Languedoc-Roussillon, as it’s known, is the largest wine region in France and produces 1/3 of all French wine. It stretches across the south of France from the Rhone river all the way to the Pyrenees mountains and the border with Spain. The region’s name derives from the Provencal language Occitan, which was commonly spoken in the region – the “langue d’oc”. Medieval abbeys and Cathar castles dot the landscape, and abundant herbs, the famous garrigue, cover the hillsides. The region used to be the source of huge quantities of table/basic wine, but there are now several appellations producing high-quality, characterful wines.
Eastern Languedoc, based on the towns of Montpelier and Nimes, includes the appellations of Picpoul de Pinet, Faugeres, Pic St Loup and Terrasses du Larzac. Western Languedoc with its centers of Carcassone and Narbonne, includes Minervois, Corbieres, St Chinian and Limoux. And Roussillon extending to Perpignan and the Spanish border, features Collioure, Maury and Banyuls.
Black grapes commonly found in the region are Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Cinsault and Carignan. And whites include Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Picpoul, and Rolle (Vermentino). The vast majority of wines are blends rather than single varietals. There is also significant production of sweet, luscious ‘Vins Doux Naturels’ made from Muscat.
Situated in the southernmost part of France the climate is generally Mediterranean – hot summers with plenty of sunshine, mild winters and low rainfall. In fact drought is the most common problem in the vineyard and irrigation is sometimes allowed. The composition of soil varies from the chalk, limestone and gravel-based inland to more alluvial soils near the coast. Some of the more highly rated vineyards are laid on top of ancient riverbed stones similar to those of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
Past Tours to Languedoc
This stunning region, stretching from Provence to the Pyrenees, was a delight. We stayed in the lovely village of Neffies in the Eastern Languedoc & visited several boutique wine producers in the lesser known appellations of Faugeres, Pezenas and Terrases du Larzac. Our trip was more than wine: we went to see an oyster farm and a goats’ cheese producer. There were delicious lunches, balmy weather, beautiful autumnal scenery and delightful hilltop villages. And the grand finale was at the gorgeous property of Domaine Ste. Hilaire where we sampled a decadent outdoor lunch. Just four days. And the memories of a lifetime.