The Wines of Languedoc
The wine culture is an intricate, integral part of Languedoc dating back to the Phoenicians. Long known as the largest wine region in France in terms of acreage and production, winemaking reached its pinnacle in the late 19th century. During that fruitful period, négociants, the commercial middlemen, and winemakers netted major fortunes from the wine and spirits trade. Elegant chateaux and grand homes were built amid vineyards, hidden away at the center of peaceful, breezy parks. Unfortunately, the region was mostly known for the quantity of its production rather than its quality. But this is in the past.
For the last thirty years, audacious passionate winemakers, some working the land of their ancestors, have taken the region into a major revival. Their enthusiasm and dedication in experimenting with local grape varietals has resulted in a growing selection of exceptionally singular wines for which the Languedoc is known today.
Red, white, rosé, sparkling and natural sweet wines are produced under the eighteen Appellations d’Origine Controlée (AOC). Corbières, Limoux, St Chinian, Côteau du Languedoc, Faugère, Minervois are among the largest ones. All such AOC wines are regulated by very strict rules pertaining to varietals, soil, yields and vinification.
In Languedoc, all AOC wines are blended from indigenous grapes. The primary reds are Carignan, Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre, while whites include Roussanne, Marsanne, Ugni Blanc, Muscat, Terret and Grenache Blanc.
Straying from the rigid rules, some growers, either in the spirit of rebellion or individual creativity, blend their wines with non-traditional, non-Languedocian grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Whether traditional or international in style, these well-balanced wines fall under the classification Vin de Pays, and, ironically, can fetch a lot more than the prestigious AOC.