It’s been a pleasure to team up with Sud de France recently because the regions in the south of France under their umbrella have been long overdue a spotlight and celebration. And that’s for many reasons – it’s a region that can offer some of the best value wines in France, in fact, the Old World as a whole. But focussing too heavily on value can unfairly detract from the top-end winemaking of the region as well as the diversity the region can offer as a whole.
Read on for as closer look at some of Sud de France’s most celebrated sub regions…
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.
The resulting wine therefore is often soft and smooth with lots of ripe red cherry and plum character. And the Chateau Mont Redon Lirac 2012 shows this off in spades.
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!
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.
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, golden in colour and have some body too. Some examples really demonstrate the region’s proximity to the sea with a salinity within its flavour profile that matches seafood incredibly well!
Widely considered to be the best value region of France. And that’s no mean feat – 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.
Try the delicate Domaine de la Pioch Cinsault Grenache 2011 to see how those environmental factors can produce something with lots of fruit but with delicacy and freshness.