Hi, I'm Marcel of The Wine Society, and I'm here to talk to you a little bit about the south of France.
The south of France is, well, it's where the oldest vineyards of France are located. And in some areas, you go back to Roman times, some back to Greeks. It's also huge, talking just about the Languedoc-Roussillon alone, it's twice the size of Bordeaux. It's the largest single vineyard region in the world.
So I'm going to start, I think, in the Languedoc. It is absolutely huge. It was the kind of breadbasket in terms of wine for France for a very long time. It produces wines of all kinds of colours, all kinds of styles. A decision was made to plant Bordeaux grape varieties.
If you go further east, you end up in Provence. 90% of wines produced in Provence is rosé. It's the number one rosé wine production area anywhere on the planet. Everybody knows how pretty it is. You think about the herb-scented hills of the Luberon, the southern face of the Ventoux, the area around Saint-Raphaël. Absolutely beautiful, stunning beaches and the occasional film festival.
Now, were you to be in Marseille, you could go to the Port, to the Vieux-Port and have a glass of Pastis, which I hate, and then take a ferry boat, and a night crossing would take you to Corsica.
Corsica is a fascinating area in itself, possibly even older than anywhere in mainland France, because Corsica was first colonised by Phoenicians. It's a really interesting place. Corsica produces great wines from local grape varieties like vermentino, which the Italians will swear up and down is theirs, but actually, it's Corsican, of course, And sangiovese, which there is known as nielluccio, and the sciacarello, which is another great red grape variety. Lots of small growers, they make up the bulk of what's really good in Corsica. The wines are not necessarily that cheap, because shipping is complicated, but they're well worthwhile.
So that's going east, of course, going west from the Languedoc, you visit, of course, the town of Carcassonne and you stay there overnight, have a really good cassoulet with a bottle of Minervois.
But if you go further west, you go along the Canal du Midi, which was built in the 17th Century, partly to ship wines from the Langeudoc to Bordeaux, because the Bordelais of course were never able to make proper, fully coloured wines.
If you carry on a bit further, you will actually end up among a myriad number of vineyards, which tend to be known as the South-West. They're a kind of colony of Bordeaux, as they used to be, now firmly independent. Very strong link to the pilgrims route to Santiago de Compostela, and a lot of pilgrims would have come through there and drank these fabulous local wines like Cahors, like Madiran, Jurançon, Irouléguy, Bergerac.
I can go on naming. They're all wonderful, all very different. Very complex, and The Wine Society has just about the best list covering anywhere in the country.