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Languedoc-Roussillon: Still pushing the boundaries of quality
Languedoc-Roussillon: Still pushing the boundaries of quality
Languedoc-Roussillon is France’s leading wine region in terms of acreage. It is
now an integral part of the country’s wine scene, after ridding itself of its jug
wines in the 1980s. It is a constant source of intrigue to wine lovers and has
made such a quantum leap in quality that it is now a fully-fledged member of
France’s elite circle of premium wine regions. This has nurtured new talent, not
only amongst the younger wine categories (including Vins de Pays d’Oc) but also
the more traditional ones (Fitou, Corbières, Minervois, Saint-Chinian, Côtes du
Languedoc spans three departments (Gard, Hérault and Aude), and Roussillon
just one: Pyrénées-Orientales. The region caters for the most catholic tastes:
sparkling wines and crémants, dry whites, rosés, light or full-bodied reds, all three
colours of regional wines and delicious dessert wines, amongst the region’s great
To present a clear picture of these, we have decided to sub-divide them into three
APPELLATION WINES: grown on hillside sites, they are blended from a typically
Mediterranean varietal range and boast distinctive characteristics. The region
plays host to the following appellations: Languedoc (sometimes followed by a
site-specific name), Faugères, Saint-Chinian, Minervois, Corbières, Fitou, Côtes du
Roussillon and Côtes du Roussillon-villages (some stating the village name),
REGIONAL WINES: generally single varietals, produced from ‘imported’ plants
(Cabernet-Sauvignon for reds or Chardonnay for whites, for example). The
regional denomination, Vin de Pays d’Oc, can be grown throughout this vast
DESSERT WINES: these are in a league of their own, if only because of the way
they are made. The basic principle is simple: fermentation of the nascent wine is
arrested by adding a neutral spirit. This fortification process is known as ‘mutage’
because it literally silences the characteristic sound of fermentation (‘muter’ in
old French means ‘to become mute’). These delicate wines with a pleasant
bouquet subsequently undergo lengthy stabilisation and ageing before being
released. The Languedoc appellations only produce Muscat wines in this way:
Lunel, Mireval, Frontignan and Saint-Jean-de-Minervois, whereas Roussillon offers:Muscat de Rivesaltes, Rivesaltes, Maury and Banyuls (as well as Banyuls Grand
Cru predominantly from Grenache noir).
RED VARIETALS: the most ubiquitous varietals are: Carignan, Cinsault, Grenache
noir, Mourvedre and Syrah. Two noteworthy exceptions are Cabardès (a young AC
set north of Carcassonne) and Malepère (an AC located south-west of
Carcassonne) which supplement this range with ‘Bordeaux ‘ varietals including
Cabernet Franc, Cabernet-Sauvignon, Cot noir and Merlot noir.
WHITE VARIETALS: Bourboulenc, Clairette, Grenache blanc, Macabeu, Marsanne,
Picpoul, Roussanne, Terret blanc and Vermentino. There are a clutch of significant
exceptions. Muscats: in Languedoc, they are entirely drawn from the small berry
Muscat; the Muscat de Rivesaltes appellation (Pyrénées-Orientales) also permits
Muscat of Alexandria. Then there is Limoux where still white wines are made from
Chardonnay, Chenin and Mauzac.
Wine styles: amongst the red wines, the elegance of Faugères, complexity of
Corbières, tannic structure of Saint-Chinian, inimitable taste of ‘terroir’ in Fitou
deserve a special mention. Of the whites, the most remarkable are without a
doubt the fresh, aromatic Languedoc Picpoul de Pinet, Limoux and Vins de Pays
d’Oc, though also the extremely distinctive character of the Muscats. Rounding
off this selection are the Maury, Rivesaltes and Banyuls, the richest and most
complex of our dessert wines.
Review of recent vintages
2011: at the risk of sounding repetitive, once again a dry, hot spring was followed
by a very average summer saved by a delightful September. These southerly
vineyards easily turned this to good account by producing plentiful volumes and
aromatic, well-balanced wines. 2011 is definitely a year for wines from the South!
2012: This region received a lot of sun and 20% less precipitation than usual in
2012. This resulted in healthy grapes apart from a bit of coulure (dropping of
flowers) and powdery mildew. This vintage is still young, but is promising, with a
good balance of sugar and acid.
THE LANGUEDOC-ROUSSILLON APPELLATIONS
Banyuls and Banyuls Grand Cru
Overview: Of all the Grand Roussillon dessert wine appellations, AC Banyuls is the
best known. The area sits within the same boundaries as AC Collioure and
embraces four towns and villages (Banyuls sur Mer, Collioure, Port Vendres,
Cerbère). It climbs the abrupt hillsides on terraces propped up with dry stone
walls. The skeletal soils lay on Cambrian shale. Banyuls is divided into a basic AC
Banyuls and a Banyuls Grand Cru.
Wine-making techniques: Banyuls is a dessert wine made by the fortification
process, whereby the wine grower adds 96% proof neutral spirit to grapes during
alcoholic fermentation in a ratio of 5 to 10% of must volume. By using this
process, yeast activity is arrested before all the sugar has been turned into
alcohol and aroma compounds can be fully extracted from young wines. The
ageing phase begins two to four weeks after maceration. Banyuls Grand Cru must
spend at least 30 months in oak whilst basic Banyuls is aged either in glass
demi-johns or carefully sealed barrels kept in a cool, damp environment. They
can also be stored outside to develop slightly oxidised aromas. Grenache noir, the
appellation’s primary varietal, must account for at least 50% of the blend for
Banyuls and 75% for Banyuls Grand Cru. Some single vintage wines bottled prior
to oxidation are labelled ‘Rimage’.
Wine styles: AC Banyuls yields red, rosé and white dessert wines from the same
varietal range. The red wines boast a ruby-red hue with mahogany tints in the
early years, evolving into brick-red with copper tints over time. On the palate,
they are supple, powerful, well-constituted, tannic wines with intense aromas of
dried and crystallised fruits, morello cherries in brandy, vanilla, coffee…. Try as
an appetiser or with desserts like chocolate cake. White Banyuls, with their
elegant straw-yellow hue, are highly unusual. They can be made either as sweet,
dry aged in new oak or medium sweet wines. Their character stems from the
Grenache blanc varietal and they reveal delicate floral, citrus fruit and honeyed
notes. Enjoy with foie gras, blue cheeses or desserts with honey.
AC Blanquette de Limoux
Overview: Blanquette de Limoux is one of Languedoc-Roussillon’s oldest
controlled appellations. The area is located 25 kilometres south of Carcassonne in
the Aude department and covers 41 towns and villages. The vines grow on light,
stony calcareous clay soils and the climate is unusual in that it alternates
between Ocean and Mediterranean. The area specialises in sparkling wines made
from the local varietal Mauzac, which can be blended with Chardonnay and
Wine-making techniques: there are two types of Blanquette: ancestral method
Blanquette de Limoux is a single varietal made from Mauzac. It undergoes
secondary (natural) fermentation in the bottle. Blanquette de Limoux itself is a blended wine: Mauzac (at least 90%), Chardonnay and Chenin. Like Crémant de
Limoux it undergoes secondary fermentation in the bottle induced by adding a
blend of yeast and sugar. This is when the bubbles form. The wines age for at
least 9 months on the lees, following which they are disgorged (the sediment is
removed by refrigeration) and the dosage is then added. This will determine
whether a wine is dry or medium dry. Crémant de Limoux is made in the same
way though it matures for longer than Blanquette, spending at least 15 months in
Wine styles: Blanquette and Crémant de Limoux are sparkling wines with a pale
hue highlighted with golden tints. Aromas of apricot, acacia, hawthorn, peach
blossom or apple, citrus fruit and toast are present. They can be enjoyed as
appetisers, with savoury or smoked canapés, red mullet, anchovies, squid, patés
or white meat.
Overview: the Cabardès wine region is located a dozen kilometres north-west of
Carcassonne. It extends outwards from the Minervois appellation and covers 18
towns and villages in the Aude department. Like its neighbour, it occupies the
southern slopes of Mount Noire, with Carcassonne below in the plain. This is
Languedoc-Roussillon’s most westerly wine region and it plays host to a broad
range of soil types: limestone stones on the valley floor followed by primary rocks
(granite then shale and gneiss) at higher elevations. The most unusual feature of
this region, however, is its climate: it is caught between Mediterranean and
Ocean influences, augmented by the altitude factor. Cabardès is one of the few
appellations combining varietals of Atlantic or Continental origin and
Mediterranean grape varieties. Here, Cabernet-Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet
Franc, Fer Servadou grow alongside Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault.
Wine styles: Cabardès appellation wines can be either red or rosé. The red wines
are supple, full and complex, boasting a host of aromas (red and black fruit,
prunes, crystallised fruit, spices, liquorice, undergrowth…). They pair well with
cooked cold pork meats, poultry, mutton chops, cassoulet and goats cheese. The
rosé wines are dry, lively, delicate and fruity. Try them with cooked cold pork
meats, mutton kebabs, chicken with almonds or tagine.
AC Clairette de Bellegarde
Overview: the Clairette de Bellegarde appellation area is set between Nîmes and
Arles, in the Gard department. It covers a single town, Bellegarde, verging on the
Costières de Nîmes appellation. Soil make-up is primarily formed of pebbles and
sandstone and the Mediterranean-type climate is hot and dry, with plenty of
sunshine and a favourable aspect.
Wine styles: Clairette de Bellegarde is made from a single varietal, Clairette, and can
be aged either in tanks or barrels. With its attractive pale gold hue, this dry white wine
displays tell-tale aromas of walnuts, spices, fennel and a hint of grapefruit. It is soft and
unctuous with relatively low acidity. The locals tend to pair it with grilled fish or shellfish.
Overview: the Collioure appellation area is set in the Pyrénées-Orientales
department. The vines are planted on sheer hillsides sharing the same ‘terroir’ as
Banyuls. Covering 727 hectares and four villages, the appellation stretches over
poor, shale soils and basks in a hot, dry Mediterranean climate. The vines enjoy
abundant sunshine, allowing the grapes – Grenache noir, Mourvedre, Carignan,
Cinsault and Syrah - to achieve full ripeness (the proportion of Grenache noir,
Mourvèdre and Syrah, either together or individually, must be at least 60% of the
total blend with the highest single varietal accounting for anything up to 90%)
Collioure wines are vinted traditionally at controlled temperatures, after
destemming and a prolonged two-week vatting period. The rosés are made from
red varietals though also a maximum 30% of Grenache gris. The whites are
blended from Grenache blanc, Grenache gris, Macabeu, Marsanne, Tourbat and
Wine styles: Collioure wines are either red or rosé. The red wines display a superb
cherry-red hue. They are powerful, warm wines. In the early years, they exude
fragrances of small black fruit (cherry, blackberry) and red fruit. As they age, they
acquire their hallmark finesse and bouquet making them a perfect match for
meat, stews and game. The rosé wines display a beautiful deep pink colour. They
are harmonious, delicate, powerful and extremely aromatic (ripe red fruit). Try
them with barbecued meat, fish, paella, mixed salads, cooked cold pork meats or
Collioure anchovies. The white wines are rich, intense and driven by floral, exotic
and mineral notes.
Overview: the Corbières wine region spans from Narbonne to Perpignan and from
Carcassonne to the Mediterranean. It embraces 105 towns and villages in the
Aude department. The predominant soil type is calcareous clay interspersed
with : shale, red sandstone, marl and stony terraces. Although the climate is
strongly defined by the influence of the Mediterranean, the most westerly sites
experience an Ocean climate.
The multifaceted nature of the region has led to the implementation of
sub-zones. There are currently 11 such zones: Boutenac (recently promoted to
‘growth’ status), Durban, Fontfroide, Lagrasse, Lézignan, Montagne d’Alaric,
Quéribus, Saint-Victor, Serviès, Sigean and Termenès. These converge into four
major areas:The maritime Corbières form the western rim of the appellation and their defining
characteristics are low elevation, predominantly limestone soils and a definite
The upper Corbières occupy the south-western portion of the area and its most
mountainous section, home to the highest peaks in the Corbières. The climate
therefore defines a threshold, restricting the development of vineyards. Vines do
grow here however on predominantly shale-type soils conducive to producing
Alaric Corbières: located in the north-western part of the appellation, this area
takes its name from Mount Alaric, a 600-metre-high summit overlooking the Aude
valley. A multiplicity of soil types can be found here but the Mediterranean
climate, strongly influenced by the Ocean, provides consistency throughout.
The central Corbières: situated squarely in the middle of the Corbières, hence its
name, this area boasts marl and sandstone soils as well as an extremely arid, hot
Wine styles: AC Corbières wines come in all three colours. The reds (over 90% of
total output) are blended from a classic selection of Mediterranean varieties:
Carignan (less widespread in some areas), Grenache, Lladoner Pelut, Mouvedre,
Syrah, Cinsault…The wines are fragrant, moderately tannic and warm though
often need to mature for a few years. Aromatically, they cover a comprehensive
range, evolving over time: red fruit fragrances (blackcurrant, blackberry), initially
moving on to spices (pepper, liquorice, moorland, thyme, rosemary) then, a few
years later, to worn leather, coffee, cocoa, undergrowth, game… This makes
them suitable for a wide variety of food pairings: duck with orange, mutton stew,
The rosés are blended from the same varietal range, augmented with Grenache
gris, and are vinted using the ‘bleeding’ or direct to press method. Their hue
embraces a broad spectrum, ranging from pale pink with salmon coloured tints to
darker shades. They are aromatic wines (raspberry, violet, exotic fruits) and are
fresh and round on the palate, often with a long finish. The white wines are drawn
from Bourboulenc, Grenache blanc and Maccabeo (at least 50%), though also
Clairette, Picpoul, Muscat, Terret, Marsanne, Roussanne and Vermentino. Direct
press wines, they are robust and fat though remain fresh and well-balanced.
Aromas of citrus fruit, pepper, cinnamon and floral notes are present. Some
spend time in oak. They marry well with grilled fish, seafood, shellfish and
chicken sauteed with mushrooms.
AC Corbières Boutenac
Overview: the Corbières Boutenac area is considered to be one of the
appellation’s finest terroirs and embraces 10 towns and villages between
Lézignan and Thézan. The soils derive from the secondary (limestone and
sandstone dolomitic outcrops) and tertiary eras (various types of molasse). Old vines plunge their roots deep into the ground in search of water, thereby
ensuring the wines express optimum sense of place. The appellation was officially
recognised in 2005 and only red wines are entitled to use it. Basic yields are
lower than for Corbières (45 hl/ha instead of 50hl/ha) and wine making and
ageing criteria are stricter.
AC Côtes du Roussillon
Overview: AC Côtes du Roussillon covers an area stretching south of the
Corbières down to the Albères on the Spanish border. 118 towns and villages in
Pyrénées-Orientales qualify for the appellation which lines the Roussillon plain
and climbs the surrounding hillsides. Several distinct sub-zones have been
identified: the Agly, Têt and Tech valleys, the Aspres (a site-specific area
embracing 37 towns and villages which can feature on labels. Only red wines are
entitled to use it), the Albères and a coastal strip skirting the Mediterranean. The
soils are generally littered with stones and run the gamut from red clay, granite,
shale and gneiss to calcareous clay. The terrain is rugged, formed of rolling hills
and poor, arid terraces (the Aspres, Fenouillèdes, Corbières and Albères hills).
Summers are hot and rainfall occurs mainly in the autumn. The ripening process
is enhanced by plentiful sunshine.
Wine styles: the ubiquitous red wines are required by law to come from a blend of
at least three of the following varieties: Carignan (50% maximum), Grenache
noir, Syrah, Mourvedre (these four varietals must account for at least 80% of the
blend with the highest single varietal not exceeding 70%. The two latter varietals
account for 25% of the blend, together or individually), Cinsault, Lladoner Pelut.
The reds are full-bodied, fat, round, warm, well-constituted wines with good
concentration and aromas (ripe red fruit, cherry, prune, wild berries, spices,
liquorice). They boast great texture and depth. Try them with stews, grilled meats
(lamb), beef stew with peppers, game and cheeses. Wines made by the whole
grape fermentation process are sold shortly after the harvest and come primarily
from the Carignan grape which is best suited to this process.
The rosés display an intense hue. They are slightly spicy, with aromas of red
fruits (cherry), plum and liquorice. They are forward, fruity, full and powerful
wines, relatively robust with well-balanced mellowness. The whites are blended
from Grenache blanc, Macabeo, Tourbat (also known as Malvoisie in Roussillon),
and can be supplemented with Marsanne, Grenache gris, Roussanne and
Vermentino (50% maximum). They are delicate, fresh, vigorous, aromatic wines
where the predominant aromas are floral. Enjoyable with fish (sardines), shellfish
AC Côtes du Roussillon-Villages
Overview: this region covers 32 towns and villages in Pyrénées-Orientales, dotted
either side of the Agly valley. Soil types are varied but are frequently shale, gneiss and granite. Although Carignan is the mainstay of the varietal range, its
share of the blend must not exceed 60%. Complementary varietals are Cinsault,
Grenache, Lladoner Pelut, Syrah and Mourvedre (at least 30%). Four villages are
entitled to add their name to the appellation and have now been promoted to
‘growth’ status: Latour-de-France, Lesquerde, Tautavel and Caramany, which
must be blended from at least three varietals:
Latour-de-France: 176 hectares in Latour-de-France and neighbouring villages.
Soils are shale, calcareous clay and granite.
Lesquerde (granted in 1995): located in the far eastern part of the Agly valley,
this village also covers plots in Lansac and Rasiguères.
Tautavel: was created in 1997 on calcareous clay soils in the villages of Tautavel
and Vingrau; growers use less Carignan here, tending to prefer Grenache and
Lladoner Pelut. The wines must mature for at least a year.
Caramany: gneiss soils along the Agly valley in Caramany, with a few outlying
plots in Belesta and Cassagnes.
Wine styles: Côtes du Roussillon Villages are not only more robust than Côtes du
Roussillon, they are also more harmonious, fleshy, powerful and complex. They
are round, full, robust and long on the palate framed by firm tannins. A large
proportion are oak-aged (three years). They display fragrances of small red fruits
and stewed fruit (blackcurrant), spices (pepper), liquorice, bay and vanilla,
gradually developing into scents of game, brandy and truffle. Try them with
roasted red meats or meat in a sauce (rib steak), lamb, game and cheeses.
AC Crémant de Limoux
Overview: Crémant de Limoux was granted controlled appellation status in 1990.
It bolsters the range of sparkling wines grown around Limoux: ancestral method
Blanquette de Limoux and Blanquette de Limoux. It is grown within the same
boundaries (41 towns and villages in Aude south of Carcassonne) though
complies with different varietal and growing standards: an upper limit of 20% is
applied to the traditional varietal Mauzac at the expense of Chardonnay and
Chenin (20% minimum but less than 40%), the two main varieties (that can
account for up to 90%). Secondary fermentation must occur in the bottle with 15
months bottle fermentation (versus 9 for Blanquette).
Wine styles: Crémant de Limoux is a sparkling wine with a pale hue highlighted
with golden tints. It generally has a stronger structure than Blanquette though its
fragrances can be more elusive: apricot, acacia, hawthorn, apple, toast…
Excellent as an appetiser.
Faugères is a small area covering 7 villages nestled amongst the lower
slopes of Mount Noire which towers over the plain around Béziers. Soil types are
reasonably consistent, with a predominant proportion of shale. Large chunks of
scrubland have been cleared, particularly in the north, to make way for
vineyards. The climate is Mediterranean, dry and hot, and the due south aspect
of the vineyards promotes the ripening process. Great strides have been made in
terms of varietal selection and the once ubiquitous Carignan grape has been
joined by a host of other varieties over the last 25 years. Carignan and Cinsault
(40% and 20% at most), Grenache and Lledoner Pelut (20% minimum) Syrah and
Mourvedre (at least 5% for the latter one). The tiny proportion of white wines are
labelled as Coteaux du Languedoc.
Wine styles: Faugères wines are red, rosé and white. The reds are heady,
captivating, warm wines. Tannins are present but mellow and they frame a broad
aromatic spectrum (cherry, raspberry, blackcurrant, crushed strawberries,
liquorice, leather). All of this combines to produce silky wines with finesse. Try
them with grilled beef tenderloin, partridge or wild boar fillet steak. The rosé
wines are made using the ‘bleeding’ or direct to press method, and are round and
harmonious. Aromas of red fruit, white flowers and smoky notes are present. A
good match for cooked cold pork meats, starters and mixed salads. The whites
are made from Roussane, Grenache blanc, Marsanne and Vermentino (Rolle) and
draw impeccable minerality from the local schist soils.
Overview: the Fitou appellation is located in southern Languedoc, between
Perpignan and Narbonne. It embraces 9 villages divided into two wine growing
regions in Aude: one following the coastline on calcareous clay soils, the other on
higher elevations, where the soil is shallow shale. The climate is Mediterranean,
humid on the coastline and more arid inland. Carignan forms the backbone of the
varietal range (at least 30%), augmented with Grenache noir, Lladoner Pelut
(these varietals must account for at least 70% of the blend), Syrah and
Mourvedre, and a balance (10% at most) of Cinsault.
Wine styles: Fitou uses two different wine making techniques: traditional
vinification methods (grapes crushed and destemmed) at controlled
temperatures; and the whole grape fermentation process (grapes left uncrushed),
primarily for Carignan. The resultant wines are often blended. They must age for
at least 9 months. Blessed with a brilliant ruby-red hue, the wines are
well-constituted, full, fat and generous with rich, complex aromas (wild flowers,
moorland, red fruit (blackcurrant, cherry), spices, grilled almonds and leather
layered onto venison and prune). Enjoy with game (wild boar, deer), roast beef
with mushrooms or duck breast.
Overview: the Languedoc appellation area (until recently Coteaux du Languedoc)
follows the Mediterranean coastline from Nîmes to Narbonne. It covers 168 towns
and villages spread over 3 departments (Aude, Hérault, Gard). To reflect the
numerous ‘terroirs’ within this vast area (hard limestone in the scrublands, shale,
gravel…) growers can add site-specific names to the appellation. There are 14
such sites for red and rosé wines and 2 for white wines. For reds and rosés, these
are: La Clape, Quatourze, Cabrières, Montpeyroux, Saint-Saturnin, Pic-Saint-Loup,
Saint-Georges-d’Orques, Les Coteaux de la Méjanelle, Saint-Drézéry,
Saint-Christol and Les Coteaux de Vérargues, Grès de Montpellier, Terrasses du
Larzac and Pézénas. For white wines: La Clape and Picpoul de Pinet. Five of these
sites (growths) – La Clape, Grès de Montpellier, Terrasses du Larzac, Pézénas and
Pic Saint Loup – are classed as geographical denominations within the appellation
area. They have been officially recognised by AC law and comply with more
restrictive production criteria. The same law allows the others to use their
denomination as a village appellation.
The varietal range is Mediterranean: for reds and rosés: Carignan (40%
maximum), Cinsault (40% maximum), Grenache, Lladoner Pelut, Syrah and
Mourvedre. For whites: Grenache blanc, Clairette, Bourboulenc, Picpoul blanc
(50% minimum), which can be augmented with Ugni blanc, Terret, Carignan,
Maccabeo, Marsanne, Roussanne and Rolle.
Wine styles: AC Languedoc produces red, rosé and white wines. The reds are
vinted either traditionally or using the whole grape fermentation process. They
are generous, powerful, velvety, elegant wines with aromas of raspberry,
blackcurrant and spices (pepper). Wines for cellaring have characteristic aromas
of leather, bay and moorland fragrances (thyme, rosemary, juniper). Try them
with grilled meats or meats served in a sauce. The rosés are made by the
‘bleeding’ process and are fruity and warm. They combine fullness, suppleness
and finesse (redcurrant, raspberry, cherry, floral notes) and are well suited to
hors d’œuvre, cooked cold pork meats, fish and shellfish. The white wines are
increasingly fermented in oak. Full, round and displaying characteristic acidity,
they conjure up aromas of apricot, peach, honey and floral and toasted notes.
They are enjoyable with shellfish and grilled fish.
AC Languedoc Cabrières
Overview: This site-specific area fits within the broader Languedoc appellation
and is located around the village of the same name, near Clermont-l’Hérault and
Salagou lake. Primary shale is the predominant soil type playing host to vineyards
here, imparting highly distinctive characteristics to the wines.
Wine styles: Cabrières produces both red and rosé wines. White wines grown in
the same area are labelled Clairette du Languedoc. The red wines display a
hallmark personality, and are generally very concentrated and well-balanced with
aromas of red fruits (raspberry, strawberry, blackcurrant) and peony. Over time, these evolve and take on spicy, smoky undertones and toasted aromas of roasted
coffee. They can be served with game, grilled meats or meats served with a
sauce. The rosés, known as ‘ruby-reds’ are made chiefly from Cinsault and are
pleasant, light wines with delicate aromas (floral, fruity notes). They are well
suited to cooked cold pork meats and hors d’œuvre.
AC Languedoc Coteaux de Vérargues
Overview: the Vérargues wine area is set between Sommières (in the Gard
department) and Lunel (in Hérault), in and around the towns and villages of
Beaulieu, Boisseron, Lunel, Lunel-Viel, Restinclières, Saint Geniès Les Mourgues,
Saint-Seriès, Saturargues and Vérargues. Vines grow on terrace sites and
calcareous clay scree, pebbles and sand, where the climate is Mediterranean and
Wine styles: the red wines of Vérargues are relatively supple and display great
aromatic finesse (red and black fruit, vanilla). They marry well with duck with
prunes, game and grilled meats. The rosés are delicate and elegant (red fruit,
spices, aniseed) and pair with barbecued meats and cooked cold pork meats.
AC Languedoc Grès de Montpellier
Overview: 46 towns and villages set on the outskirts of Montpellier in the Hérault
department qualify for this appellation. The dry climate and damp warm air rising
from the sea promote early ripening and good balance throughout the growing
cycle. Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah (at least 70% for all three varietals
combined and at least 20% Grenache) rub shoulders with a few old Carignan
vines (30% maximum).
Wine styles: robust red wines to enjoy with red meat, meat in a sauce and game.
AC Languedoc La Clape
Overview: La Clape is a site-specific wine area (growth) within AC Languedoc. It is
located east of Narbonne, in the Aude department, and embraces 5 villages:
Armissan, Fleury, Salles-d’Aude, Vinassan and parts of Narbonne. La Clape boasts
a variety of soil types: limestone plateaux clad in scrubland overlooking coombs
which open up onto marl; Miocene molasse soils skirting the La Clape mountain
range in the north, interspersed with limestone debris chiselled from the peaks as
well as alluvial gravel. Frequent winds provide suitable ripening conditions for the
grapes by curbing outbreaks of disease. The region is also blessed with low
rainfall and plenty of sunshine.
Wine styles: La Clape produces primarily red wines but also yields some
outstanding whites from Bourboulenc (also known locally as Malvoisie) and Grenache blanc, not to mention some extremely pleasant rosés. The red wines,
drawn mainly from Grenache and Syrah, are fleshy, round and powerful. They
display character and the tell-tale characteristics of their growing environment,
exuding scents of the surrounding moorland and pine forests. Try with wild boar
served with a sauce and red meats either grilled or served with a sauce. The rosé
wines are light and well-balanced. Often described as a wine for immediate
pleasure, they display floral (acacia, rose), peach, apricot and citrus notes. An
ideal partner for barbecues, cooked cold pork meats or crudités. The white wines
are powerful and complex, exhibiting a distinctive acidulous freshness.
Fragrances of citrus fruit (grapefruit), exotic fruit, sweet almonds, peach and
jasmine are present. Enjoy with fish soup or shellfish.
AC Languedoc La Méjanelle
Overview: La Méjanelle is a wine growing area located in four villages on the
outskirts of Montpellier. The soil is scattered with pebbles of Alpine origin also
known as ‘grès’. The climate is Mediterranean with a maritime influence.
Wine styles: red wines from La Méjanelle are fleshy, fat and concentrated with
aromas of ripe or crystallised red or black fruit, smoky notes, spices. Try with
spit-roasted lamb or duck with olives. The rosés, drawn primarily from Grenache,
are delicate and exhibit a host of aromas. The perfect match for barbecues and
cooked cold pork meats.
AC Languedoc Montpeyroux
Overview: Montpeyroux, which means ‘Stony Mountain’, is a wine growing area
occupying the southern slopes of the Larzac, sandwiched between the plateau
and the upper Hérault valley. The vines grow on sun-drenched soils littered with
Wine styles: Montpeyroux red wines are on the whole warm and well-constituted.
They are generous wines with mellow tannins and aromas bearing the tell-tale
characteristics of their growing environment: the surrounding moorland (spices,
stewed fruit, thyme, woody notes). Try with red meat or game.
AC Languedoc Pezenas
Overview: a newcomer to the Languedoc appellation system covering fifteen
towns and villages around Pezenas in Hérault. Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah
must form at least 70% of the blend though the maximum percentage for a single
varietal is 75%. Mourvedre and Syrah, either together or individually, must form
at least 20% of the blend and if Carignan is included in the varietal range, at least
20% of Grenache must be used.
Wine styles: this particular area produces some sterling red wines due to a long-standing tradition of quality wine making by a handful of independent
estates and co-operative wineries. Try with barbecues or meat served with a
AC Languedoc Picpoul de Pinet
Overview: the Picpoul de Pinet appellation area embraces six villages bordering
Thau lake in the department of Hérault. With the exception of La Clape, it is the
only area where white wines qualify for the Coteaux du Languedoc appellation.
The soil make-up is characteristically formed of limestone gravel resulting from
the decomposition of limestone marl dating from several different periods (from
the Cretaceous to the Pliocene epoch). Picpoul de Pinet wines are vinted using
the direct to press method and ferment at low temperatures. They often mature
on the lees which imparts more fat and roundness.
Wine styles: Picpoul de Pinet is a dry white wine made from a single varietal,
Piquepoul. Boasting a pale yellow hue with greenish tints, it is fresh and
extremely aromatic (lemon, mango, white flesh fruits (banana), grapefruit, peach
and vanilla)… On the palate, it displays a distinctive lemony flavour with
undertones of dried fruit and freshly-cut hay. Try as an appetiser or with shellfish
from the nearby Thau lake (Bouzigues oysters, clams) and grilled fish.
AC Languedoc Pic Saint Loup
Overview: the Pic Saint Loup wine growing area takes its name from the local
mountain which is located twenty kilometres or so north of Montpellier and
reaches a peak of 658 metres. Of all the site-specific areas of Languedoc, this is
the most northerly. Vines are grown in 13 villages amongst the lower foothills, on
soils of limestone scree and Oligocene conglomerate where they thrive. At this
elevation (vines are grown at an altitude of around 200 metres) springtime
temperatures are cooler than in other parts and rainfall is higher.
Wine styles: the Pic Saint Loup appellation produces both red and rosé wines. The
reds are powerful, concentrated and boast a distinctive silky texture. They exhibit
aromas of ripe fruit, bay, spices, mint, cinnamon, liquorice and vanilla. They pair
well with red meat, game and cheeses. The rosés are rich, full and fruity
(raspberry, redcurrant, strawberry), providing the ideal match for barbecues,
mixed salads and patés.
AC Languedoc Quatourze
Overview: the Quatourze wine region occupies a stony plateau in the southern
part of Narbonne in Aude. It enjoys a dry, hot climate, allowing the grapes to fully
Wine styles: the reds are warm, powerful wines which does not undermine their
finesse (red fruits, spices, pepper). Of all the wines grown around Narbonne, they
display the deepest colour and greatest structure and pair well with grilled meats,
roast poultry and game (marcassin stew). The rosé wines are pleasant with a
distinctive bouquet. Try them with cooked cold pork meats, barbecues or
AC Languedoc Saint-Christol
Overview: this area covers a single village, Saint-Christol in the department of
Hérault. Villafranchian gravel and pebbles form the predominant soil type and the
climate is dry and hot, allowing the grapes to fully ripen. Mourvedre, in particular,
Wine styles: Saint-Christol produces wines with character, often displaying
distinctive spice aromas. They are rich, velvety and extremely fragrant, providing
the perfect match for a leg of lamb, game and grilled red meat. The appellation
also produces rosé wines.
AC Languedoc Saint-Drézéry
Overview: the Saint-Drézéry wine region is located north of Montpellier, in and
around the village of the same name. It is AC Languedoc’s most diminutive
geographical denomination. Villafranchian gravel forms the predominant soil type
and the climate is dry and hot, allowing the grapes to fully ripen.
Wine styles: Saint-Drézéry wines are powerful, elegant and aromatic (red fruit)
with spices. Pair with red meat, either grilled or served with a sauce.
AC Languedoc Saint-Georges d’Orques
Overview: the Saint-Georges d’Orques appellation area is located 8 kilometres
west of Montpellier and covers five villages. Soil types are varied, alternating
between calcareous clay and stones. Interspersed amongst these, is a good deal
of flint mingled with decalcified clay, covering a significant portion of the area.
The nearby sea has a moderating influence on the hot, dry Mediterranean
Wine styles: Saint-Georges d’Orques boast a long-standing reputation for its
wines. Prior to the advent of mass-produced wines, they were most certainly
Languedoc-Roussillon’s best known and loved red wines. They vary in style from
rich, powerful wines with a great capacity for cellaring, to tender, flavoursome
wines which reward early drinking. Either way, they are blessed with extremely
delicate fruity characteristics (blackberry, cherry, morello cherry, vanilla, spices)
and mild tannins. Try with red meat, game and cheeses.
AC Languedoc Saint-Saturnin
Overview: the Saint-Saturnin wine region is nestled in the foothills of the Larzac.
It covers the villages of Arboras, Jonquières, Saint-Guiraud and Saint Saturnin de
Lucian. It occupies stony ground set on a subsoil of calcareous clay and enjoys a
hot climate, sheltered from the wind. This particular site only produces classic red
wines and ‘overnight’ wines which are vinted for just one night. The resultant
wines are supple, easy-drinking and fruity.
Wine styles: the wines are supple, round and pleasant with a reasonably pale
hue. They exhibit crunchy fruit flavours, freshness and good overall balance. Try
with white meat, cooked cold pork meats, barbecues or jugged hare. The rosés,
primarily drawn from Syrah, are fat, generous and fragrant wines (carnation, red
fruit, pepper). They pair well with barbecues, cooked cold pork meats and hors
AC Languedoc Terrasses du Larzac
Overview: The Terrases du Larzac area is one of the five specific AC Languedoc
sites (growths). 32 towns and villages in the department of Hérault qualify for this
appellation. The region covers an extensive, fragmented area. Grenache,
Mourvedre and Syrah must form at least 60% of the blend, though the maximum
percentage for a single varietal is 75%. Mourvedre and Syrah, either together or
individually, must form at least 20% of the blend and if Carignan is included in
the varietal range, at least 20% of Grenache must be used. The wines must be
blended from grapes or wines drawn from at least two of the aforementioned
Wine styles: red wines only. Enjoy with barbecues or meat served with a sauce.
Overview: although AC Limoux has a long history, it is still relatively unknown,
mainly because for a long time it was in direct competition with local sparkling
wines, Blanquette and Crémant de Limoux. It shares the same boundaries as its
sparkling counterparts, covering 41 towns and villages in Aude, located south of
Carcassonne. Its predominantly calcareous clay soils and especially its
Ocean-cooled Mediterranean climate, are, however, particularly well-suited to
growing top-flight still white wines. The reds (recognised in 2004) must be
blended from at least three varietals: the primary varietals are Merlot (at least
50%), Cot, Syrah, Grenache and Carignan. The secondary varietals (at least 20%)
are Cabernet Franc and Cabernet-Sauvignon.
Wine styles: The varietal range here comprises Mauzac (at least 15%), though
also Chardonnay and Chenin which impart power, fat and aromatic complexity to the blend. Limoux is made on a boutique scale, with just over 1,000 hl made
annually, though this is on an upward trend as demand for still white wines
increases apace. The wines are fat and opulent and pair well with fish dishes and
Overview: AC Malpère is the most westerly of the Languedoc appellations. It sits
squarely in the middle of a triangle formed by Carcassonne, Limoux and
Castelnaudary, embracing 31 towns and villages in Aude. Vines grow on rolling
hillsides of calcareous clay and gravely terraces, caught between Mediterranean
and Ocean influences. The varietal range mirrors this unusual situation: Merlot,
(40 % minimum), Cabernet Franc, Cot, Cabernet-Sauvignon, Grenache, Lledoner
Pelut, Cinsaut for the reds, Cabernet Franc (40 % minimum), Cabernet-Sauvignon,
Cinsaut, Cot, Grenache and Merlot for the rosés. The red wines are vinted
traditionally at controlled temperatures. Some are aged in oak. The rosés are
made using the ‘bleeding’ method and ferment at low temperatures.
Wine styles: Malepère produces both red and rosé wines. The red wines display a
crimson hue with purple-blue tints. They are robust, well-structured, fruity and
round on the palate. Initial aromas of very ripe red fruit take on spicy, gamey,
undergrowth tones as they age. Try with cassoulet, Languedoc stew or beef
bourguignon. The rosés are full and lively on the palate, frequently offering good
balance and a long-lasting finish (blackcurrant, strawberry, raspberry). Enjoy with
stuffed vine leaves, fricassee of monkfish, cooked cold pork meats.
Overview: this region covers four villages in Pyrénées-Orientales. Although the
climate is Mediterranean, the vines also enjoy occasional Atlantic influences. Soil
type is predominantly black shale which retains heat during the day and releases
it by night. The fruit is destemmed and whole berries are macerated to make
Maury. Traditionally, neutral spirit is added with the pomace still in the tanks. Skin
contact then lasts for two weeks or more, extracting greater aromas, colour and
tannins. A quarter of the wines are aged traditionally in oak and the remaining
three quarters in concrete tanks. They remain in the cellar until the first
September of the second year after the harvest. The Maury appellation, which
until now was restricted to dessert wines, can now be used for dry wines grown
on the same site. The new appellation came into force for wines made from the
2011 vintage onwards.
Wine styles: Maury is a fruity, complex red dessert wine. It is drawn primarily
from Grenache and Macabeu. On the palate, it shows concentrated aromas of red
or black fruit, vanilla, spices, dried figs, beeswax, cocoa and mocha. It is a robust,
fleshy wine with a mellow softness derived from its sweetness. It makes an ideal
appetiser, or can be served with foie gras or a chocolate dessert.
Overview: the Minervois appellation area stretches across the departments of
Aude and Hérault, east and south of Carcassonne, covering 61 towns and
villages. The region is subdivided into four distinct zones, each with its own
characteristic climate and soil types: the extremely arid central zone with
terraces formed of pebbles, sandstone, shale or limestone; a zone with identical
soil types but a damper climate due to Ocean influences; an area of higher
elevations where the soils are shale or karst; and an area defined by a
Mediterranean climate buffeted by strong winds and formed of stony terraces. Six
different sites have also been defined: Canal du Midi, Les Causses, La Circulade
et ses Mourels, Coteaux et Contreforts, Trois Vallées and Les Terrasses.
The varietal range comprises Grenache, Lladoner Pelut, Syrah and Mourvedre (at
least 60% combined), with a secondary range of Carignan, Cinsault, Piquepoul,
Terret and Riveirenc. The main white varietals are: Grenache blanc, Bourboulenc,
Maccabeo, Marsanne, Roussanne and Vermentino; these can be supplemented
with Clairette, Picpoul, Terret and small-berry Muscat, to within an upper limit of
Wine styles: Minervois wines come in all three colours though reds account for
95% of production. The red wines are expressive, robust, full and generous with
aromas of blackcurrant, violet, cinnamon and vanilla, ageing into notes of leather,
crystallised fruit and prune. Try with mountain hams and sausages, small wild
game, cassoulet or lamb stew. The rosés are drawn primarily from Syrah and are
made using the ‘bleeding’ method. Try them with pissaladière, stuffed veal rolls,
chicken with tarragon or stuffed vine leaves. The white wines are made using the
direct to press method and often ferment in oak. They are delicate and elegant
(peach, pear, blossom…). Try with mussels or salmon steak either grilled or
served with a sauce.