An introduction to the Languedoc

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Looking to discover the wines of the Languedoc? Look no further as buyer Marcel Orford-Williams gives us his thoughts. Video transcript

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Hi, I'm Marcel from The Wine Society, and I want to talk to you about the Languedoc-Roussillon, the largest single region producing wine in France. And indeed, I think it's the largest single region anywhere on the planet. 

The climate obviously is wonderful. It's hot in the summer and not too cold in the winter, perfect for grapes, and the Languedoc, you can plant pretty well, any grape variety you can think of. And indeed, I think the number of grape varieties planted in the Languedoc must run into dozens. Red wine, white wine, pink wine, fortified wine, sparkling wine. All these things are made in the Languedoc-Roussillon.

Dominant grape varieties, well they tend to change a bit. In the Roussillon, grenache dominates. The Roussillon is much hotter, really, almost baked, and grenache absolutely thrives, and produces very strong, full-bodied reds, and a selection of fortified wines too. And white grape varieties? Well, there's all the grenache variants Like grenache blanc and grenache gris, and a fair bit of macabeu as well, which is another grape variety you find in Spain, where it's called viura.

The best wines from the Roussillon, the most prestigious wines come from right by the border with Spain, the two little villages of Banyuls and Collioure and they make fabulous, quite rare wines and necessarily quite expensive because of the way they're planted on very steep slopes and where the climate is truly dramatic, with tremendous rainstorms and hail and everything else. 

The Languedoc is slightly more benign, and I would split the Languedoc in really two ways, east and west. The east is much closer in style to the Rhône, and produces actually Rhône style wines, and the further east you go, the closer the wines are to Côtes-du-Rhône. If I take one or two appellations, Pic Saint-Loup for instance, is a haven for the syrah grape, also grenache and carignan of course, but syrah produces fabulous wines. And then as you go further west, the climate changes, becomes drier, and the wines are a little more austere. 

And you start with Faugères or Saint-Chinian in the middle, and it produces very strong, pungent, very finely bodied wines. But producing similar wines. And then you go further west, you end up in Minervois, and the further west you go, the more dominant the Atlantic becomes, the cooler the climate and the fresher the wines. And then further on, you've got Cabardès, which is right next to Carcassonne, cassoulet country, of course, and Cabardès in fact, have within the appellation the choice of Bordeaux grape varieties and Rhône grape varieties. 

And then when you're in Carcassonne, you're on the River Aude, which is the main sort of river, and if you follow the river upstream, you in fact, go south towards the Pyrenees, and you end up in white wine country, and in particular in sparkling wine country around the little town of Limoux. Sparkling wine has been made successfully since 1531 from grape varieties like the mauzac, and more recently, from chenin and chardonnay, and make absolutely lovely wines that are not too expensive and well-worth trying. Unlike better known sparkling wines, Limoux has the advantage of being slightly less acid, and I tend to always recommend my friends, who are slightly sensitive to high acidity, to go for Limoux. 

The Languedoc, in a nutshell, is difficult to do because it's so huge and so vast, but it's a fantastic place. The wines are still relatively inexpensive. They offer tremendous value for money, and Languedoc wines should be in anybody's wine cellar.

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