Exploring France's Languedoc Wine Region

Take a tour of the underrated French Languedoc Roussillon Wine Country

Old town and vineyards at sunrise, Carcassonne
Matteo Colombo/Getty Images

The Languedoc region is an enormous producer of French wine and consists of more than a third of the entire country’s vineyard acreage.

You can get far more bang for your buck with the Languedoc wines than many others of similar quality, as this region produces a big portion of France’s table wines or vins de tables, and most of France’s country wines or vin de pays. It is an ideal destination for touring the French wine country, visiting vineyards for tastings, or simply enjoying a glass at a bar or on the terrace of a pavement café.

With a rental car or a tour group, it is simple to take a tour of Languedoc’s wine country. The best method is to select one or two of the many regional wine territories and drive around that area. You can’t miss the vineyards. Grape vines dot the landscape throughout this region.

As an interesting note, Limoux claims to have been the true spot where sparkling wine was invented, and locals say the famous Dom Perignon passed through the village on his way to Champagne and merely stole the idea. To this day, visitors can sample Limoux’s wonderful sparkling wine, called Blanquette.

The French government regulates the designation of exceptional wines as “appellation d'origine controlée,” or registered designation of origin, with requirements as to the growing methods, the yields and several other standards. Officials perform taste tests to be sure these wines are of high quality.

The Languedoc has ten “AOC” territories, and the “Vin AOC de Languedoc” office describes them as follows:

Corbières Wine Territory

This is produced in Carcassonne, Narbonne, Perpignan, and Quillan, featuring young wines which have blackcurrant or blackberry flavors. Ninety-four percent of these wines are red. The more mature wines have notes of spice, pepper, licorice and thyme.

The reds are powerful, with aromas of old leather, coffee, cocoa, and game. The grape varieties Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignan, and Cinsault are used for the red and rosé wines. Grenache Blanc, Bourboulenc, Maccabeu, Marsanne, and Roussanne are used for the white wines.

Côteaux du Languedoc Wine

This is home to the oldest vines in France, extending along the Mediterranean coast from Narbonne in the west to Camargue in the east and as far as the foothills of the Montagne Noire and the Cévennes.

The red wines are velvety and elegant, with notes of raspberry, black currant, spice, and pepper. Once aged, the wines develop notes of leather, laurel, and scents of the garrigue (cade, juniper, thyme, and rosemary). Grape varieties include Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre.

However, the Côteaux de Languedoc will be phased out in 2017

Minervois Wines

These wines are produced in an area bounded by the Canal du Midi in the south and the Montagne Noire to the north, stretching from Narbonne to Carcassonne.

The young wines are well-structured and elegant, with aromas of black currant, violet, cinnamon, and vanilla. Once aged, they display characteristics of leather, candied fruit and prunes. They have silky tannins and are full and long on the palate.

The red wines are produced from Syrah, Mourvèdre, Grenache, Carignan, and Cinsault. The whites are produced from Marsanne, Roussanne, Maccabeu, Bourboulenc, Clairette, Grenache, Vermentino and small-berried Muscat.

Saint Chinian Wine

Produced north of Béziers at the foot of the Caroux and Espinouse mountains, these wines use Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre, Carignan, Cinsault and Lladoner Pelut grapes.

The young Saint Chinian wines have a good structure and notes of balsam, black currant, and spice. The more mature wines develop complex aromas of cocoa, toast, and fruits.

Faugères Wine

To the north of Béziers and Pézenas, this territory produces young wines that are well-structured but supple, with mineral notes and aromas of small red fruits, licorice and spices. These wines are low in acidity and have elegant and refined tannins.

After maturation for 12 months, the silky tannins are further enhanced by notes of leather and licorice. Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Carignan, and Cinsault are the grape varieties.

Fitou Wine

This is grown in nine communes in the southern Languedoc: Caves, Fitou, Lapalme, Leucate, Treilles, Cascatel, Paziols, Tuchan and Villeneuve. Exclusively a red wine producing AOC, these are robust wines with complex and rich aromas of blackberry, raspberry, pepper, prunes, toasted almonds and leather.

Clairette du Languedoc Wine

This AOC exclusively produces a white wine of the Clairette grape variety. It features young wines with notes of passion fruit, guava and mango, and mature wines with hints of nut and jam. The sweet wines have dominant flavors of honey and peach.

Limoux Wine

Just south of Carcassonne, this territory produces sparkling wines. The “Méthode Ancestrale Blanquette” sparkling wines have southern bouquets of apricot, acacia, hawthorn, apple and peach flower. The white Limoux wines have a delicate note of vanilla and are fresh, structured wines.

Cabardès Wine

With six rivers irrigating its slopes, this wine territory backs up to the Montagne Noire and overlooks the city of Carcassonne. Careful blending of the two main families of grape varieties gives wines which are well-balanced and complex, with the red fruit, refinement, and liveliness of the Atlantic varieties and the richness, fullness and intense smoothness of the Mediterranean varieties.

Malapere Wine

Bounded to the north by the Canal du Midi and to the east by the Aude river in a triangle between Carcassonne, Limoux, and Castelnaudary, this AOC produces young wines with aromas of red fruits, strawberries, cherries and sometimes black currant. The older wines have notes of toast and candied fruit, plums, and figs.