Languedoc-Roussillon, Powerhouse of French Wine
Languedoc-Roussillon is the southernmost region of France, straddling the Spanish border to the south, the Pyrenees mountains to the west, the Massif Central to the north, and the blue Mediterranean sea to the east.
Whether you’re into whites, reds, roses, or sparkling wines, this region, whose capital is the seaside city of Montpellier, stands out and offers something for every taste. That’s probably because it’s one of the single biggest wine producing regions in the world – three times bigger than Bordeaux, believe it or not –and with enough territorial variety and microclimates to support a vast variety of different grapes.
Languedoc-Roussillon produces a notable number of high quality whites, mainly Chardonnay but also Chenin Blanc and Mauzac. Unlike in other regions of France, white wines here are typically unoaked, leading to zestier, stronger flavor notes.For those who are into bubbly wines, Cremant de Limoux offers the fizz of Champagne, with fresher, grassier notes and at a much lower cost.
But it’s really the red varieties of Languedoc-Roussillon that have
stolen the show as of late. Red grapes such as Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre
are grown there and featured in ripe as well as very ripe red wine. One of the
more interesting red wine
regions within Languedoc-Roussillon is Pic St. Loup, 20 km
inland from Montpellier. This region sits at the base of two rugged mountain
peaks, Montagne de l’Hortus and Pic St. Loup, and is notable for growing the
heat-loving Mourvedre grape. You can expect a lot of meaty, spicy, and earthy
flavors in wines that come from the mountainous Mediterranean microclimate of Pic
St. Loup. Wine blends here usually rely on a combination of Syrah, Mourvedre,
and Grenache, with smaller quantities of Carignan, CInsault, Aspiran, Piquepol,
and Terret grapes to round them off.
In the region of Minervois is an interesting micro-region known as Minervois la Liviniere, including six small communities that between them account for 200 hectares of land, with 35 total wine producers in total. Clustered around the small town of Minerve, there is evidence of Roman viticulture here, a testament to the area’s richness when it comes to growing grapes. Typical Minervois wines are constituted of Syrah and Mourvedre blends of at least 20%. The producers here are as unique and rugged as the land itself, with some of them employing gnarled vines over 100 years old to make rich quality reds, oftentimes with natural yeasts, sans refrigeration, and stored in the chalky underground cellars that are found in almost every maison in the region.