Languedoc-Roussillon, the largest wine producing
region in the world, lies on the border of the Mediterranean sea, between
the Rhône delta and Spain.
Fifty thousand vine growers (out of a population of 2.4 million) spread over
an area of 27,400 square kilometers (10,500 square miles) swelter in the
intense summers for the sake of producing over 2 billion bottles of wine.
The mild winters and hot summers cooperate with diverse soil types ranging
from limestone and sandstone to granite pebbles to host Carignan, Grenache,
Merlot and other reds. Not to be left behind the Roussane, Viognier,
Chardonnay and other whites add to provide ample work for the 400
cooperatives and 2,800 private wineries in a region from Muscat in the east
to Banyuls in the southwest.
Originally the work of Greeks who began cultivation around the 6th century
BC, after the Roman conquest viticulture developed quickly, then continued
under the Visigoths in the 5th century. As the monasteries of the 9th
century grew, so did the hillside vineyards, where the valleys were reserved
for grains. The 19th century saw the plains conversion to vineyards as well.
Today, viticulture is concentrated in the plains of Aude, Herault and Gard.
These three regions produce nearly one-half of France's total grape output.
For many years, the area saw the production of a great many mediocre wines,
but a renaissance of sorts in the last few decades has led to the resurgence
of extraordinary Syrah. Opaque, purple-colored, with aromas of sweet
blackberry spiced by black pepper and cassis.
Over the past 10 years the Vin de Pays d'Oc has also been helping to improve
the area's reputation, with its unique regional characteristics, such as the
earthy Minervois and Corbières.
Unlike other winegrowing regions, where individual Châteaux dominate, most
here are produced by cooperatives that purchase grapes from local growers.
These include the delicious Vin Doux Naturel made from Muscat or Grenache.
The process involves adding grape spirit which halts fermentation,
preserving sweetness and raising alcohol levels to 15-16 percent. The Muscat
de Frontignan or Banyuls make for delightful dessert wines that can compete
with a Port for aging potential.
Whites too have been making a comeback with the Chardonnay and the Marsanne
grown in Argelier, 30km (18.6 mi) west of Beziers. Here the grapes grown in
chalky soil are harvested early, then allowed only a few hours skin contact
prior to pressing. The result is a fresh, dry white with aromas of apple and
For those who cannot be torn from red, there's the spicy and full-bodied
Corbières made from Grenache and Carignan grown in limestone, marl and
sandstone. With over 70 million bottles capable of aging 3-7 years there's
little danger of running out.
Moving from the hills of Corbières to the Pyrénées one lands in Roussillon,
the sunniest region of France. More similar to Spain than other areas, the
Carignan dominates to produce reds that are spicy and medium body, with
hints of licorice.
Look for new developments from this large and ancient area of French
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Languedoc AOC Wines
Les A.O.C. du Languedoc
The most comprehensive site we know of about the Languedoc
Graham Tigg's French Dining
A personal introduction by Graham Tiggs (UK), where he
shares his excitement for this underrated wine region in southeastern