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AOP Languedoc: A Kaleidoscope of Flavor, Texture, Heart, and Soul

AOP Languedoc: A Kaleidoscope of Flavor, Texture, Heart, and Soul

Montpeyroux, a picturesque walled village, is ranked among the most beautiful villages in France | Photo Credit: Florian Vidot

One of the greatest things a wine appellation can offer – at least in my humble opinion – is variety. Variety of grapes, variety of wine styles, variety of production methods, variety of meso- and micro-climates… A wine for every occasion, if you will.

AOP Languedoc has a lot of things going for it, but top among them is a breathtaking range of wines to be discovered. Not only a result of the diverse landscape, this range is also the product of a distinct  local personality that champions experimentation and a spirit of adventure — or, as winemaker Marie Cavalier of Château de Lascaux so elegantly puts it, “contrasting terroirs on endearing landscapes, with a history and spaces that leave room for great creativity.” 

At Château de Lascaux, winemaking is a family affaire, and has been for 15 generations. Seen here among the vines is owner Jean-Benoit Cavalier and his daughters Marie and Maguelone. | Photo Credit: Château de Lascaux

It’s no surprise that the AOP’s new tagline is “Good Vibes, Good Wines,” underscoring the unique energy of the terroir and appellation, as well as the positive “anything goes” attitude among winemakers. Anything goes, except, of course, quality, which is non-negotiable in this exciting wine destination.

“AOP Languedoc wines offer a vast array of styles and varieties at reasonable prices, many of which are organically produced, and all of which express the diverse nature of the region – from its sun and wind to the salty sea, and rugged mountain terrain,” says wine writer Kristy Wentz of the unique appeal of this region. “You can find bright, easy drinking wines to more serious, age-worthy styles suitable for the table or cellar.”

A Viticultural Mosaic

With sunsets as vibrant as the wines, it’s easy to see why the winemakers of AOP Languedoc feel such strong connections to the terroir | Photo Credit: Florian Vidot

Blends are the name of the game in AOP Languedoc. The appellation is home to a dizzying number of varieties that grow and thrive here, giving winemakers a truly limitless palette. Classics include Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Cinsault and Carignan, for reds – which form 35% of all production – with unique characters like Grenache Gris, Piquepoul Noir, Morrastel, Rivairenc, and Terret Noir playing supporting roles. Reds are wonderfully diverse, ranging from bright and fruity (seeing sometimes only stainless steel), to dark and brooding, with black fruit and spicy undertones. However, the one note that seems to ring through in these wines like a beacon for the region is the unmistakable vein of “garrigue.” 

This is a delightful term in wine. The word “garrigue” refers to the low-lying scrub or vegetation that grows in limestone soils throughout the Mediterranean region. In wine it hints at a sort of wild, brambly, floral, or even herbaceous flavor profile, like a handful of dried lavender, juniper, sage, and thyme. Many winemakers affectionately call this out in their tasting notes, but the flavors go beyond marketing speak — they transport you to the South of France with every sip, sun on your face, the good life at your feet.

For white wines, which comprise only 10% of all production in AOP Languedoc, we see familiar faces like Grenache Blanc, Bourboulenc, Piquepoul Blanc, Roussanne, Marsanne, and Viognier, with surprises like Vermentino (Rolle), Clairette, Carignan Blanc, Macabeu, and Terret Blanc cropping up from time to time. Perhaps most interesting is that an impressive 55% of all wine production in AOP Languedoc is rosé, produced from any number of varieties found in the region (including blending red and white grapes). 

Ever-Shifting, Always Enchanting

Quatourze, a small terroir of AOP Languedoc, is bordered by the Etang de Bages lagoon to the south | Photo Credit: Florian Vidot

While kaleidoscopes are known for their bright colors, they are only brought to life through movement and dynamic energy, captivating us with their constantly shifting colors and patterns. This is also true for emerging wine regions. In addition to growing dozens of varieties to work and play with, AOP Languedoc is on the forefront of industry trends, seeming to magically remain at the forefront of it all. This is what makes it the darling of the wine world. While the predominance of rosé in the region is evidence of this keen sense of what’s on trend and resonating with new and younger consumers, the region is also experimenting with alternative vessels for fermentation and aging, as well as natural and skin contact wines. 

“One of the main trends we are seeing in the Languedoc region is the strong demand for rosé. AOP Languedoc is the only AOP in the region with a majority of production dedicated to rosé, which reflects a younger audience,” notes Olivier Legrand, director of Vins du Languedoc (CIVL). “The winemakers in this appellation  don’t want their wines to be too intellectual or rational. We want people to just be able to appreciate the wines, with an emphasis on drinkability and freshness.”

Indeed, after tasting through an extensive lineup of AOP Languedoc wines for this piece, I tasted nothing… ordinary. The red wines were vibrant and alive, the rosés both crushable and memorable – an elusive combination in this age of a glut of unremarkable rosé. White wines were zippy and fresh, with layers of fruit and touches of oak, lees contact, snappy minerality, or exciting tertiary aromas, depending on the bottling. There was a wine for every palate and every occasion, each with a prominent sense of regionality, which made this an incredibly fun appellation to delve into. Drinkability and freshness were front and center, as was that kaleidoscopic, ever-shifting energy.  

“AOP Languedoc offers vibrant wines, sensory wines, wines with personality reflecting men and women, landscapes, and soils,” says Cavalier. “The culture, the joy of living, the good life, the Mediterranean conviviality that we have here in the South of France…it’s all ever-present in our wines.”

“It’s all about education — and you’re starting to see word get out,” adds Wentz. “There’s so much to discover and enjoy from this appellation.”

Ready to dive in? Check out twelve wines you should add to your collection in our AOP Languedoc regional spotlight and its denominations HERE