There are plenty of good reasons visit France’s Languedoc-Roussillon. First of all, it’s off the beaten path. You can visit a part of France not overridden with tourists. Second, it’s full of rustic landscapes and medieval history, a wonderful mix! Last, it’s low-key but still full of the culinary excellence at the heart of the French experience. And this includes wine! Truly outstanding wines at very reasonable prices come from this land of co-ops and family-owned farms. Here’s our primer:
Languedoc-Roussillon curves along the Mediterranean Coast from Nîmes (and the western edge of the Southern Rhône) to the Spanish border. The region (along with Provence) has some of the oldest vines in France (near Narbonne) and with that a long tradition of grape cultivation and wine production.
The majority of wines from this area are marked AOC Languedoc or Vin de Pays. Aside from these delicious table wines, there are several sub-regions of note making for complex & interesting wines.
Near Montpellier, Picpoul-de-Pinet makes wonderful, bright, acidic whites, perfect for oysters!
Inland from there is Faugères, rustic and known for its old vine Carignan. The above photo comes from Ariel Demets’ estate, Domaine Les Fusionels, in the village of Cabrerolles, where she produces wonderful complex red blends with Grenache, Syrah & Carignan, truly the je ne sais quoi in wines from Languedoc. Carignan has notes of herbs, cured meats, tobacco & dried red fruit. Unusual. Wonderful. You’ll want more!
Faugères sits on the edge of the Parc Naturel Régional du Haut Languedoc, one of the many regional nature parks in this lesser-populated part of France. Enjoy its dramatic beauty on your way to Minervois, full of rolling farmlands and known for Grenache/Syrah blends.
These vineyards (above) belong to Château Tourril, a 16 ha. family estate in Minervois, nestled in clay-limestone corrie and surrounded by shrub-land and garrigue. Its name comes from an ancient Gallo-Roman tower standing on the heights of the estate. We carry several of their wines including: La Tour du Tourril Cuvée Angela (Grenache/Syrah), Helios Roussanne & Panatella Rouge (Syrah/Grenache).
Forty-five minutes due west of Chateau Tourril is the fortified city of Carcassonne and its UNESCO World Hertitage site, La Cité, a medieval fortress with its beginnings in the Gallo-Roman period more than 2000 years ago.
From there, catch the A61 east to AOC Corbières and Château du Grand Caumont, run by Laurence Rigal who inherited the estate from her mother. Again we run into the wonderful Carignan grape, the most common varietal in this area as expressed through the many red blends produced at this estate, four of which are available at Portalis.
Continuing east back to the Mediterranean and the city of Narbonne with its surrounding fishing villages and Parc Naturel Régional de la Narbonnaise en Méditerranée, you’ll enjoy another amazing national park just south of the city.
Half an hour south of the park you hit Perpignan, the last town (not village!) in France before you cross into Spain. But Spain is for a different day. We are heading due west through the French Pyrénées (Parc Naturel Régional des Pyrénées Catalanes & Parc Naturel Régional des Pyrénées ariégeoises, before landing in the AOC Côtes de Roussillon Villages and the village of Bélesta (in the foothills of the Pyrénées) to visit Château de Caladroy (in the land of reds only) and enjoy their complex blends of Syrah, Grenache, Carignan & Mourvèdre.
Finally, to finish our tour with a toast, we’ll head northeast to the village of Limoux (about halfway back to Carcassonne) for some delicious local bubbly. We sell a beloved one at the shop: J. Laurens NV Crémant de Limoux, made from the Moussau grape.
Cheers to Languedoc-Roussillon!
Julie & Jens, owners of Portalis Wine Shop & J. Strecker Selections, a local import company