The sun-drenched south of France, synonymous with beaches and Mediterranean cuisine, is also a prolific producer of wine. Vineyards sit at the foot of mountains, overlook lakes, and hug the coast of the azure sea. In the central swath known as Languedoc, around 100,000 acres encompass 23 AOCs or Appellation d’Origine Controllées. It’s a landscape of rugged beauty, rich history, and distinct wines that speak to the character of the local people. Some call it Provence without the tourists.
Wine has been made in Languedoc since Roman times, yet most consumers have a cursory understanding of the region. While high quality appellations like Corbières, Faugères, Fitou, Limoux, and Minervois may sound familiar, in general, Languedoc had long focused on quantity. Also, Languedoc’s status was always coupled with Roussillon to the south. Today, the territory of Languedoc is contained in the recently formed administrative region of Occitanie, although its wines remain unique.
Languedoc produces a wealth of styles from white, rosé, sparkling, dessert, and fortified, but the red wines – 76% of production – steal the spotlight. From Syrah, Carignan, Mourvèdre, Grenache to Cinsault, these varieties thrive in the topography. Broadly speaking, Languedoc is a large, south-facing amphitheater that basks in the ripening power of sunlight. The long days and warmth of summer give the best wines firm tannins, deep color, and intense berry fruit flavors. It’s not uncommon to find the scent of garrigue or local scrub like lavender and thyme, on the nose.
Whites, while only 10 % of production, are increasingly important. Picpoul de Pinet, Clairette blanche, Grenache blanc, and better-known varieties like Viognier, Roussanne, Marsanne, and Chardonnay, are all grown successfully in Languedoc.
Recently, a new quality hierarchy was layered over Languedoc’s many appellations. Forming the base of the pyramid is the catch-all AOC Languedoc. The category above it is Grands Vins de Languedoc, which includes AOCs like Saint-Chinian and Faugères. At the top are the Grand Crus du Languedoc like Corbières‐Boutenac and La Clape. For producers to qualify for a classification, they must adhere to strict rules of production. This ensures consumers get what they’re paying for. So, the next time you’re shopping for a taste of the Mediterranean sun at a fair price, look for Languedoc AOC and its range of premium wines