Vineyards and wines In The Languedoc.
Languedoc-Rousillon is a huge wine-producing region. The weather is perfect for growing grapes, and the Languedoc, until recently, had a reputation for producing vast lakes of ‘OK’ French plonk, under a series of Vins de Pays labels such as Herault, Rousillon, Corbieres L’Aude.
Recently the story has become much more interesting.Ricardo and Marina, stealing grapes[/caption]As ever, there are historical reasons that lie behind where we are today. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Languedoc produced quality wines of some reknown. But, when the phylloxera epidemic destroyed European vines at the end of the 19th century, the resistant American vines didn’t take well to the poor soil. The varieties that thrived in Languedoc produced large yields of thin, poor quality wine. This was often blended with rich wines from the French colonoy of Algeria, so when Algeria was lost to them after the Second World War, that’s when we saw the development of Languedoc wines as cheap, poor quality wines, produced in vast quantities.
European readers in particular will be familiar with the European Union ‘Wine Lake’ of the 70s and 80s – Languedoc was the largest contributor to the lake. Chapeau guys! For all the wrong reasons.So here’s where it got interesting. Because most Languedoc wines were only classified as ‘Vin de Pays’ rather than ‘Appellation d’Origine Controllée’, the rules were much looser. Combined with generous EU subsidies to reduce the acreage of these low-quality vines, Languedoc producers had more freedom than their counterparts in the Rhone Valley, or Bordeaux, or Burgundy, just as the technology of wine-making was enabling them to experiment with new varieties, different blends, even different ways pruning their vines. So we come to today, where there are many, many fine producers of high-quality wine in Languedoc, and we certainly do our best to support them!
On our tour, we visit vineyards in Costiere de Nimes, and in the Duché d’Uzes, one of the newest appellations in France. There is no snobbery around Languedoc wines. Because they don’t have centuries-old appellations, with suffocating rules, producers must sell their wines based on personal reputation and quality. In many ways it’s more exciting than exploring the wines of Bordeaux, because there are more surprises, pleasant ones.
I chose this final photo because it embodies the more relaxed attitude of wine-making in Languedoc. This is Marina and Ricardo from Brazil. It was the last week of August, and in Languedoc by this time of year the grapes are ready to burst, deliciously sweet. Admittedly we were stealing them, but I still like the photo.