Languedoc is one of the most famous wine producing regions in the world. The area is famed(or notorious) for its red wines, which are made from the Gamay grape. The fruit of this vine grows wild in the region, and is also a large part of the food industry. The influence of the vine can be seen on the region’s architecture, in its traditional culture, and also in its fine wines.

Languedoc and Roussilon are two countries you will be hearing a lot about this year. Both are wine regions in southern France. Both have enjoyed a surge in popularity in recent years—from Spain, especially. But both are far from the same. Languedoc produces more expensive wines, while Roussilon produces better value wines, according to some.

The Languedoc and Roussilon is one of the largest wine-growing regions in France, and Roussilon in particular is known for its light, fresh white wines—perfect for a summer’s evening picnic. In this guide, you’ll learn what to look for, where to find great wines and how to pair them with a selection of traditional French foods.. Read more about languedoc red wine and let us know what you think.

The Languedoc and the Roussillon are Mediterranean coastal regions in southern France, stretching from Provence to the Pyrenees on the Spanish border. The region doesn’t look particularly impressive on the map, yet one in three French wines bearing the appellation’s name are produced here.

In 1982, these independent provinces were merged into the administrative region of Languedoc-Roussillon to streamline political and economic governance. In 2016, they joined the Midi-Pyrenees and became a larger region called Occitanie.

Despite their administrative affinity, the history, culture and wines of Languedoc and Roussillon have developed along different paths.

For a long time the Languedoc and the Roussillon were considered as the centre of high quality wine production, but in recent years their reputation has improved considerably. New talent, attracted by lower land prices, has helped revitalize the region.

Vineyardin Faugeres / Photo : Sami Sarkis via Getty

Overview

The two regions produced 313 million litres of wine in 2019, according to statistics from the Syndicat interprofessionnel des vignerons du Languedoc (CIVL) and the Syndicat interprofessionnel des vignerons du Roussillon (CIVR). The Languedoc produces 90% of the wine in their common territory, while the Roussillon claims the remaining 10%.

A parallel can be drawn with winegrowing in the New World, where creativity and experimentation with grape varieties and styles reign supreme.

 

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Things have changed on almost every level: Quality, innovation, distribution, marketing, sustainability, says Caryl Panman, co-owner and manager of Château Rives-Blanques in the Languedoc, about the region’s revival.

Panman notes an influx of ambitious new grape growers looking for affordable land and winemaking opportunities in this Eldorado. And some local producers think big, adds Jan Panman, co-owner and manager of Château Rives-Blanques. Many are leaving the cooperatives and wine merchants to pour their own wines.

Amphora at Maison Cazes in Riversalt, Roussillon / Courtesy of Maison Cazes

Emmanuelle Cazes, ambassador for the wines of Maison Cazes in Rivesalt, describes Roussillon as a land of new opportunities.

Roussillon, once a major producer of sweet wines and Carignan with a high yield of carboxylic acid, experienced a decline in sales in the 1990s. This has forced manufacturers to think and innovate.

We have a number of assets that will help us switch to higher quality wines: low yields, old vines, a warm and dry climate, and diversity of terroirs, says Cazes. It was just a matter of finding inspiration and energy from a new generation of producers.

These forward-thinking producers use local Roussillon varieties such as Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris and Grenache Noir. The Languedoc hosts about 33% of the organic vineyards in France and about 10% of the organic vineyards in the world. Thus, between 2017 and 2020, more than 27% of the vineyards in Occitania were converted to organic practices.

Appellations du Languedoc

Languedoc produces many red wine blends, but producers also make rosé and white wines, as well as traditional sparkling wines.

There are 23 designations of origin (AOC/AOP) in Languedoc, representing about 16% of production. Wines that do not meet this quality level may be classified as a protected geographical indication (PGI).

The regional appellation AOC Languedoc forms the basis of the classification system. This broad category includes red, white and rosé wines. Producers using this appellation may blend wines made from grapes grown in both Languedoc and Roussillon.

Within this framework there are 10 sub-applications. Major appellations include Minervois, which produces red, white and rosé wines; Corbières (red, white, rosé); Picpoul de Pinet (white); Terrasse du Larzac (red); Pic Saint Loup (red, rosé); and Saint-Chian (red, white, rosé).

There are 5 municipalities or village names: Minervois-La-Livigner, Corbié Butenac and La Clape, Fauger and Fitoux.

There are 4 appellations for sweet wines. The most famous is the Muscat de Frontignan.

There are 3 appellations for sparkling wines, all located in Limoux: Blanquette de Limoux, Crémant de Limoux and Blanquette de Limoux Méthode Ancestrale.

There are also regional and subregional designations, historic designations, and cultural site designations. Three other PGI designations are catching up: Aude, Gard and Pays d’Hérault.

Links : Vineyards of Chateau Rive Blancs, Lima. Good: Harvest in Rives-Blanques / Photo courtesy of Château Rives-Blanques

Minvervoie is one of the most famous appellations of the Languedoc, especially known for its powerful and concentrated red wines. The rugged terrain ends in the foothills of the Montagne Noire, covered in garrigue.

The landscape of the Corbières is even more spectacular, with mountains and valleys that stretch out to the Mediterranean. Fitou, consisting of two parcels in Corbières, is the first appellation in the Languedoc and was created in 1948. Both appellations specialize in red blends and rosés.

As for traditional sparkling wines, Limoux is best known for its Blanquette made from the local white grape Mauzac or the Crémant de Limoux made from Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Pinot Noir.

Les Terrasses du Larzac, founded in 2014, is promising. Syrah thrives in the Pic Saint-Loup, a northern appellation in the foothills of the Cévennes. Saint-Chenian and Foger have rocky areas at dizzying heights. Especially Clairette du Languedoc and Picpoul de Pinet produce fresh, crisp white wines.

Appellations du Roussillon

Roussillon forms an amphitheatre overlooking the sea. Surrounded by three mountain ranges and crossed by three rivers, the terroir is highly diversified.

There are 14 PDOs, which allow producers to grow 24 grape varieties, and two PGIs.

The appellation system largely reflects Roussillon’s history of producing sweet wines. Even today, 80% of French natural sweet wines (VDN) are produced in Roussillon. These fortified sweet wines retain their natural sugars after fermentation is stopped by adding alcohol.

The five PDO wines are Rivesaltes, Maury, Banyuls, Banyuls Grand Cru and Muscat de Rivesaltes. Since the 14th century. In the 19th century, winegrowers grew Grenache for use in red, white and rosé wines, as well as Muscat. The Grand Cru Banyuls, considered the best expression of the style, is only produced in good years.

The dry wines of the Roussillon are becoming more and more famous. There is now demand for it in export markets, which helps to offset VDN’s decline in consumption. The most extensive appellation for dry wines is Côte-du-Roussillon, the base level for red wines made mainly from older grape varieties such as Carignan, Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and sometimes Cinsault.

The village of Côtes du Roussillon only produces red wines, which are generally of better quality due to the lower yields. Maury Sec, Collioure, the common Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Caramagne, Latour de France, Lesquerd, Tatavel) and the Côtes du Roussillon Villages Les Aspres produce decent, ripe wines at a good price. Local winemakers prioritize terroir over international trends.

The Agli Valley, near Mori, known for its black slate soil, has developed a natural wine scene producing red and white wines rich in aromas and minerals. They are sold as Côtes Catalanes IGP.

History

Viticulture has been an integral part of southern France for thousands of years. The Greeks and Phoenicians introduced viticulture around the 6th century. Century v. Chr. to the region. Later, the Romans developed this industry and linked wine to the local economy forever.

The expansion of viticulture continued with the completion of the Canal du Midi, which linked the Atlantic to the Mediterranean in 1681. With the arrival of the French railway in 1868, prosperity in the region continued to grow.

Vineyards near Tatavel in Roussillon / Getty

Like other regions, Languedoc and Roussillon suffered from phylloxera at the end of the 19th century. Local cooperatives dominated the wine industry in the 20th century. Overcrowding has created the conditions for a notorious abundance of grapes in the lakes and has led to low prices. In the 1970s, as part of the grafting program, farmers were paid to grub up the least suitable vineyards to concentrate production in favorable locations.

While the Languedoc is closely linked to France, the Roussillon retains its ties to Catalonia, an autonomous community in the northeast of Spain. The inhabitants of Roussillon are united by a common language and a political past that goes back to the Aragonese crown in the Middle Ages.

For hundreds of years both countries claimed control of the Roussillon, until Spain ceded it to France in 1659. Today, the customs, culture and cuisine of Roussillon, including the grape varieties and styles of wine produced, have retained their link with Catalonia. The street signs of the capital, Perpignan, contain references to both languages.

Soil and climate

The Languedoc and the Roussillon have a warm, dry Mediterranean climate with hot summers and moderate temperatures during the rest of the year. Otherwise, the heat and sun could dry out the grapes, but the best vineyards stay cool thanks to altitude and coastal breezes from the Atlantic and/or Mediterranean.

The soil bears witness to ancient geological chaos with diverse and complex layers that rarely repeat themselves. There is everything from clay and limestone to slate, granite, marl and sandstone. Most of the region’s best wines are produced on the stony soils of the foothills.

Grapes

Local varieties grown in Languedoc and Roussillon include Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignan and Cinsault. The aroma has the exuberance of the garrigue grown in both regions. Depending on the producer and the grape variety, they can be strong, concentrated and soft or light and beautiful.

The three colours of Grenache have taken root in Roussillon: Grenache Noir for red wines and its lighter counterparts Gris and Blanc for white wines.

Left: Grenache noir grapes. Right: Barrels at Maison Crazes / Pictures courtesy of Maison Crazes

Languedoc winegrowers grow Grenache Blanc, Bourbulenc, Picpoul, Roussanne, Marsanne, Vermentino and Viognier for dry white wines. Muscat is the main grape for VDN, especially Muscat de Frontignan. About 20% of the wine production in the Languedoc is white wine.

They also did well during the global pink wine mania. Languedoc represents 34% of French rosé wine production and about 11% of world rosé wine production.

Mirene de Lorgeril, president of the CIVL and winemaker at Maison Lorgeril, says that the wines of the Languedoc have developed very positively… This development is reflected not only in the success of the Languedoc appellation, particularly rosé, but also in the diversity of the appellations.

According to de Lorgerille, the Languedoc represents the new French wine scene, a dynamic and rebellious scene that wants to shake up an overly wise and cautious wine world.The Languedoc-Roussillon region in France is the home of some of the most famous French wines. These are wines that have a story, some are regional and can only be found there, others have won awards from the world famous international wine competitions.. Read more about languedoc-roussillon wine production and let us know what you think.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which wine is from Languedoc-Roussillon?

Roussillon is a region of France, so the wine would be from France.

What is the best Languedoc wine?

The best Languedoc wines are typically red wines from the region, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot.

What does Languedoc wine taste like?

Languedoc wine is typically a fruity wine with a light, crisp taste.

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