A vast area in the south of France between the Rhône and the foothills of the Pyrenees, the Languedoc-Roussillon produces 40 per cent of the nation's wine and has recently undergone a vinicultural revolution.
Until 20 years ago the majority of wines from this region were of a poor standard and produced in vast quantities destined for the European...Read More
wine lake but since the 1980s there has been a change of ethos and remarkable results. The Languedoc-Roussillon has become a region of exciting variety and escalating quality, and though the areas of Corbières and Minervois have been at the forefront of this improvement they are by no means the only wines worth seeking out.
The Languedoc-Roussillon is as varied in its styles as could be. White, sparkling, rosé and 90 per cent of France's dessert wines, known as vins doux naturel, come from the region, but it is for its reds that it is largely significant. The wines of Corbières and Minervois are the most famous, though other AOCs are improving all the time and the region's vin de pays, usually labelled as Vin de Pays d'Oc, can be excellent for both quality and value.
The region once had a great variety of vines, but disease and declining markets have sounded the death knell for many. Cinsault, Grenache and Carignan are the three great survivors that produce much of the red wine of the Languedoc-Roussillon. Traditional white vines include Ugni Blanc, Vermentino, Bourboulenc and Muscat.
In the last 20 years there has been a great deal of planting of international varieties. Syrah and Mourvèdre are permitted in several AOC wines, but Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier are not and will be classed as Vin de Pays d'Oc with the name of the grape on the label. These represent some of the finest wines on offer in the region.
It is a very large region but the climate is generally a Mediterranean one. Its winters are mild and sufficiently wet, the summers are warm and dry and it is reliable enough to not carry the risk of a disastrous vintage. The soil, however, is varied and allows for individuality in the grapes that are grown.
Prior to the '80s the trend had been to plant vineyards on the plains, where the conditions for the grape grower were easiest. Sadly, conditions for the drinker were less than ideal as this approach led to weak and insipid wines. In recent years, with the improvement of ambition and knowledge, vines have been planted in the poor soil of slopes where little else will grow and these harder-working grapes have produced far more rewarding results.