We’ve teamed up with Sud de France again to give our customers another opportunity to pick up some of France’s best value wines. Since our collaboration last summer, we’ve seen a growing demand in the wines from the south of France. And it’s no surprise given, not only the value on offer, but the range and diversity of the regions under the Sud de France umbrella.
Winemaking here dates back over 2,000 years, but it’s more dynamic now than ever, forever experimenting and innovating. It’s a region still defining itself, trying on a never-ending collection of different grape varieties, blends and styles to see what fits.
The most common red grapes are Syrah, Grenache, Carignan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cinsault and Mourvèdre; in white, expect plenty of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat, Viognier, Grenache Blanc and Maccabeu, among many others. The abundant southern sunshine and warmth makes for flavoursome wines, but not at the expense of balance and finesse.
It’s this freedom to explore and create that has attracted winemakers from all over the world to this viticultural playground. And the extraordinary diversity offers plenty of room to experiment with food and wine matching, from classic pairings like Côtes du Roussillon with roast lamb, to the more experimental – try a Picpoul de Pinet with oysters.
Read on for some more focus on the regions within the region…
Terrasses du Larzac
Terrasses du Larzac is a small sub region within Languedoc created in 2005. While wines from this region use all the same varieties commonly used in the south of France (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Cinsault and Carignan), the topography of Terrasses du Larzac allows for the wines to offer something different. This region has some of the most elevated sites in the whole of Languedoc. As such, temperatures are cooler and the range of day/night temperatures can be as much as 20 degrees Celsius. This allows the grapes to ripen slowly and evenly retaining maximum freshness and complexity.
And you’d be hard-pressed to find a better example of that than in the La Traversee 2012.
Costieres de Nimes
Once a part of the Languedoc appellation, Costieres de Nimes has made the classification transition to the Rhone with the wines being much more suited to the classic red wine style found there. And the Rhone’s southernmost region is in another transition too, from bulk producers to craftspeople of genuinely boutique and characterful wines.
Grenache is the dominant grape variety here with Syrah and Mourvedre becoming increasingly important to the blend. And the galets here too also help to ripen these varieties thanks to their storage heater functionality!
Lirac is a sub-region of the southern Rhone, next door to the famous rosé producing region, Tavel. Lirac too produces rosé and is in fact a good place to shop if you’re looking for a value alternative to Tavel. However, this region is very well suited to the classic Rhone Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre-based red blend. Its soils are very similar to that of Chateauneuf-du-Pape with it being just 10km away, over the river. The most important factor in terms of soil is the presence of galets. These pebbles are large and round and absorb and store the heat during the day and radiate that heat back out during the evening, helping the low-trained fruit to ripen.
Pic St Loup
This limestone-based small sub region just north of Montpellier is a great example of how some communes with Languedoc-Roussillon break all the rules and to great success. A lot of wines from this region will come under the Vin de Pays classification, or even Vin de Table. Don’t let that put you off though, Pic St Loup produces some of the finest wines of the region. They are only labelled as such as they haven’t adhered to the laws around using particular amounts of particular grape varieties.
This great quality doesn’t stop at red wine either. Have a look at this Roussanne blend that shows off a beautiful balance between freshness and creamy texture: Chateau de Lancyre La Rouviere Pic St Loup Blanc 2013.
Picpoul de Pinet
Situated down near the Mediterranean coast between Montpellier and Narbonne, this sub region of ever increasing popularity is one of the only regions named after the grape variety it uses for its crisp and dry white wines – Picpoul Blanc. The white wines here have citrus character in abundance, are golden in colour and have some body too. The best examples also demonstrate the region’s proximity to the sea with a salinity within its flavour profile that matches seafood incredibly well.
To try that compelling white wine style, pick a couple of the Domaine Felines Jourdan Cuvee Reservee Picpoul de Pinet 2014 in your next case!
Widely considered the best value region of France. Admittedly, France does boast some of the world’s most expensive wines but it does also produce a huge amount of the world’s more affordable wines. Why does Languedoc-Roussillon enjoy this status? Well it’s been blessed by Mother Nature. Languedoc-Roussillon as a whole stretches right across the south of France giving the region’s producers a wealth of options – altitude variations can be used to ‘control’ vineyard temperature, as can the proximity to the sea; various different soil types can be used to suit different grape varieties; and the region enjoys long summer days with many an hour of hot sunshine.
The Cirque de Navacelles Reserve d’Heric 2014 is a great expression of this diverse region. From vineyards within a natural amphitheatre of rock, this soft and round red has a wonderfully fresh yet complex profile of cherry, damson, raspberry and spice.