Languedoc Roussillon – a region for both sunny holidays and outstanding wine

C & J Vineyards.

C & J Vineyards. - Credit: Archant

In a region flooded by the sun and swept by headwinds (sea breezes and Tramontane winds), the Languedoc Roussillon benefit from Mediterranean influences, which diminish the further they are from the coast.

Languedoc Roussillon wines.

Languedoc Roussillon wines. - Credit: Archant

There are many appellations and regional denominations and even so no two wines are alike, except for one ancient, unerring common factor: the Mediterranean.

The vineyards of the Languedoc Roussillon extend to the foot of the massifs of the Cevennes and Causses in the north, and to the Pyrenees all the way to the Spanish border in the south. The area is so large that there is a great diversity of terroir, each with their specific soils, climates and grape varieties. The harmonious combination of natural components makes for unique wines.

The wine producing region of Languedoc Roussillon is enormous. It is in fact the largest in France in terms of size covering 204,000 hectares and a production accounting for over a third of the overall French production and five per cent of global wine production.

The vinous wealth of the Languedoc Roussillon equates to an incredibly diverse range of wines and styles from big tannic reds to delicate sparkling wines, and from rich dessert wines to aromatic still whites and rosés and offer great value too.

The best known wines include those of Fitou, Minervois, Corbieres and Limoux for years and increasingly other names such as Cabardes, an appellation since 1999 & Picpoul de Pinet, one of the smallest in France are joining their ranks.

Holidays in the region near Carcassonne, Nimes and Narbonne for instance introduce us to local gems some of which are now making it onto wine shop shelves. Look out for Montpeyroux, Terrasses de Larzac, Caramany and wines from lesser known grape varieties including Marselan

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The backbone of most of the red wines are the grape varieties of Carignan, Grenache, Syrah & Mourvedre producing robust full flavoured wines and often consistently produced by efficient co-operatives.

Smaller producers such as Calmel & Joseph work with many growers seeking out those whose fruit is of high quality throughout the Languedoc Roussillon. Their work has gained them recognition as they were recently awarded the accolade of Négociant of the Year in France.

Katie Jones, the driving force behind Domaine Jones based in Tuchan in the Languedoc took the plunge in 2008 and bought a vineyard in the Languedoc after working in the wine trade in the region for years. She has acquired several very small remote vineyards growing old traditional varieties including Carignan Gris, Macabeu and 'hairy Grenache' making distinctive delicious wines!

Inland, the gentle rolling hills of Limoux are home to vines producing the very enjoyable sparkling wines such as Blanquette de Limoux and Cremant de Limoux using the Blanquette grape for the former and Chardonnay amongst others for the latter plus still wines from Chardonnay, Syrah and Grenache such as those from Ch St Roch.

It is renowned as the most innovative wine region in France, and in addition to being an appealing holiday destination is increasingly becoming known as a producer of quality wines.