Languedoc Wines Drinks Atlas - Imbibe Magazine Subscribe + Save

The French wine region of Languedoc has an impressively long history of innovation. In addition to the region’s early ventures into crafting fortified wines (1285) and planting hillside vineyards (1709), its vignerons were the first to create sparkling wine (1544) and to launch the world’s first all-organic wine expo (1993). 

What’s the secret to being at the forefront of wine innovation for more than 2,500 years of winegrowing? With nine out of its 20 AOPs younger than 20 years old, Languedoc isn’t as beholden to restrictions as other wine regions. “One of the reasons, perhaps, that the appellation laws were never written to be super restrictive is because when you do that, you squash innovation,” explains Erik Segelbaum, wine educator, Advanced Sommelier, and founder of GoodSomm wine club.

While some regions in France must contend with 400 years of rules, Languedoc enjoys more freedom and flexibility. “We’re seeing a lot of experimental plantings … changing the way that vines are trellised, changing the way that the vines are oriented,” Segelbaum adds. “The appellation laws don’t limit or prevent them from doing those things.”

Languedoc is also the leading producer of organic wines, homing 10 percent of the world’s organic acreage. According to Segelbaum, the region’s high percentage of organic vineyards and its sustainability commitment are rooted in the personality and mentality of its winemakers and grape growers. Plus, thanks to the region’s Mediterranean and hillside influences, the vineyards benefit from cooling, drying winds and don’t suffer from the same disease pressure as other parts of France. Since it’s more difficult for insects and molds to settle, it’s easier to grow grapes without harmful fungicides and pesticides.

“Even at their most expensive, Languedoc wines are almost always overdelivering on their price points.” —Erik Segelbaum

Located in Southern France, extending from Provence to the Pyrenees Mountains and bordered by Spain and the Mediterranean Sea, Languedoc encompasses three different climactic zones (hillsides, coastal and Atlantic) spanning many terroirs with an enviable 320 days of sunshine a year. While most known for its red wine blends, including Carignan, Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Syrah, the region produces an array of wines from 26 official grape varieties.

The freshness and modern styling of Languedoc’s Mediterranean reds and rosés make them extremely appealing. Beyond the reds, the charming white wines of AOP Picpoul de Pinet are one of the region’s rising stars — as are the delicious bubbles of Limoux. For Segelbaum, “Sparkling wine appellations are hyper-significant in Languedoc.” 

The original sparkling wines of France, Crémant de Limoux and Blanquette de Limoux deliver a similar quality as Champagne but at a fraction of the price. “I’m not saying it’s a one-to-one comparison,” he explains. “But you get the same effort and quality into those wines, but at a fraction of the cost. This is value defined!”

5 to Try

Moulin de Gassac, “Guilhem” Rosé, IGP Pays d’Hérault Rosé

From the highly regarded Moulin de Gassac, this lively rosé from the coastal Thau Lagoon area entices with aromatic floral and citrus notes. A well-balanced sip imparts fresh berries with a long finish. It’s the perfect accompaniment to nearly everything at a backyard barbecue, from grilled meats to fruit salad. “Unlike many pale rosés, this one is packed with flavor and spreads out across your mouth as you drink it,” says Segelbaum. $11.99,

Domaine Jean-Claude Mas, Côte Mas, AOP Crémant de Limoux, Brut

Top producer Jean-Claude Mas’ Crémant wines exemplify Languedoc’s expert touch with sparkling wines. This blend of Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Noir, and Mauzac balances acidity with citrus fruits, making it the perfect aperitif. “It’s truly a hidden gem for high-quality sparkling wine that won’t break the bank,” says Segelbaum. $11.99,

Saint Hilaire, AOP Blanquette de Limoux, Brut

Blanquette de Limoux is considered the oldest sparkling wine in the world, over a century older than Champagne. This dry, toasty sparkler—which features Mauzac, a rare heirloom grape of the Languedoc—is the perfect stand-in for Champagne at only a fraction of the cost. $14.99,

Domaine de la Madone, AOP Picpoul de Pinet

Enjoy this crisp white wine from family-owned single estate Domaine de la Madone as an aperitif or paired with seafood. “Piquepoul is a sleeper grape and truly one of my favorites with anything that has ever lived underwater,” says Segelbaum. Bright aromas of citrus and hawthorn flowers give way to white cherry notes with Japanese sour plum and white flowers. $14.99,

Maxime Magnon “La Demarrante” AOP Corbières  

This blend of Carignan, Grenache, and Syrah aged in second-hand Burgundian barrels makes for a hearty accompaniment to grilled meats. Or enjoy its lush berry flavors with a slight chill. “A slight black olive brine coupled with fresh sweet tobacco and soft herb notes round out the palate and make this a truly food-friendly wine,” Segelbaum says. $36.99,

Enjoy This Article?

Sign up for our newsletter and get biweekly recipes and articles delivered to your inbox.

Send this to a friend