Languedoc-Roussillon, the world’s largest wine region31-08-2017
Stretching from the Massif Central mountains to the Mediterranean, Languedoc-Roussillon, or simply the Languedoc, boasts a rich palette of grape varieties.
Savouring Languedoc wines is a multi-sensory experience which reflects the riches of an entire region and a plethora of exceptional terroirs. Covering 246,000 hectares, its reputation is well known as the world’s largest wine region, and France’s leading volume producer, accounting for a third of the country’s output (Source: CIVL). In addition, according to locals, it is the world’s oldest wine region, as a result of the Greeks planting vines in 800BC. But more importantly, Languedoc wines stand apart with their extraordinary diversity, resulting from a unique patchwork of terroirs ideally situated between mountains and sea.
An impressive variety of wines and grape varieties
Winemaking in the Languedoc stretches across the four regions of Aude (28%), Gard (23%), Herault (38%) and Pyrenées-Orientale (11%). Variety has become a byword for the region, with the full spectrum of colours produced, and a rich gamut of wines including 36 AOC wines, of which 29 red, white and rosé, 3 sparkling and 4 sweet wines.
Among the many grape varieties planted, the most widely-planted are cabernet sauvignon, carignan, cinsault, merlot, mourvèdre, syrah, grenache (noir and blanc), muscat, bourboulenc, clairette, mauzac and picpoul. An extensive variety of grapes thrive on the hallmark patchwork of soils, comprising schist, sandstone, scree, limestone, clay and sandy-clay, which in turn explains the rich variety of terroirs and the many different wine styles. The Blanquette du Limoux, thought to be the world’s oldest sparkling wine, and the deliciously sweet Muscat de Rivesaltes feature among the most famous appellations, while wine enthusiasts will also be familiar with Corbières, Minervois, Saint-Chinian, Pic Saint-Loup, Picpoul de Pinet and Collioure
Pays d’OC PGI wines alone extend over around 88,000 hectares, where 33 different grape varieties are used in production. Sud de France PGI wines account for 14% of all Languedoc-Roussillon wines sold and 24% of PGI wines. These are mainly red wines (51%), though rosé wines have increased significantly in recent years, and now account for 39% of production, compared to only 18% in the 90s. Regional PGI wines account for 78% of sales from the regional departments of Aude, Gard and Herault, and 22% sourced across the entire Languedoc region.
High demand in Asia
Since 2007 and the launch of AOP Languedoc wines, exports have continued unabated. Asia, and China in particular, is the most dynamic export region. China is Languedoc’s leading market in value and second in volume. As a measure of its importance, Languedoc-Roussillon is China’s largest wine import after Bordeaux. In Europe, Germany is the leading market in value terms. In the UK, wines are seeing a clear progression with AOP wines up 3% and PGI wines up 9%. In the United States, Languedoc wines show spectacular growth with AOP wines up almost 30% and IGP more than 13%.
Walks in the vineyards, ripe for discovery
While there are many ways to discover the vineyards of the region, there is nothing like visiting the region in person to discover the wines first-hand. Several tasting tours are definitely worth a look: the Canal vineyards around Beziers offer spectacular views over the “Languedoc follies”, a collection of vast residences constructed in many different styles by wealthy merchants in the region. The vineyards fringing the Mediterranean are also of great interest, where the wines make a heavenly match with the local shellfish and seafood. To the west of the region, a walking tour around the prestigious vineyards of Minervois, Saint-Chinian and Faugères is an absolute must to discover three appellations which have long since forged their reputations in international markets.
Cave du château Coujan AOC Saint-Chinian
A must before the end of the holidays: ban des vendanges
The ban des vendanges is the official start to the harvest, which in AOC Faugères generally takes place at the beginning of September. The first bunch of grapes is cut and fine wines from the previous vintage are tasted in a festive, convivial atmosphere with music in full swing; fun times guaranteed.