The wines of Languedoc-Roussillon, Mediterranean France for everyone

Known for being the largest table wine maker in France, the Languedoc-Roussillon region is trying to shake off the stigma of making large quantities of cheap wine so that they can show off the potential and quality of this large Mediterranean vineyard.

Languedoc-Rousillon, as it is known in French, is two regions in one: the Languedoc area and the Roussillon area, which together account for approximately 40% of vineyards in France.

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So how about we get our bearings to begin with?

The Languedoc-Roussillon wine region is located in the south of France and stretches from the outskirts of Nimes to beyond Narbonne and Carcassonne. It borders the Pyrenees and reaches as far as the Mediterranean Sea; it has over 240,000 hectares of vineyards worked by 24,000 vine growers and about 2,500 wineries.

Languedoc-Roussillon is, along with Provence, the oldest wine region in France. Its story begins with the Greeks in the 5th century and then the Romans, with the story still unfolding today.

Due to its size, the climate conditions and types of soils vary but, without a doubt, the Mediterranean climate prevails.

In eastern Languedoc, spring and autumn are rather warm, although there is the possibility of some frost in April. Winters are usually mild and sunny, summers are hot and dry. The rain is light and the strong Tramontana winds help to aerate the grapes, which prevents diseases. A perfect climate for vine growing. In western Languedoc there is a more pronounced Atlantic influence.

Roussillon enjoys an average of 325 sunny days a year, with a spectacular landscape overlooking the Pyrenees and the Canigó mountain, but less rugged than the Corbières hills in Languedoc.

The region has sandy, limestone, purple and brown clay soils, as well as shale and loamy soils.

This diversity in climate and soil means diversity in grape varieties, with Cariñena at the top of the list. This Mediterranean variety continues to be the most planted in France and with other red varieties like Syrah, Mourvèdre (Monastrell) and Cinsault sitting alongside.

White wine viticulture is increasingly sophisticated and offers interesting coupages with grapes such as Clairette, Bourboulenc, Picpoul, Roussane, Marsanne, Viognier and Muscat of Alexandria. We also need to give Grenache a special mention, which can be found in all colours.

When Languedoc-Roussillon recovered from phylloxera, intensive cultivation began, which generated high yields and the production of large volumes of wine. However, this was wine of very low quality compared to that of other areas of France. Unfortunately this region has had a hard time shaking off this reputation. Starting from 1945, various terroirs in the region began to be classified and by the ‘80s the complete restructuring of vineyards had begun.

Languedoc-Roussillon went through a rough patch where plots were abandoned because they were not economically viable due to low yields and inaccessibility for mechanical harvesting. However, it is because of these peculiar vineyards that the region has managed to start over, little by little. A revolution driven by first-generation vine-growers who have spotted the area’s potential and who are starting to cultivate vineyards using ecological and biodynamic principles, harvesting manually to respect the integrity of the environment and the clusters.

What are Languedoc-Roussillon wines like?

Obviously due to the diversity of soils, terrains, climate and grape varieties, a wide range of styles can be found in Languedoc-Roussillon.

Wines produced in Western Languedoc, the area that is most influenced by the Atlantic, are similar to Rhone wines from further East, with a structure similar to Bordeaux wines in the vineyards located more towards the North and West.

This Atlantic influence is clear in Carcassonne. To the south is Limoux, an area famous for sparkling wines. It is said that Blanquette de Limoux is the oldest sparkling wine in the world. It is made from Mauzac, the most prominent in the region, as well as Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc varieties.

The Crémant de Limoux is made using the traditional or champenoise method, the same as is used in Champagne and in addition to the varieties mentioned, Pinot Noir can also be used for this sparkling wine. There are outstanding examples of excellent quality in the market and at more affordable prices than Champagne.

In Eastern Languedoc, pleasant and easy-to-sell red wines were produced from the vineyards planted along the Mediterranean coast but producers have seen that the higher altitude areas with poorer soils can result in really good wines with a character that reflects the terroir and an excellent price-quality balance.

The Roussillon region produces 90% of all natural sweet wines (Vins Doux Naturels) in France, where the Muscat de Rivesaltes and the sweet Banyuls Grenaches stand out, a delight for the sweet tooth. Wines that can be modest to some extent, but that are all gastronomic jewels.

In some parts of Roussillon you can find characteristics very similar to those found in Priorat, in Catalonia, with warm and dry weather, shale soils and altitudes up to 800 metres. Vineyards that cover the rugged terrain and provide excellent Grenache wines.

In addition to those mentioned, in Languedoc-Roussillon, regions like Saint-Chinian stand out, which has one of the best reputations in this wine region thanks to its red, white and rosé wines that come from strains that are planted at altitudes often higher than 600 metres.

Faugères, with its elegant, aromatic Grenache red wines; Corbières, home of pleasant, juicy and fruity reds that are made from Grenache, Cariñena and Syrah.

Picpoul de Pinet is a region that stands out for its flavoursome white wines made with the Picpoul regional variety and that go perfectly with a plate of oysters.

The Languedoc-Roussillon wines classified as Côtes-du-Roussillon-Village are made from vines with controlled yields, which results in intense and higher-quality reds, which represent the terroir well and have good aging potential.

Most Languedoc-Roussillon wines are sold as Vins du Pays and there are great examples of captivating, dry or fragrant, high-quality white or red wines at a reasonable price.

Now that we’ve finished our tour, we would encourage you to continue discovering the largest and oldest vineyard in France, a region full of history, wonderful landscapes and gastronomy, to find out more about, and take a chance on these Mediterranean treasures: sparkling, rosé, white, red and sweet. We are confident that you will be impressed by the wines of Languedoc-Roussillon.

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