The Languedoc and Midi-Pyrenees Regions of South France

Wine in the Regions

Wine Appellations in the Languedoc and Midi-Pyrenees Regions
St Chinian
Coteaux du Languedoc
Cotes de Malpère
Cartagéne (vin de Liqueur)
Costières de Nimes
St Drézéry
Pic St Loup
La Mejanelle
Muscat de Mireval
Mucat de Frontignan
Gres De Montpellier
Terrase du Larzac
St Saturnin
St Georges D'Orques

Was it the Celts or the Romans who first planted vines in the south of France, or maybe was it the Greeks? As far as history tells us the first vines were planted on the hills near Narbonne or Narbo as it was known to the Romans around 125 BC. Caesar also had Via Domitia road built, that ran from Rome to Narbonne, an important Roman port across the south west-through these two regions to the Atlantic then into Spain. The areas around Beziers and Narbonne produced so much wine in this period that it was sent to Rome. In the Middle Ages wine production also boomed under the supervision of the Catholic Church. With the setting up of monasteries and abbeys viticulture was part of monastic life. These abbeys and monasteries were also used as staging posts for the crusade against the Heretics, known as the Cathars who were systematically hunted down and burnt at the stake by Pope Innocent 111 and Crusader Simon De Montfort in the 13th Century. The crusade was wide ranging but was concentrated more in the Tarn, Ariège, Aude and Toulouse, which is now the Capital of the Midi-Pyrenees region.

The construction in the last part of the 17th century of the Canal de Midi was thought to open the trade with the English & Dutch wine traders in Bordeaux, but because of the already existing local trade in Claret for the English, wine of the Midi did not sell. So in the end the canal had very little effect on the wine from Languedoc. The port in Sète was established around 1666 so then trade that had eluded the wine makers was opened up to the Dutch & English. But it was not until the opening of the railway in 1855 that the region really took off with a line to Lyon and then up North. In 1856 a line had opened to Bordeaux, and wine production went full tilt. Only to be hit like the rest of the country by the Phylloxera louse, but due to experimenting with grafting and the use of new hybrids the region was one of the first to bounce back. However towards then end of the 19th century Languedoc was producing almost half the wine in France, but the quality was very poor and had to be blended with wines from the new French colonies such as Algeria, dropping the price of the wine which caused wine related riots in the Languedoc. Since that period not all but a good majority of wine makers belonged to a co-operative around the 1930s, and because of this they had quite a political voice in the region. But the price and the amount of vin de table (table wine) produced by the co-op was a very standardized system mixing the good fruit with the bad resulting in a mediocre wine.

For me these two regions are the next new phase in the history of wine making in France. For example Gascony is famous for its Armagnac but because of a drop in demand the vineyards that grew the uni blanc and other varieties that go into its production, had to reinvent themselves and are now producing very acceptable white wines. Families are inviting new world wine makers to come and do a vintage for them so there is an exchange of technology and ideas, which can only be a good thing for wine lovers world wide.

Cuisine of the Languedoc and Midi-Pyrénées

The region has the Mediterranean coastline, the Black Mountains, The Pyrenees to the south of the Aude valley, the Sigan and also the departments of the Midi Pyrenees all full of a rich and diverse culture and culinary history. Some of the examples of local produce in the Languedoc are Oysters and Mussels from the étang de Thau where the Canal de Midi enters the Mediterranean. The famous vermouth Noilly Prat produced in the Village of Marseillan, is aged in oak casks in the sunlight. Fresh seafood abounds from the port of Sete and le port Nouvelle near Narbonne. In the mountains of both regions, rich with seasonal wild food, Sanglier (wild boar), Deer, wild asparagus and Mushrooms are common. Magret Duck features heavily in the cuisine as does Pork (the Black pig of Bigorre) being a native breed to the area. Charcuterie has a long history within each region ,having its own special hams and pates, no part of the pig is spared. And of course not to be forgotten is the legendary "Cassoulet", made with white haricot beans (Lingots) which go all soft and creamy, duck leg confit (Slowly cooked in the fat of the duck) and Toulouse sausage all cooked slowly to produce a rich warm dish that is in a place of its own in French Cuisine. Of course there are many other things that I haven't mentioned so you will just have to come and discover them with us at Fine wine tours.