easy it is to drink.