The Sunshine Grapes of the Languedoc-Roussillon

By Jacky Blisson MW


Stretching along the Mediterranean coast from the Spanish border to Provence, the Languedoc-Roussillon is France’s wine powerhouse. Over one-third of all French wine hails from this warm, sunny area.





The region’s vineyards cover large swathes of land from the flat coastal plains to the foothills of the Massif Central and the Pyrenees. Given the wide diversity in topography, altitudes, and soil types here, the area has been carved out into specific, origin-protected vineyard zones.





The larger, regional designations are called IGPs (Indication géographique protégée). These zones make up almost three-quarters of Languedoc-Roussillon wine production; with the most notable being the vast IGP Pays d’Oc. IGP varietal wines are often excellent value, with plenty of easy-drinking appeal.





The Languedoc-Roussillon also has a multitude of smaller, more terroir-specific growing appellations, called AOPs (appellation d’origine protégée). Red wine blends based on Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, Mourvèdre, and Cinsault are most common here. These full-bodied wines often boast a pleasingly velvety texture and ripe, heady dark fruit flavours.





The dry Mediterranean climate of the Languedoc-Roussillon, buffeted by strong prevailing winds, keep vineyard pests and diseases to a minimum. This has facilitated the transition to more sustainable viticulture in the region. Today, the Languedoc-Roussillon is the largest organic wine producer in France.





Numerous grape varieties thrive on the Languedoc-Roussillon’s patchwork of clay, limestone, schist, shale, granite, rocky, and sandstone soils. Let’s discover just a few favourites that you might come across in this cellar offering.


Major Red Wine Blending Grapes of the Languedoc



Grenache thrives in hot, dry climates producing generous, rounded wines with moderate acidity, fragrant red fruit flavours, and smooth tannins. With age, Grenache wines take on attractive notes of fig, prune, mocha, and tobacco.  In red blends, Grenache provides body and fruit to counterbalance more tannic, firmly structured grapes like Syrah or Mourvèdre.




*** Lledoner Pelut is a mutation of the Grenache Noir grape. It ripens earlier, giving wines with slightly lower alcohol, brighter acidity, and an attractive spicy, savoury character.



In warm climates, Syrah produces deeply coloured, full-bodied, and tannic wines. The best examples have excellent ageing potential. Notes of black olive tapenade, ripe dark fruits, violets, chocolate, and spice are common in Languedoc Syrah. Over time, savoury undertones and resinous notes can develop. Syrah’s floral perfume, spice, and tannic framework make it an ideal blending component.



The vigorous Carignan grape suffered a poor reputation for many years in the Languedoc as it was primarily used to produce mass quantities of insipid red wine. Now, older vines producing significantly lower yields give attractive peppery wines, with bright red and black fruit flavours, deep colour, and firm tannins.






Mourvèdre is bold, tannic grape with black and blue berry aromas, wild herbal notes, and savoury nuances. Its vibrant acidity, full body, and grippy tannins make it a good blending component for structure. As a varietal wine, Mourvère can requires time in bottle to soften.



The Cinsault grape is supple and light, with tangy fruit flavours of strawberry, red currant, and cranberries. Its smooth texture makes it an excellent candidate for rosé production, and a good grape to soften bold red wines.




Great White Grapes of the Languedoc-Roussillon


Grenache Blanc & Gris

These two white wine grapes are colour mutations of the Grenache variety. They are both drought resistant and can withstand heat, making them ideally suited to the Languedoc-Roussillon. Generally found in white wine blends, Grenache Blanc gives a soft, rounded wine with bright apple and delicate stone fruit hints. Grenache Gris is more voluptuous on the palate with headier apricot/ peach flavours and spicy undertones.


Piquepoul Blanc

This grape, also called Picpoul, or Picpoul de Pinet, is native to southern France. It is prized for its high, zippy acidity – a rarity in such a warm climate. Piquepoul wines are often citrussy, dry, and crisp. They make for a great summer apéritif.





Beloved for its fragrant perfume and satiny texture, Viognier is a common feature in Languedoc blends and varietal wines. Viognier wines can lack acidity when the grapes are over-ripened. However, when picked at optimal maturity, the variety produces bright, peachy, floral whites with considerable charm.



Often referred to by the name Vermentino, this grape can be crafted into a variety of white wine styles depending on how and where it is grown. Light, crisp, unoaked versions are most common. The best among them feature herbal undertones and refreshing hints of salinity.







Jacky Blisson MW is an independent wine educator, writer, and consultant with over two decades of experience in all facets of the global wine trade. She is the first Master of Wine in Québec and one of only ten across Canada.