Why Languedoc is currently one of the world’s best creative wine-making regions

Old bush vines in Roussillon yield splendid whites and reds

Old bush vines in Roussillon yield splendid whites and reds - Credit: Archant

Liz Sagues picks out some top wines to showcase the French area’s quality.

Sometimes, promoters of a particular place enthuse too far over the attractions of their wines. But for Languedoc-Roussillon the message is spot on: “The region is currently one of the most creative wine-making areas in the world.”

There’s a huge amount going for this far southern edge of France. It has more sun than anywhere else in the country, yet its proximity to Mediterranean and mountains brings breezes which temper the heat. The days of wine-lake-level production are largely gone – instead there are many small-scale growers, and some very serious co-operatives, making best possible use of place and climate.

There are old vines, once under valued, now recognised for the gems they are, and a host of grape varieties. Wines come in all styles, from fizz through white, pink and red to sweet delights. And their sensibly priced appeal is well recognised by UK importers.

But there is quite literally one very big problem. The choice is huge and there are many, many wines available here which deserve recommendation – and I have space to list only a tiny number of them. As well as these selected bottles, which are both excellent and often a little unusual, do look beyond the supermarkets and high street chains to smaller sellers with real gems – some of the best are in the list below.

Best buys from the Languedoc-Roussillon region

The wine grapes of Languedoc-Roussillon include most of the classic names, but the region does some of its finest work with those rarely regarded as noble. Carignan, for example, once an over-yielding workhorse, is now the ingredient for much-admired reds: Calmel & Joseph Vieux Carignan 2012 (£10.50, .thegoodwineshop.co.uk) from the happily named Côtes du Brian is a smooth, spicy, stylish example. And carignan blanc is a wonderful discovery: try Mas Lavail Vielles Vignes 2014 Côtes Catalanes from Roussillon’s Agly Valley (£8, Majestic “mix six” deal), herbal and floral scent, smartly dry and delicious flavours, lingering enjoyment.

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Domaine des Trinités makes a splendid white and red pair: enticing, fragrant, totally delicious Roussanne 2014 Pays d’Oc, from a grape more favoured in the Rhône Valley (£11), and savoury, deep-fruited essence-of-place Faugères Les Portails 2013, a blend of the south’s best red varieties (£10, both leasandsandeman.co.uk, case discounts). As ever, The Wine Society finds splendid wines here, with these strongly recommended: Domaine Jones Grenache Gris 2014, another aromatic and serious, elegantly-oaked wine from Agly’s old schist soils (£13.50), Parcé Frères Cylia 2013 Côtes du Roussillon Villages, dark and plummy syrah, very good value (£8.50), and Château Sainte Eulalie Minervois Cuvée Cantilene 2012 (£11.50), a richly appealing winter food partner from the La Livinière cru.

Another food wine delivering way above its price is Mas de Lunès 2012 Grès de Montpellier (£9.75, Majestic mix six), with serious herbal, dense fruit and exceptional length; and Terre des Chardons Bien Luné 2013 Costières de Nîmes (£12, lsfinewines) is a fresh, complex and very tempting example of biodynamic grape-growing – both these blend syrah and grenache.

Three final whites, all excellent value: fine burgundy-beating chardonnay from cool, classy Limoux, Domaine Bégude Etoile 2012 (£14.50, stonevine.co.uk); Domaine de Sainte Rose Coquille d’Oc blanc 2014 (£7.50, Waitrose), where the four-grape blend delivers layers of flavour; and fresh, stylish, five-grape La Métropole Cuvée Classique 2013 (£6, The Co-operative).