Languedoc: a place apart

[First things first. I’ve recently discovered The Evening Hérault, a thoroughly enjoyable blog from the perspective of a Gael who splits time between Ireland and Languedoc. Managing to be humorous and informative, the blog is, in the author’s words “about anything from les taxes and les taxis, to le rugby and le Ryanair, pétanque and Irish road bowling.”  Love it.]

ANYONE fancy a drop of red wine? How about a cabérnet sauvinhon merlaud?  Or would you prefer to drink pink and enjoy a lightly chilled rosat instead?

You’ll occasionally see such unfamiliar spellings for familiar terms on wine labels from Languedoc in southern France — for instance on The Wine Buff‘s range from Mas du Novi (aka Saint Jean du Noviciat).

Wine regions of Languedoc

Wine regions of Languedoc

That strange spelling is in fact Occitan, a minority language closely related to Catalan which is spoken — and being revived by activists — along a great arc stretching from north-eastern Spain across the French Mediterranean and  into northern Italy.

The vast French Languedoc wine region within that area is the world’s biggest vineyard. It has a long history (along with a matching, unenviable reputation) of producing vast volumes of poor, undistinguished wine. But that’s been changing rapidly. The ubiquitous Vins de Pays d’Oc category is now so synonymous with good value and generally inexpensive wines that you’d be forgiven for thinking that wine in that VdeP class is only made in Languedoc — whereas in fact it can be made all over France.

And as ever, things are even more complex than they first appear: the Languedoc region is also studded with diverse appellations for all sorts of wine styles — whites, reds, sparkling, and dessert wines. And the names of those wines may bear no reference whatever to Oc or Languedoc (see map).

The Occitan cross crops up all over the region.

The Occitan cross crops up all over the region

Destination wine

Ryanair flies into several airports in and around the Languedoc. Here are wineries you might consider visiting near each of three of them.

Montpellier

Little more than a short walk from the luggage carousel, Château de Flaugergues is situated in La Méjanelle, one of the named Côteaux du Languedoc. Henri and Brigitte de Colbert’s operation is like Bordeaux-sur-Med, a posh chateau whose wines are firmly rooted in the Languedoc tradition. Their top-class grenache, syrah, mourvèdre and carignan  began to be noticed when they started getting 90+ scores in Decanter. Visit the house, take part in a wine tasting and wander round the gardens where vines rub shoulders with citrus groves. www.flaugergues.com

Carcassone

One of the excellent reasons to fly into Carcassone is Château de Pennautier. Part of the Longreil empire, it produces a great range of wines in the intriguing Cabardès appellation, which uniquely permits the blending of grapes traditionally associated with both Bordeaux (cabernet sauvignon and merlot) and the Mediterranean / Rhone areas.

Beziers

Laurent Miquel and his Irish-born wife Neasa make wine at Chateau Cazal Viel just up the road from the airport. Operating from its home appellation of St Chinian, Cazal Viel provides a fantastic example of the blend of tradition and innovation that has helped change the face of the region: super syrah and viognier, recently joined by punchy varietal sauvignon blanc.

Airports in Languedoc

Airports in Languedoc

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2 Responses

  1. Hi Blake

    Thanks for the really kind words! By the way, is Cazal Viel the same place that Trish Deseine visited in her final episode of her latest RTE series last week?

    – Evening Hérault

    • Hello there, and thank you for the note.
      Apologies for the delay in replying. I managed to overlook some incoming messages – again.

      I don’t know which winery is featured on Trish’s show but am going to watch the last two episodes on the RTE player online some time this week before they expire. (Minimising my screentime this week). Will drop you a line with all relevant details after I’ve seen that episode.

      I’ve enjoyed an occasional dip into your blog. Keep up the good work. The name alone is excellent – make people chortle AND understand what the blog’s about in two words. Cool!

      Blake

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