Terroirs & Millésimes Week in Languedoc, 23-28 April, Pezenas, France
Following an invitation by the Interprofessional Council of AOC Languedoc and IGP Sud de France Wines (CIVL) to an annual preview discovery of the latest vintage, I and another ninety journalists from around the globe were given the opportunity to taste blind around 1,500 samples representing all the Languedoc AOCs.
Although it was my first visit to the Languedoc Week, I have had my fair share of wines from this region at many wine competitions and tasting around the world in the last few years. However, nothing comes close to tasting the wines as in their natural surroundings.
The five day wine tasting sessions took place at the charming city of Pezenas and each tasting day was followed by a gourmand lunch with the winemakers of the AOC’s whose wines were presented for that day. Another chance to get behind their winemaker’s philosophy, ask all the necessary questions that only a winemaker can answer and get all the needed details on terroir, yield, history, tradition…
Languedoc AOC Wines
Let us start with some facts about Languedoc-Roussillion. It is the largest vineyard in the world with a geographic identity with a surface area of 224,000 of Languedoc vineyards in number of hectares declared (245,965 planted); with 70,000 hectares of AOC and 141,000 hectares of PGO. 11% of Languedoc-Roussillon wines are Languedoc AOC wines.
93% of all the wines produced in this wine region are still wines, only 2% are Muscat wines and merely 5% are sparkling ones. And yet, Languedoc-Roussillon remains a wine region that produces mostly red wines 76%, 14% rosé wines and only 10% white wines.
With an annual production of 13.6 million hectoliters, which represent 5% of the world’s wine, this wine region remains to be the biggest wine region in the world by production.
Winemakers in Languedoc-Roussillon are more and more dedicated to growing organic vineyards and it’s no wonder that this wine region represents 33% of the organic vineyards in the country.
The export turnover is EUR 820 million, which has doubled over the last six years. To note that 33% of AOC Languedoc wines are sold on the export market and 67% of these wines are sold in France.
A Wine Tasting Dedicated to the 40th anniversary of AOP Côtes-du-Roussillon and Côtes-du-Roussillon Villages Anniversary
To celebrate the 40 years of recognition for Côtes-du-Roussillon and Côtes-du-Roussillon Villages in the Protected Appelation of Origin, the CIVR – Comité Interprofessionnel des Vins du Roussillon organised a master class. The MC was preceded with a wine tasting of a selection of 40 wines, which represent the highlights of this region & were picked prior by a jury of professionals composed of wine merchants, sommeliers and wine educators, during a blind tasting especially for this anniversary. The Roussillon produces dry still wines and fortified sweet wines which represent 80% of national production.
The region is open in the eastern part to the Mediterranean and surrounded on three sides by mountain ranges. The soil and subsoil of the region are extremely varied, which makes for a multitude of terroirs, with different characteristics. The vineyards are in terraces with a view of the sea and 23 varieties are grown, of them 15 are mainly dedicated for AOP wine.
Other master classes that took place over the Languedoc week were: “Introduction to the AOC Languedoc” by Jérôme Villaret, General Delegate of the CIVL, “AOC Fitou” featuring AOP Fourme d’Ambert, “Carignan, a local grape variety” with AOC Corbieres Boutenac winemakers and “AOC Languedoc Sommieres”.
My Fav AOC Picks
I have found Minervois-La-Livinière AOC wines very fruity with abundance of coffee aromas, spicey, peppery, locust notes, consistent, high in alcohol with overoked notes and a rather bittery finish. However, lots of potential in these wines due to the variety of soils including sandstone, shale, limestone, marble and silex, giving the wines a mineral character.
Enjoyed Faugeres AOC wines, as I love schist based vineyards, especially if they’re organic as these- one third of the 2000 hectares in Faugeres are in fact organic. AOC Faugeres Whites were floral, abundance of yellow flowers, daffodil aromas dominating, as well as fruity, citrusy notes, asparagus, mashed banana and melon taste, with a good acidity, lemony finish and a rather with a touch of too much use of oak, only the rich ones can afford. Faugeres AOC Roses- salmon colour, perfumed and elegant, crunchy berry fruit in the taste.
La Clape AOC Whites, mostly in golden colour, showed lots of vanilla, ripe banana, tropical fruit aromas, brioche, baked bread, ripe lemon skin, but again the unavoidable abundant use of oak and bitterness in the finish.
Pic Saint Loup AOC wines were maybe one of the most elegant, fresh and refined wines I’ve had a chance to taste mostly due to the clay-limestone and marl-limestone soil rich vineyards, influenced by both Mediterranean and continental climate, and of course, the skillful winemakers in the region. The Pic Saint Loup AOC Roses were in vivid pink and pale salmon colours, fruity and acidity quite high. However, what has left a mark were the reds from this AOC. Red produces mostly from Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre grapes were fruity, boisterous, full-bodied, yet smooth and elegant with a true ageing potential.
The Saint-Chinian Berlou AOC wines (the region was recognised as a cru in 2005) come from vineyards at a height of between 150 and 400 metres, were fruity and elegant with lots of coffee beans aromas and silky tannins. The grape varieties include Carignan, Grenache Noir, Mourvedre and Syrah and taking in consideration the land is schist soil, it is no wonder the wines are so fine and with a hige ageing potential.
Visits to the Vineyards
Trips to some of the vineyards included a picnic at AOC Terrasses du Larzac, where I enjoyed a winemaker’s dinner with the winemakers of these region and discovered a winery named Mas Lasta that has presented their wine for the first time. The winery owns eight hectares of old Grenache, Syrah, Carignan and new Cinsault vineyards on the very edge of the Terasses du Larzac AOC and the winemaking is entrusted to the winemaker Anne-Laure Sicard. Other trips included Faugeres vineyards with a dry-stone wall building workshop, visit into the heart of AOC Pic Saint-Loup and a visit into the heart of AOP Picpoul de Pinet terroir.