Join us this Friday, as we toast the wines from the region we love in the South of France — Languedoc! May 30, 2014 is officially Languedoc Day, and we will join wine lovers all over the world as they tweet about this important wine region using the hashtag #LanguedocDay.
Beaucoup des cepages! (Many Grape Varieties!)
With a typically Mediterranean climate and wide variety of soils, from pebbly terraces, sandstone and marl, limestone and schist, clay, sand and molasse deposits, the Languedoc contains the biggest collection of varieties in the world! From the mountains and forests of Corbières, along the Canal du Midi through Minervois to the seaside of Picpoul de Pinet, the once island La Clape massif, and everywhere in between, this unique wine region boasts 120,000 hectares in production out of 220,000 hectares of vines in the Languedoc-Rousillon wine region.
Pronounced “Long-dock” by outsiders and “Lawn-guh-dock” by locals, the region curves around the Mediterranean Sea’s Golf of Lion, and encompasses 36 appellations and ‘delimited areas with protected origin status’, including 29 for still wines, 4 for ‘vin doux naturel’ (fortified sweet wines) and 3 for sparkling wines. The Languedoc appellation also includes 22 with protected geographical indication status (IGP), spread over 4 regions: the Aude, Hérault, Gard and Pyrénées-Orientales. Annual production of the area is over 190,000 hectolitres.
The Languedoc area itself has been around for at least 2,500 years, and is both the largest and oldest wine-producing region in France. In the 1960s work began in earnest to bring together all the winegrowers who worked within the region into one AOC (appellation d’origine contrôlée) but it took 47 years to finally bring together all of L’Occitane, Cathare and Catalan as “Languedoc,” via statute of 30 April 2007, now encompassing 531 villages in the Languedoc-Rousillon region.
Last month we spent a week in the region tasting wines in the various subregions where they were produced. Set in the historic fortified city of Carcassonne, we participated in blind tastings and seminars, enjoyed lunches and dinners with winemakers, and traveled outside Carcassonne’s walls to visit Limoux, Minervois, Corbières and La Clape. We tasted sparkling wine alongside a valley vineyard in Limoux, and Corbières wines atop Mount Alaric. We plan to tell you more about the area, and our visit in the coming weeks.
There are so many great wines from Languedoc that are not yet available outside the area, but a great many do make it to the United States. The region produces many well-known grape varieties including Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre, as well as some lesser known grapes like Picpoul, Carignan and Mauzac. Many of the wines are extremely affordable, with an average retail price of about $15.
Which Wine Should I Buy?
We encourage you to head to your local wine shop and purchase something to enjoy on Languedoc Day. Like oysters or shellfish? Ask for a Picpoul de Pinet.
More into charcuterie or cassoulet? Then Corbières and Minervois are for you.
Prefer something sparkling? Look for a Blanquette de Limoux. Or perhaps something sweet? Then head for Les Muscats — Muscat de Frontignan, Muscat de Lunel, Muscat de Mireval or Muscat de Saint-Jean-de-Minervois.
Keep in mind that in France, a wine goes by the name of the region, and not the grape. But look at the impressive list of grape varieties of the AOC Languedoc:
Grape varieties reds and roses: Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre (50% minimum) alongside Cinsault and Carignan.
Grape varieties whites: white Grenache, Clairette, Bourboulenc, white Picpoul, Roussanne, Marsanne, Rolle and Tourbat (70% minimum for each of the eight varieties) white Carignan, white Terret, Ugni blanc, Maccabeu and 10% Viognier. AOC Limoux produces sparkling wines from Mauzac, Chardonnay and Chenin.
We have assembled a wine tasting collection with help from our local shops as well as some bottles sent to us by Languedoc AOC representatives. We even brought a bottle back with us. If you’re in Houston and looking for popular wine from Languedoc, try Specs Smith Street location. Unfortunately they are not all in one section, so you may need to look in several areas. The sales person may take you directly to the Vin de Pays aisle. But you can also find Languedoc wines in the Rose and Syrah aisles as well. For a really good selection from Limoux and Minervois visit French Country Wines at 2433 Bartlett St, just a block or two from Goode Company Barbeque off Kirby in Rice Village.
Sadly, not many of Houston’s restaurants have Languedoc wines on their wine lists. That’s too bad, because they could offer you really good wines that wouldn’t cost you an arm and a leg. But we did find some nice Languedoc wines at Bistro Provence in Memorial and Bistro des Amis in West University. Feast used to have some good ones, but alas Feast shuttered last year. We hope to change the lack of Languedoc wines on area wine lists — and you can too. Just request something from the South of France whenever you ask to see the wine list.
My favorite seminar in Carcassonne included the history of AOC Languedoc presented by Jean-Philippe Granier, Technical Director for Les AOC du Languedoc. Our presentation included a translator, the lovely Anita from ILO. But I have only a tiny piece of the presentation on video. For a full presentation, this one is entirely in French.
So get yourself out to a wine shop, and pick up a few bottles of wine from Languedoc. Tweet along with us on twitter using #LanguedocDay. And check back here in the coming weeks for more pictures and stories about our trip to the South of France and the Languedoc appellation.
Á votre santé!