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The Languedoc is often lumped with its neighbor to the west, Roussillon, but as far as the world of wine goes it is quite distinct. Bordering Provence and the Rhone River in the east and Roussillon in the west, it is often considered the last frontier in French wine and is known for great values.
Opportunity abounds here. Like most of coastal southern France, the Languedoc enjoys an enviable Mediterranean climate. It also claims the same “garrigue” as Provence, a terrain of small, scrubby and fragrant bushes that radiate aromas of dried herbs and resin. The soil is diverse but hillside vineyards composed of schist, gravel and limestone present the greatest potential.
In the past, the Languedoc (along with Rousillon) was known for quantity more than quality but that changed after a concerted effort by the INAO and a group of local producers to improve quality in the 1980s. They helped introduce better winemaking technology and initiated studies on the region’s soil types, and additional research on canopy management, yield control and winemaking. Any inferior vines were grubbed up. As these changes take hold, the Languedoc is making a name for itself on the French market and internationally. It is a particularly satisfying turn of events for a region that has one of the longest histories of winemaking in the world.
Despite their proximity to other well-known winemaking regions, the Languedoc remained off the beaten path in the 20th Century. Because of this a large number of old vines exist here – many over 100 years old. With no big corporate investment or outside capital, most vineyards stayed in the hands of the families that had owned them for many generations. The vignerons (always known as being a little different), developed their own way of doing things. They are staunchly independent and known for being politically organized. Some of the best producers, for example, make Vin de Pays wines instead of classifying under the AOC in order to protest what they feel are unnecessary or meaningless regulations. There is a tangible desire to be authentic and there is not much care for ratings.