Languedoc-Roussillon “like the American Dream”11th September, 2013 by Patrick Schmitt
Wines from relatively unrestricted Languedoc-Roussillon are gaining greater global recognition as awareness of the region rises and the quality of the wines increases.
In an interview with the drinks business yesterday, Matthew Stubbs MW, who lives and works in the region, stressed the emergence of a truly international following for Languedoc-Roussillon as countries such as the UK, US and Hong Kong wake up to the value for money, diversity, and inimitability of the area’s wines, with a new wave of interest in its whites particularly.
“Languedoc-Roussillon is getting more visibility in more markets around the world,” he told db, as he concluded London’s second two-day course on the region, called the Sud de France Master Level, which was first held in September 2012 (you can read more about the course here).
Continuing he said, “For example, in Hong Kong, two years ago buyers wouldn’t consider Languedoc-Roussillon, and now they are, while in the US, a lot of the region’s wines fit in the $12-25 area, and the US has now realised Languedoc-Roussillon delivers a lot of quality at that price point.”
Of the 30 different AOPs in the Languedoc-Roussillon, which is the world’s largest wine region – with almost twice as much land under vine as Australia – Stubbs picked out white wine producing Picpoul de Pinet as particularly fashionable.
The crisp, light-bodied, bone-dry white can now be found on retail shelves and restaurant wine lists around the world, despite using the little known Picpoul grape – one of the Languedoc’s oldest varieties.
He also said that there was a high demand for the distinctive reds from Terrazes du Larzac, La Clape, Faugères and Pic Saint-Loup, along with wines from the Côtes du Roussillon-Villages, in particular Caramany, an appellation within Roussillon, and source of this year’s best Roussillon red in the Sud de France Top 100 competition.
Among the improvements in the Languedoc-Roussillon, Stubbs stressed the increasing quality of the whites from across the region.
“The quality of white wines has struck me most in the last 10 years since I’ve been in the Languedoc-Roussillon,” he said.
Using grapes such as Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris and to a lesser extent Macabeo, he noted the interesting results from the area, mentioning the quality of whites from Roussillon’s Collioure AOP in particular.
“Often the wines are delicate, perfumed and elegant in an area that is hot, dry and windy, and which produces full bodied reds and fortified wines,” he recorded.
When asked how this was possible, he added, “The proximity to the sea, altitude and wind takes the edge off the temperatures, while the schist, granite and gneiss soils seem to bring freshness to the wines.”
In such a large area, experimentation is also rife, and the Languedoc-Roussillon has become a playground for many winemakers who are choosing to plant a broad range of varieties.
Indeed, across almost 30 IGPs in the Languedoc-Roussillon, growers can use grapes from Chardonnay to Sangiovese, and Stubbs said he had just tried a white IGP blend containing Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Petit Manseng and Chardonnay.
“Where else in the world would you find that?” he asked rhetorically.
Continuing he said, “Riesling is now permitted under the IGP banner and there is an increased number of authorised varieties allowing you to experiment and innovate – this is not a region that is standing still.”
Indeed, he then said, “In fact, anything is possible, it’s like the American dream because the Languedoc-Roussillon is one of the easiest places to move to and do what you want.”
Since this story was published we have added a new map of the Languedoc-Roussillon to show the revised sub-regions – see below. Apologies for the out-of-date map above, and for more on the region visit the Sud de France website here. Also, for more on the “crus” of Languedoc, and the region’s attempt to create a quality hierarchy, click here.