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Unique wines with Mediterranean colours and aromas

Taking part in a race towards global excellence, the winemakers in Languedoc-Roussillon grow sparkling wines, sweet wines, red wines, white wines, and a range of rosé wines… Unique wines with Mediterranean colours and aromas which are becoming increasingly sought after. Both in France and overseas.

The Greeks were the first to plant vineyards in our region,” says a producer at the Collioure market. The history of wine growing on these shores of the Mediterranean dates back to the fifth century BC. Later, the Romans were also very successful in further developments of wine-growing. At that time, the wines produced between Nîmes and Narbonne were in competition with Italian wines. So much so, that Emperor Dominitien brought Languedoc wine prosperity to a halt in the year 92 by banning new vines from being planted within the empire, and by ordering that half of the vines within the provinces be uprooted. The vines as a source of power and wealth would then be rescued by the monks.
Languedoc wine growing had to face a series of crises from 1850. Powdery mildew had a devastating effect. Just like phylloxera in 1863, and the downy mildew in the late nineteenth century. Once a solution had been found, cultivation began to increase rapidly. The Languedoc vineyard was being flaunted as one of the largest in France at the beginning of the twentieth century. Because it consisted of high-yield varieties, the area was producing a large quantity of table wines, albeit of a poor quality.
The profession had to undergo a restructure in order to get rid of this image which had tarnished Languedoc-Roussillon for some time. Vine plants were dug up…. on mass. The winemakers showed innovation by restoring traditional and noble varieties such as syrah, grenache or mourvèdre. The change for the “Vin de pays” [local wine] designation was the first step towards quality improvement. And then, another step was taken with the accession to the AOC designation (AOC for Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée – controlled designation of origin), that was granted by the French INAO authorities in 1987. It is very difficult to be awarded the AOC designation. This recognition represented a major milestone in acknowledging Languedoc-Roussillon wines. It also gave them a huge boost.
Carte des Vins Sud de France

Michelin starred restaurants

Another milestone: Vinisud. Established in 1994, this wine fair is dedicated to professionals, and allows winemakers to demonstrate their expertise. Orders started flooding in from the very first event. The vintners from the Midi were finally rewarded after years of sacrificing so as to lower production and increase its quality.
With almost 300,000 hectares divided into AOCs as well as IGP (Indication Géographique Protégée – protected geographical Indication), and table wine areas, Languedoc was confirmed as the largest French wine region.
The climate here favours wine culture,” says a producer while pulling out a bottle of rosé with pearls of water drops. Mild winters, hot and dry summers as well as the low rainfall and the Tramontane wind help to keep dry the vines dry and healthy.  In the sunny south, near to the Thau lagoon, grapes flirt with the Mediterranean. The vineyards nestle between hills, valleys and small rivers. They cling to the steep slopes of the Pic Saint-Loup, or conceal themselves in the amphitheatre formed by the Black Mountain. Here, from the Pyrenees to the outskirts of Nîmes, each landscape provides to the grape its own character and its own bouquet of flavours. Winemakers are always striving for excellence, producing sunny and unique wines. The shift towards upmarket – both for controlled designations (AOC, IGP), benefiting by the renown of the terroirs, and for local wines putting forwards the most appreciated grape varieties – has gone through the roof in recent years.
Languedoc has been boosted by visionary men since the 1980s. Vocations have been born in their wake. Individually or collectively. More and more producers have taken advantage of the “wine revolution” undertaken at the whole region scale to experience a successful conversion to organic farming. The “organic” vineyard of Languedoc-Roussillon is ranked as the largest in France, positioning the region at the forefront in this category. And on a qualitative point of view, the result is outstanding here as well: Organic white and red wines are served even on the tables of Michelin starred restaurants.

The leading French exporting vineyard

More than 453 million bottles of wine were exported in 2013. This result made Languedoc-Roussillon “The leading French exporting vineyard“. Sales in the United States have doubled over five years. Germany however remains the biggest customer for regional wines.

These fine export results are the result of a regional strategy for selling Languedoc-Roussillon wines overseas. A strategy which is based on the Sud de France brand name. What is the ambition? To have Languedoc-Roussillon rated among the best European wine exporting regions. Implementing the joint brand name  “Sud de France”  made it possible to offer to wine lovers a tipple symbolising the identity and the modernity of the South, while maintaining this universally praised Mediterranean lifestyle.

Thanks to the expertise of winemakers and wine experts, the region has started to win over consumers around the world. Successfully. As is testified by praise from the overseas press. Thus, after having selected 200 wines from the region in his famous guide, Robert Parker has no hesitation writing: The future of viticulture in Languedoc-Roussillon appears highly auspicious. Lauren Buzzeo from Wine-Enthusiast describes southern wines as “fantastic and hugely varied”, and the journalist concludes her article by asking the question: “So in your opinion, what is the new Eldorado of good quality wines? ” The answer is clear. It’s Languedoc-Roussillon. A region currently winning the battle for quality wines.

Tasting by the lanterns

These wines, which are praised the world over, are tasted with a festive feel across the region. Heading towards Nîmes. Blue and pink lasers sweep the cobblestoned square at the foot of the grey stone cathedral. A calm night begins to the tune of “La Môme” played by an accordionist perched on a stool. Tonight is the Costières festival, just like it is every Thursday throughout the summer. Residents of Nîmes and holidaymakers crowd around the pitches to sample red, white and rosé wines. Serge and Liliane live close to the Roman amphitheatre in Nîmes. The couple in their forties are sporty, and have arrived with their friends from Bordeaux. “… We wanted to acquaint them with our land and its products …”, said Serge, before adding, with a big mischievous smile: “… and provide evidence that our wines are as good as theirs.

The tasting session got under way with a white wine “grown in, and matured on, a rolled pebble soil,” said a winemaker with a southern accent, and with a handlebar shaped moustache. The nicely coloured golden yellow wine was oozing with aromas of white flowers and exotic fruits. The friends from Bordeaux enjoyed it. The same tasting ceremony took place the next day at the Esplanade in Montpellier.

An elder couple from Frontignan pushed their way through a passage in the aisles wearing white Lacoste shirts and Quechua Capri pants. “… We are looking for the stall of a small four-hectare vineyard situated on the slopes bordering the medium Hérault valley near Pouzols. Apparently, their wine is absolutely amazing according to our children… “.
They stopped at another booth before arriving there, seduced by the clinking of glasses, pleasant smells of Aligot and volutes of tango music. And such events are many: the Estivales de Narbonne summertime festival, the Floréales de Pézenas or the Boutenac village square events… Numerous tasting sessions around the lanterns bringing hundreds and hundreds of wine lovers together! This Alsatian holidaymaker who had arrived in search of a wine for the weekend barbecue, with his arms cluttered with bottles of red and white wine, said that he was experiencing a fantastic moment of friendliness – and above all stated that he was “discovering some amazing wines, however their history continued to reveal a certain passion.