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Things to do in the Languedoc:   Drinking Wine and Making Wines:   Grape Varieties

The Languedoc-Roussillon region produces mainly red wines, a good share is "Vin de Table" but most of it is "Vin de Pays". They are perfect as every day wines.

AOC wines are very interesting to follow as the techniques, grape varieties and vineyards selected tend to improve the quality of the wine. Some broad categories are:
Full-body red wine ( Corbières, Saint Chinian)
Medium-body red wine (Costières)
Light and dry rosé (Languedoc, Roussillon)
Dry white wine (Costières, Languedoc, Minervois)
Sweet red wine (Banyuls, Carthagène, Maury)
Sweet white wine (Muscat)
Sparkling white wine (Limoux)

 

The main grapes used in Languedoc Roussillon are:

 

Red:

 

Carignan: Most popular red grape variety grown in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France. Used as a blend, where it can account for as much as 60% of the cépage, it is late ripening, resistant to spring frosts, tolerant of heat and gives high tannin, extract and colour. Now popular in California and South America as well as Northern Spain, where it is known as 'Cariñena'.

Cinsault: Sometimes spelt Cinsault, this red variety is a popular constituent of the wines of Southern France, notably Châteauneuf-du-Pape and the Midi. It is an early ripener, gives intense colour and flavour and can withstand very hot climates. It is one of the blending grapes of the South African 'Pinotage' where it is known as 'Hermitage' after the Northern Rhône region - why? nobody knows, as Cinsaut is neither used nor permitted in this region of France.

Grenache: Thought to have originated in Spain, where it is known as Garnacha, this is a hot climate red grape ideally suited to the Languedoc region of France and the Navarra region of Spain. It is primarily a blending grape, thin skinned, so giving lighter colour. It is often used to add subtlety to the more beefy southern reds. Has become very popular in California and Australia where it can be seen as a single varietal.

 

 

Syrah: The classic red grape of the northern Rhône. It produces intense inky purple coloured wines when young with a distinctly spicy tone. As it matures it turns to deep garnet with evolving earthy, stewed blackberry and damson flavours. It gives huge extract and tannins and is capable of great ageing. As 'Shiraz' in Australia it presents a more approachable nature, more plummy and elegant when young but still retaining that spicy character and intense colour. It is best suited to hot climates and granite soils.

Mourvèdre:

Cabernet Sauvignon: The classic grape of Bordeaux and the dominant variety in all the top growths of the Medoc. A most fashionable varietal, sought the world over and synonymous with rich blackcurrant concentration, cassis and cedarwood. It is a small grape, giving very deep colour and extract, quite resistant to disease and capable of producing wines of great longevity, elegance and structure. It is grown throughout the winemaking world as both a single varietal and a blending grape, where it imparts a classic quality to many local indigenous varieties. It has been particularly successful in Australia, California and South America where the long, warm ripening season and diverse soils realise the grape's true potentials. It has a natural affinity with oak, which imparts the wonderful cedar and 'cigar box' attributes for which the grape is famous.

Lladoner Pelut

Piquepoul:

Merlot:Responsible for that delicious, plummy, soft style of wine it is an ideal blend with the more austere Cabernet. It is an adaptable grape that ripens early, gives great colour and fruit sweetness, but is susceptible to spring frosts and to rot. It has become extremely popular throughout the world in both its blended and varietal form, especially in Italy, Australia and Chile. It is used in the still wines of Limoux.

Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot have replaced mediocre grape varieties like Aramon and Alicante.

 

White:

 

Chenin Blanc or Pineau de la Loire is the grape-variety which produces the best white wines of Anjou and is used in the Languedoc-Roussillon. Chenin Blanc is used for dry and sweet wines such as Blanquette de Limoux. It is subject to noble rot and for that reason is harvested as late as possible, sometimes in November.

 

Grenache blanc

 

Macabeu:

 

Clairette: This is a southern grape-variety and one of the oldest. It is used with others in white and rosé wines of Languedoc-Roussillon. Clairette is used for some "muscats" and for sparkling wines such as Blanquette de Limoux. Clairette gives a high degree of alcohol. It madeirizes quickly, which in the past was considered one of its best points, but nowadays is regarded as a fault. Aromas: peach and apricot

 

Roussanne:

 

Marsanne: White grape of the Northern Rhône and primary constituent of white Crozes-Hermitage and St.Joseph it is also a permitted blend for red Hermitage. It produces wines high in extract and alcohol with pronounced floral and almond characteristics. Often blended with the more refined Roussanne for a touch of elegance. Seen as a varietal in the Victoria region of Australia, notably Chateau Tahbilk.

 

Mauzac. Properly known as Mauzac Blanc. This is a white grape found only in the southern areas of France. It ripens late, so frost can be a problem in cooler climates. It is used primarily for making dry and sweet sparkling wines that can be very good if done in the better Methode Champenoise. The better examples have a unique dried apple character to them. It is often blended with Chenin Blanc. The best examples come from Gaillac and Limoux, where it is known as Blanquette an is the main component of a sparkling wine called Blanquette de Limoux.

Ugni blanc:

Bourboulenc:

Muscat: There is no single Muscat grape but rather a family of grapes - over 200 in total - to which the name Muscat is appended. They are generally associated with aromatic, full flavoured wines with distinct floral and musky tones. They can be vinified dry, as in Alsace, sweet as in the Italian 'Moscato' and fortified as in Muscat Beaumes-de-Venise etc. In Spain the variety is known as 'Moscatel', in South Africa 'Muskadel' and many wine lovers have enjoyed the sumptuous delights of the Liqueur 'Brown' Muscats of Australia. The Languedoc Muscats are made from Alexandrian Muscat grapes or the highly regarded ‘Muscat à Petits Grains’ variety, or a blend of the two. Depending on their age, these wines are drunk as aperitifs, with foie gras or with desserts and sorbets.

Vermentino:

Rolle:

Viognier: A relatively obscure vine, difficult to grow and cultivate and capable of only tiny yields, Viognier owes its reputation to the fine wines it produces in the northern Rhône, namely Condrieu and Château Grillet. It has a distinct orange blossom and apricot aroma together with a golden yellow colour, huge weight of tropical fruits with a broad weighty structure and quite high in alcohol. It is produced to a lesser extent as a Vin de Pays in the Languedoc and there are also some plantings in California. Its low yields and associated difficulties are unlikely to elevate it to the commercial status.

Chardonnay: The classic white varietal of Burgundy and perhaps the best known and loved white varietal in the world. It is vigorous, easy to grow but susceptible to spring frosts. It grows well in cooler climates but can lose acidity if picked late.. Its typical varietal characteristics are honeyed, tropical fruit flavours with toasty, buttery nuances. It ages well and is totally at home with oak, which imparts vanilla and butterscotch tones. Its diversity of style can perhaps account for some of its worldwide appeal. It is used in Blanquette de Limoux.

Viognier and Chardonnay have been introduced with success in Languedoc-Roussillon. Chardonnay is now the most widely used grape in the region. Piquepoul grapes are used to make Picpoul de Pinet, a specialty of the Coteaux du Languedoc region

Sweet white wine:

Muscat blanc,

Muscat romain or d'Alexandrie

Grenache

 

Sparkling white wine:

The white wines of Limoux have been famous down the ages. Titus Livius praised them 2000 years ago, then in 1531 a Benedictine monk discovered the natural process which makes still wines sparkling, and the first sparkling white wines in the world were born. Blanquette and crémant wines arrived later - after a first fermentation, a second fermentation takes place in the bottle and the wine develops a froth. The old Blanquette method relies on natural fermentation, but in the modern production process, an activating liqueur is added to the base wine to bring about the second fermentation, and this gives the wine its dry or semi-dry character after about 9 months. Limoux also makes a white Appellation, fermented and kept in oak barrels.

Click on the following link for recommended books on wines of the Languedoc-Roussillon Next.

 

 

 

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History of Wines in the Languedoc