AOP Languedoc is 15 years old this year and busy with a series of initiatives to highlight its strengths as a wine region, a tasting in front of a Banksy exhibition in London was just one of many events to turn the spotlight on the wines of the region and highlight the attitude of upcoming winemakers there. Peter Dean gets the lowdown and picks 10 wines that typify the variety, quality and value you can find here.
“Which varieties are grown where in AOP Languedoc depends hugely upon their terroir with the different soils, altitudes, aspects, 12 different winds, microclimates and distance from the Mediterranean all playing a part,” writes Peter Dean.
AOP Languedoc is one of the region’s youngest AOPs which is reflected in how its wine producers are open to new ideas. The AOP houses a new wave of winemakers who think ahead, are contemporary and, sometimes, just a little bit rebellious. This point was emphasised by where AOP Languedoc chose to celebrate its 15th birthday – hosting a tasting alongside works by street artist Banksy at the Red Eight Gallery in London.
Apart from having a youthful, ‘can-do’ attitude the winemakers here have been doing some sterling work with ‘mindful’ farming – abiding by sustainable principles, converting to organics and biodynamics and matching grape varieties to its wealth of differing terroir.
A key point to remember about AOP Languedoc is just how large and diverse the appellation is.
There are so many different styles of wine that it can be hard to generalise but basically the region’s best-known wines are red blends of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre, Carignan and Cinsault, with the same grapes often being used to make the region’s rosés. Many producers also make white wines from Bourboulenc, Clairette Blanche, Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Piquepoul Blanc, Roussanne and Rolle (Vermentino). The styles vary enormously.
Which varieties are grown where depends hugely upon their terroir with the different soils, altitudes, aspects, 12 different winds, microclimates and distance from the Mediterranean all playing a part.
One defining characteristic of AOP Languedoc wines, however, is the type of scrubland called garrigue that is unique to the Southern French region and imbues its wines with distinctive herbaceous notes.
10 AOP Languedoc wines to put on your radar
Calmel & Joseph, AMS TRAM GRAM Les Sacrés Blanc 2021, AOP Languedoc
Grenache Blanc 40%, Roussanne 20 %, Viognier 20 %, Vermentino 20 %, 13% abv
Calmel & Joseph has a number of sub-brands and both the AMS TRAM GRAM white and red are real crowd-pleasers, well made and very easy going. It’s a classic Languedoc blend of four grapes, giving off pretty, floral aromatics – lemon blossom – a spicy note and bags of citrus fruit. Medium bodied, rounded, nicely balanced with well-integrated acidity, ripe lemons and a hint of yellow grapefruit. Made for quaffing.
Cellier des Demoiselles, Domaine des Vals Blanc, 2021, AOP Languedoc
Grenache Blanc 60%, Marsanne 40%
Cooperatives are an important part of this region’s winemaking history, none more so that Cellier des Demoiselles which is an association set up in 1914, the name honouring the women who ran the wineries during the First World War. This is a medium-bodied food wine that has a zippy, textured, citrus-driven acidity. There’s plenty of lemon and lime zest but also an attractive savoury quality – like crushed rocks and saline. It’s got a surprising amount of attitude and has a long finish.
Château d’Anglès, Classique Rosé 2021, AOP Languedoc
40 % Cinsault 30 % Grenache Noir 30 % Mourvèdre, 13% abv
A classic Languedoc mix of grapes for this serious and gastronomic rosé which is both distinctive and has real presence. On the nose you find black raspberry, wild flowers and a leesy quality from the 4-8 weeks the wine has spent on its lees in concrete. There’s a good deal of red berry fruit in the wine but it’s not at all confected – rather it has a slight tannic grip which creates excellent balance and has you reaching for another sip.
Maison Lorgeril, Ô de Rose, 2021, AOP Languedoc
Grenache, Syrah, Viognier, 13% abv
Very pale pink and looking just the part in its distinctive bottle. More intensity here with pear and citrus notes, red berry fruit and the Viognier adding a floral lift. Compared to the others tried in the tasting this is altogether more vinous with more grip and interest – apples dominate the fruit flavours with a spicy note on the long finish.
Domaine de l’Aster, En Montant la Calade, 2019, AOP Languedoc Pezenas
Grenache Noir 63%, Syrah, Carignan, 14.5% abv
Real wafts from the garrigue emanate from the complex nose on this intense and heady red. The mouthfeel is warm and rounded with quite a soft entry, it sits well on the palate, then you feel more of the acidity and structure of the wine – it has power but lovely freshness too and a lightness of touch which is laudable given its chunky abv. The wine is well put together and has a dry, almost salty, finish. A classic, first-class Languedoc red.
SAS Jeff Carrel, Les Darons 2021, AOP Languedoc
Grenache 75%, Syrah 20%, Carignan 5%, 14% abv
Ripe, fruity nose as you’d expect with all that Grenache; The mouthfeel is medium to full bodied – open, generous with a silky palate. Flavour-wise you find blackberry, cherry, and a touch of blueberry. The acidity makes itself felt, the tannins are ripe but a bit young (this is 2021) and there’s a touch of resin which helps to create a good sense of balance. Classy-looking, the wine is as bold as the typeface.
Domaine Monplezy, Félicité Rouge, 2019, AOP Languedoc Pezenas
Syrah, Grenache, Carignan, 14.5% abv
Black and red fruits abound, there’s blackberry jelly, and a subtle hit of garrigue herbs here. Medium to full bodied, ripe and fruity, generous, but built on solid ground. Nice balance between ripe fruit, young but well-integrated fine-boned tannins and acidity, and a shot of minerals. Tidy finish, lightness of touch – makes you want another glass.
Domaine les Grandes Costes, Musardises, 2020, AOP Languedoc
Cinsault, Syrah, Grenache, 13.5% abv
Cinsault is called the ‘Pinot Noir of the South’ for good reason and shows itself in the mix of this wine with a fresh elegance and higher-toned acidity. You still have the heady scent of the garrigue – the fresh herbs are turned up to 11 – with wild sage foremost. There’s a lovely fresh mouthfeel, juicy, with decent acidity and a lovely balance. It’s a wine that’s got real life to it – you could quaff it or, better still, it will work well with food.
Domaine d’Anglas, Esprit de la Garrigue, 2020, AOP Languedoc
Syrah, Grenache, 13.5% abv
There’s a wild purity in this serious red. The garrigue wafts out of the glass with wild blackberry, but the fruit smells and tastes freshly pressed, clean and pure. Like the Musardises, the alcohol is reined in a little, the wine being medium to full bodied, ripe, powerful, with young grippy (ripe) tannins. There’s a lot of freshness here, bags of black and red fruit, a twist of liquorice on the finish.
Domaine de Roquemale, Les Gres, 2020, AOP Languedoc Gres de Montpellier
Syrah 80%, Grenache 10%, Cinsault 10%, 13.5% abv
Another easy-drinking red, so easy to like with the alcohol tempered just a bit. The nose is attractive and fruity, full of sweet black fruits – cassis and blackberry to the fore. The mouthfeel is rounded, medium weight, fruity, very easy drinking with ripe, rounded tannins. A dry, liquorice twist and grind of black pepper on the finish just to keep it all in check.