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France's largest wine-growing region is located in the very south of the country on the Mediterranean Sea: Languedoc-Roussillon. In 1960, it was formed by the merger of the two historical provinces of Languedoc and Roussillon, which are now divided into five départements: Aude (prefecture: Carcassone), Gard (prefecture: Nîmes), Hérault (prefecture: Montpellier, also the administrative seat of the region) and Lozère (prefecture: Mende) comprise the former territory of Languedoc, while the department of Pyrénées-Orientales (prefecture: Perpignan) corresponds to the territory of the former Roussillon, which was part of Catalonia until 1659.

The Languedoc-Roussillon - geographical location and designations of origin (Source: Sud de France) / Click on the map for a larger view.

A region of superlatives

With around 225,000 hectares of vineyards, Languedoc-Roussillon is actually the largest contiguous wine-growing region in the world. 12 million hectolitres were produced in 2012, whereby the average yield per hectare of 42 hectolitres was significantly below the French average yield of around 55 hectolitres per hectare. Last year, 3.4 million hectolitres of wines with a protected designation of origin (IGP = Indication Géographique Protégée, AOP = Appellation d'Origine Protégée) worth 723.5 million euros were exported. Languedoc-Roussillon thus accounts for almost a third of French exports of IGP and AOP wines. The most important export countries are Germany, the Netherlands, Great Britain and Belgium, and outside Europe China, the USA, Canada and Japan.

Languedoc-Roussillon is also particularly strong in the field of organically produced wines: over 19,900 hectares of vineyards in the region are cultivated organically or biodynamically - that is about one third of the organic wine-growing area in France, and the trend is rising. The developments in the organic wine sector in Languedoc-Roussillon were already reported on in detail by Wein-Plus in June of this year (see magazine article "Pays d'Oc wants to promote sustainable viticulture").

Uniform appearance of the dual region (source: Sud de France)

Landscape diversity

Geographically, Languedoc-Roussillon stretches from the French-Spanish border at Collioure at the foot of the Pyrenees through the Camargue to the mouth of the Rhône at Nîmes. Nature is diverse, and so are the wines produced here - from the foothills of the Massif Central in the hinterland, characterised by the garrigue, the typical heath landscape with shrubs and fragrant herbs, to the Mediterranean coast. The wine-growing tradition in the area dates back more than 2,000 years, making Languedoc-Roussillon one of the oldest wine regions in France. This area, steeped in history, is home to five UNESCO World Heritage sites alone: the medieval fortified city of Carcassonne, the Canal du Midi, a section of the Way of St James, the Roman aqueduct Pont du Gard and the Vauban fortresses on the border with Spain.

The region has a Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and mild, humid winters. Especially in the south, in Roussillon, it is not uncommon for summer temperatures to rise to over 40 degrees. In the far west, the Mediterranean combines with more temperate Atlantic climate influences. In the east, near the Rhône delta, the mistral also makes itself felt, a powerful, cold, north-westerly downdraft wind that has a strong drying effect and prolongs the growing season (and thus the ripening) of the plants. In the west, this drying function, which also protects the vines from fungal diseases, is taken over by the Tramontane wind.

The soils in Languedoc-Roussillon have many different structures that characterise the terroirs of each appellation: Limestone, clay, slate, gneiss, pebbles, sandstone, marl, sand, granite, molasse and alluvium.

Spring in the vineyard (Photo: Sud de France)

Regional and local protected designations of origin

Languedoc-Roussillon wines with a protected geographical indication (formerly called Vins de Pays) bear the Pays d'Oc IGP designation of origin, with the IGP area extending beyond the region to include the right bank of the southern Rhône. 56 grape varieties have recently been permitted (until recently there were 33), and by far the majority of Pays d'Oc IGP wines are marketed as varietal wines. In the individual départements, there are also even more narrowly defined protected geographical indications: the four regional IGPs Aude, Gard, Pays d'Hérault and Pyrénées-Orientales, as well as almost 60 local designations of origin with IGP status. In the department of Pyrénées-Orientales, the two local IGPs are Côtes Catalanes and Côte Vermeille.

The distribution of quality wine appellations is similarly complex, with specific features in each of the two individual regions.

AOPs and Crus in Languedoc

Languedoc has a regional protected designation of origin, the AOP Languedoc, which applies to the entire region and covers around 10,000 hectares of vineyards; it replaced the AOC Coteaux du Languedoc in 2007. The most important grape varieties are Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Bourboulenc, Viognier, Picpoul, Marsanne, Roussanne, Vermentino and Ugni Blanc as well as Grenache Noir, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cinsaut and Carignan; the basic yield is 60 hectolitres per hectare for white wines and 50 hectolitres per hectare for red and rosé wines. Since 2011, there has been a three-level classification of AOP wines from the Languedoc, which defines the "Grands Vins du Languedoc" and the "Grands Crus du Languedoc" above the regional AOP. For each of these wines, it is precisely defined from which of the 20 local AOPs and more than 15 Cru sites they may originate. The yield may not exceed 48 to 50 hectolitres per hectare for the "Grand Crus" and 50 hectolitres per hectare for white wines and 45 hectolitres per hectare for red wines.

Typical landscape in the South of France (Photo: Sud de France)

The local AOPs for white, red, rosé and sparkling wines in Languedoc (excluding natural sweet wines) are:


Clairette du Languedoc

  • Geography: terraces above the river Hérault near the sea, spread over eight communes
  • Climate: temperate Mediterranean
  • Soil: quartz, silex and limestone pebbles, agglomerated with a clay-sand mass, in the north with slate levelling
  • Grape variety: Clairette
  • Vineyard area: 100 ha


Vineyard in front of the walls of the fortified city of Carcassonne (Photo: Sud de France)


  • Geography: hilly area with many rocks and garrigue between Nielle and Orbieu at 80 to 100 m altitude, spread over ten communes
  • Climate: Mediterranean with very low rainfall and long dry season; protected from southerly and sea winds
  • Soil: Molasse, partly gravel
  • Grape varieties: Carignan, Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre
  • Vineyard area: 1,430 ha



The vineyards sometimes reach as far as the sea (Photo: Sud de France)




Vines can also be found several hundred metres above sea level (Photo: Sud de France)

Minervois la Livinière

Saint Chinian

Several appellations have additional terroir designations, such as Corbières and Minervois. In addition, individual cru vineyards in the Languedoc are nomenclatured as Dénominations Géographiques Complémentaires (DGC) and assigned to the regional AOP Languedoc. The respective Cru name is appended to the designation "AOP Languedoc" for the wines that comply with the production regulations of the area in question. These cru sites are Cabrières, Grès de Montpellier, La Clape, La Méjanelle, Montpeyroux, Quatourze, Pézenas, Picpoul de Pinet, Pic Saint-Loup, Saint-Christol, Saint-Drézéry, Saint-Georges d'Orques, Saint-Saturnin, Sommières, Terrasses de Béziers, Terrasses du Larzac and Vérargues. Geographically, the AOP Costières de Nîmes belongs to the Languedoc, but wine-wise to the Rhône region.

Poppies and vines in the same garden (Photo: Sud de France)

AOPs in Roussillon

Roussillon has nine protected designations of origin for dry white, red and rosé wines:

Côtes du Roussillon

Côtes du Roussillon Les Aspres

  • Geography: 37 communes in the area of the Aspres and Albères mountain ranges
  • Climate: temperate Mediterranean
  • Soil: predominantly pebble
  • Grape varieties: Carignan, Grenache Noir, Syrah, Mourvèdre
  • Vineyard area: 30 ha

Côtes du Roussillon Villages

In the hilly landscape, the vines often grow on slopes (Photo: Sud de France)

Côtes du Roussillon Villages Caramany

  • Geography: vineyards at an average altitude of 250 m in the municipalities of Caramany, Bélesta and Cassagnes
  • Climate: temperate Mediterranean
  • Soil: Granite, gneiss
  • Grape varieties: Carignan, Grenache Noir, Lladoner Pelut, Syrah
  • Vineyard area: 190 ha

Côtes du Roussillon Villages Lesquerde

  • Geography: vineyards at an average altitude of 250 m in the communes of Lesquerde, Lansac and Rasiguères
  • Climate: temperate Mediterranean
  • Soil: Granite sand with iron and gypsum
  • Grape varieties: Carignan, Grenache Noir, Lladoner Pelut, Syrah
  • Vineyard area: 35 ha

Côtes du Roussillon Villages Tautavel

Roussillon is the hottest region in France - the grapes get a lot of sun (Photo: Sud de France)

Côtes du Roussillon Villages Latour-de-France

  • Geography: vineyards in the communes of Latour-de-France, Cassagnes, Estagel, Montner and Planèzes
  • Climate: temperate Mediterranean
  • Soil: grey-brown slate, red limestone-clay soil
  • Grape varieties: Carignan, Grenache Noir, Lladoner Pelut, Syrah, Mourvèdre
  • Vineyard area: 180 ha

Maury Sec


The sea additionally reflects the sun's rays (Photo: Sud de France)

Vins Doux Naturels

A speciality in Languedoc-Roussillon are the natural sweet wines (Vins Doux Naturels = VDN). They are produced by stopping the fermentation of the must or mash by adding neutral ethyl alcohol, so that the wine retains most of its natural sugar. The fortified sweet wine is then traditionally matured in large wooden barrels and deliberately exposed to the influence of air. There are separate AOPs for Vins Doux Naturels in both Languedoc and Roussillon - nine in total:


Muscat de Frontignan

Muscat de Lunel

  • Geography: around the town of Lunel, halfway between Montpellier and Nîmes
  • Climate: Mediterranean
  • Soil: sandstone, red gravel
  • Grape varieties: Muscat Blanc
  • Vineyard area: 320 ha

The diversity of the region is reflected in the soil and vegetation (Photo: Sud de France)

Muscat de Mireval

  • Geography: near the town of Mireval and the Etang Vic La Gardiole on the way from Montpellier to Sète
  • Climate: Mediterranean
  • Soil: Jura stone with limestone chippings
  • Grape varieties: Muscat Blanc
  • Vineyard area: 260 ha

Muscat de Saint Jean de Minervois

  • Geography: vineyard at 250 m altitude in the Minervois
  • Climate: temperate Mediterranean
  • Soil: Red clay with limestone
  • Grape varieties: Muscat Blanc
  • Vineyard area: 200 ha


Maury Doux

Autumn colours in the vineyard (Photo: Sud de France)


Muscat de Rivesaltes


Harvest time (Photo: Sud de France)

Grand Cru de Banyuls

In the individual AOPs - and this also applies to the dry wines - the production conditions (especially the proportions of grape varieties, also the yield and vinification) are strictly prescribed for many different types of wine. The range of wines on offer in Languedoc-Roussillon is therefore much richer and more complex than can be seen from this rough overview.

Umbrella brand for marketing and training

In 2006, the umbrella brand "Sud de France" was created to help companies in the southern French region, and thus also wine producers, to export their goods. This is the name of the Languedoc-Roussillon Society for International Economic Development, which focuses on wine, food, tourism and other sectors such as health, environment and logistics. As of July this year, the wine industry accounts for slightly more than half of the organisation's members. Sud de France Développement supports almost 1,400 wine producers with communication measures (trade fair appearances, trade tastings, trade actions and press publications) in 17 countries in Europe, Asia and America.

In 2012, the "Sud de France Master Class" was launched, which Sud de France Développement offers together with the French Wine Society (FWS). The two-day intensive seminar provides professionals from the trade and gastronomy as well as private wine lovers with compact information on history and geology, viticulture, grape varieties and climate as well as the protected designations of origin of Languedoc-Roussillon. A tasting of about 40 wines is also part of the seminar programme. Upon passing a final examination, which is voluntary, participants receive a certificate that entitles them to conduct the seminar themselves with the documentation provided by Sud de France and the FWS.

In October, wine professionals can taste wines from Languedoc-Roussillon in Frankfurt and Hamburg (Photo: Sud de France)

An uncomplicated opportunity to get to know the wines of the Languedoc-Roussillon in a practical way is offered to traders and restaurateurs already in October at two trade fairs in Germany: On Monday, 14 October in Frankfurt (Depot 1899, Textorstraße 33) and on Wednesday, 16 October in Hamburg (Steigenberger Hotel, Heiligengeistbrücke 4), from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. in each case, 15 winegrowers from the region who are not yet represented on the German market will present their white, rosé and red wines as well as sparkling and sweet wines. Further information and registration at suddefrance@pr-integra.com.

The following producers will be exhibiting in Frankfurt and Hamburg respectively:

Cave de Roquebrun
The Roquebrun winegrowers' cooperative is located about halfway between Toulouse and Montpellier and processes grapes from 500 hectares of vineyards. The vines grow on slate terraces facing south in a mild but dry climate. Syrah, Grenache Noir, Mourvèdre and Carignan are grown, as well as Roussanne, Viognier and Grenache Blanc. The wines are matured in stainless steel tanks and partly in French oak barriques and marketed with the designations of origin AOP Saint Chinian-Roquebrun, AOP Languedoc or an IGP.

Château de Lascaux
Jean-Benoît Cavalier's estate is located in Vacquières in the AOP Languedoc Pic Saint-Loup, at the foot of the Cévennes and only 20 kilometres from the Mediterranean Sea. On almost 85 hectares, Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Cinsaut vines are planted on soils of large limestones ("Lascaux" in the regional vernacular). In summer, temperatures rise to over 40 degrees during the day, but cool air from the Cévennes enters the vineyards at night, prolonging the grapes' ripening period. The surrounding high altitudes of the garrigue protect the vines from the mistral and southerly winds. Jean-Benoît Cavalier has been practising organic viticulture since 2006, and the wines have been certified by ECOCERT since 2008. Château de Lascaux has three terroirs: Les Costes, Le Patus and Tourtourel.

Château Haut-Blanville
Bernard et Béatrice Nivollet practice integrated viticulture (KIP) on their estate in Saint-Pargoire near Pézenas. Of 65 hectares of vines, 47 are currently cultivated; the vineyards are within sight of the Mediterranean Sea. The terroirs Les Peyrals, Le Clos des Légendes, Les Charmes, Cassigoul and La Pinède have a variety of soil structures of limestone, stone, pebbles and clay. Syrah, Grenache Noir, Mourvèdre, Carignan and Cabernet Sauvignon as well as Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris, Chardonnay and Viognier are grown here. The AOP Languedoc Grès de Montpellier, to which the vineyards belong, takes its name from the hills southwest of Montpellier (in Occitan "Lou Grès"). All wines are aged in barriques.

Many vines in Langedoc-Roussillon are already very old (Photo: Sud de France)

Château le Devoy Martine
Lirac, where the winery of Marc and Véronique Lombardo is located, lies northeast of Nîmes, between Uzès and Avignon. The owner family has its roots in Sicily. The 36 hectares of vineyards can be divided into three terroirs of gravel, clay, limestone and sand. The grapes of Grenache Noir, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Cinsaut as well as Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Bourboulenc and Roussanne are dried by the mistral and are thus less susceptible to disease.

Château Sesquières
In Alzonne, 20 kilometres west of Carcassonne in the AOP Cabardès, lies the vineyard of Gérard Lagoutte. The 20 hectares of vineyards on a limestone plateau face south. Syrah, Grenache Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cinsaut thrive here in a Mediterranean climate with Atlantic influences.

Clos Centeilles
Patricia Boyer-Domergue's estate has 13 hectares of south-facing terraced vineyards in Petit Causse, in the very west of the Languedoc at the foot of the Montagne Noire. The climate here is Mediterranean. Cinsaut, Carignan, Mourvèdre, Picpoul Noir, Syrah, Grenache Noir and Pinot Noir as well as Grenache Gris are grown on clay, limestone and pebbly sandstone, but also old vines such as Riveirenc Noir, OEuillade and Morastel Noir as well as Araignan Blanc, Riveirenc Blanc and Riveirenc Gris. The wines are marketed as AOP Minervois la Livinière, AOP Minervois or IGP Côtes-du-Brian.

Domaine Castan (14.10. Frankfurt only)
André Castan practices integrated viticulture (KIP) on his estate in Cazouls-les-Béziers. The 37 hectares of vineyards are planted with Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Muscat Blanc as well as Grenache Noir, Carignan, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cinsaut. The wines from three terroirs consisting of red gravel, sand, clay and pebbles are marketed as AOP Languedoc Terrasses de Béziers or IGP Hérault.

The foliage protects the grape from too much sun (Photo: Sud de France)

Domaine de Castelnau (only 14.10. Frankfurt)
The winery in Castelnau-de-Guers near Pézenas cultivates around 100 hectares of vines, growing Chardonnay, Viognier and Muscat Blanc as well as Cinsaut, Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The wines belong to the IGP Pays d'Oc or the AOP Languedoc Picpoul de Pinet.

Domaine de La Cendrillon
The organic winery of Robert Joyeux is certified by ECOCERT and is located in Ornaisons near Narbonne. The 42 hectares of vineyards with Carignan, Syrah, Grenache Noir, Mourvèdre, Cinsaut, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Marselan as well as Grenache Blanc, Macabeu, Petit Manseng, Alvarinho and Verdejo extend over clay and limestone alluvial terraces. Some of the wines are aged in barriques.

Valery Family (14.10. Frankfurt only)
The Domaine des Deux Ruisseaux of the Valery family has 150 hectares of vineyards. The vineyard is located directly on the Mediterranean coast in Sauvian, south of Béziers. The grape varieties range from Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Muscat Blanc, Roussanne, Marsanne, Petit Manseng and Grenache Blanc to Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache Noir, Carignan and Petit Verdot.

La Belle Pierre
The name of the Beaucaire winegrowers' cooperative is derived from the former name of the village "Belcaire", which means "beautiful stone" (in French "belle pierre"). 85 members cultivate 560 hectares of vines on sandy, limestone and slate soils between Avignon, Nîmes and Arles. The wines of the IGP Pays d'Oc and IGP Gard are made from Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Syrah as well as Sauvignon Blanc. La Belle Pierre was the first winery in the département to be certified according to ISO 9001.

A large part of the wines from the South of France are matured in wooden barrels (Photo: Sud de France)

Les Bugadelles / Château Auris
Jean Claude Albert is an advocate of organic viticulture. He has two wineries: Les Bugadelles in La Clape, east of Narbonne on the Mediterranean coast, and Château Auris in the AOP Corbières, southwest of Narbonne. The wines of Les Bugadelles are marketed as IGP Pays d'Oc and come from vines that grow on 40 hectares of sandstone, limestone, red clay, marl and slate. Planted are Syrah, Grenache Noir, Mourvèdre, Carignan and Marselan as well as Grenache Blanc, Roussanne and Viognier. The vineyard area of Château Auris also comprises 40 hectares planted with Syrah, Grenache Noir, Carignan and Cinsaut as well as Marsanne and Grenache Blanc. The soils consist of sandstone, sand and clay.

Les Domaines Auriol
Claude Vialade's winery in Lézignan in the AOP Corbières consists of three family-owned vineyards: Château Saint-Auriol (42 hectares), Château Cicéron (10 hectares) and Château Montmija (27 hectares, organic viticulture). In cooperation with 74 wineries, a total of around 2,000 hectares of vineyards are cultivated, of which 150 to 200 hectares are organic. The main grape varieties are Marsanne, Roussanne, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Verdejo and Alvarinho as well as Cabernet Franc, Marselan, Syrah and Merlot.

Vignobles Sarrail
Jean-Luc Sarrail and his son Albert cultivate 100 hectares of vines in Cazilhac, just outside Carcassonne, which belong to the IGP Cité de Carcassonne. In a Mediterranean climate with Atlantic influences, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir as well as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Colombard ripen.

Sunset in the vineyard (Photo: Sud de France)

The Wein-Plus editorial team has already tasted some of the wines presented at the two fairs, and the results are available in the wine guide (see below). Sud de France Développement is also a cooperation partner in the "BEST OF Languedoc-Roussillon", which will be published in the next few weeks.

All wines from the Languedoc tasted this year

All wines from Roussillon tasted this year

All wines from the Rhône tasted this year

To the magazine article "The Languedoc is reorganising".

To the magazine article "Roussillon - the Catalan heritage".

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