IN THE VINEYARDS OF LANGUEDOC - A TIME OF PROMISE
has eventually arrived in the Languedoc The vines stand naked
in serried ranks lovingly pruned and waiting for the warmth
of the sun to arrive. The almond trees line the roads, their
pink blossom heralding the start of warmer weather. The winter
landscape is bare but beautiful. The sap will rise in the
vines soon and plump buds will force their way out of the
knarled wood. Over the winter the Vignerons and their field
workers have handled the vines with respect and care. Long
back-breaking hours have been spent preparing the land and
arranging stones around the bases of the vines to keep in
the warmth of the winter sun and to keep out the chill of
has been little rain since September, but the farmers in the
South of France are used to long periods of drought but a
greater problem is concerning them. The winter has been mild
and if the buds develop too quickly, they can be ruined by
heavy unexpected rain or a sudden return to frosty conditions.
The parched vineyards stretch as far as the eye can see and
the farmer's wait and hope. The wild asparagus is being gathered
and we are just waiting for a kiss of heat from a gentle sun
and the vines will be reborn again, but not too soon, we hope.
vines have to fight for life in this Mediterranean region;
the roots of some fifty year old plants plunging fifteen feet
below the ground. The area below ground is watered by a giant
delta of underground streams from the Montagne Noire and beyond.
The vines struggle for survival which results in the flavours
of the wines being strong, full and robust. The Syrah gives
the wine a full bouquet of summer fruits, Grenache the spicy
tones of pepper and herbs, Mourvédre the smoke enhanced
the Appellation Controllé in each region have strict
guidelines governing the variety of grapes that are grown
in a particular soil (terroir), the Vigneron's are given the
freedom to produce their own blends of wine within these restrictions
and create their own individuality. In September the superior
grapes are hand picked with a double sorting and then with
temperature controlled maceration they are stored in large
concrete vats called cuves.
a few months when the fermentation process has ended the wine
is often stored in oak barrels for up to twelve months. The
Vignerons themselves are kept busy all through the year but
this mid-way stage is the time to start tasting the result
of last autumn's harvest and discover the promise of what
flavours will develop after aging. This is often when the
services of an Oenologue is employed. These individuals are
hired for their expert advice, just to taste and recommend
the perfect blends for that particular year's production.
A tiny amount of wine is drawn off, tasted and measured for
alcohol content and then the potential for an exceptional
year or a failed crop is realised. The wine grower is only
as good as his Oenologue whose skills can be likened to an
artist, or a chef accustomed to the nuances and subtleties
of flavours that will combine to create a harmony of flavour
and an excitement to the palette.
few wine makers make the "assemblage" before the
wine has matured, believing that if the different varieties
ferment together, the result is a more interesting and complex
wine. However, many of the younger Vignerons are now maturing
each grape variety separately and only assembling the cépage
when each variety has developed to its full potential. Vintages
of past years can also be used, creating a mature harmony
with a younger wine.
climate in the South of France is more or less constant so
there are not such dramatic fluctuations in the quality of
harvest as there is in Bordeaux and Burgundy. None the less,
the market in French wine is often judged by the terrain and
the "good and bad years". In the South there is
a more "laissez faire" attitude. Along with the
Gallic shrug comes a smile with a sunny optimism, tomorrow
is another day, next year is another year. They call one of
the dessert wines down here "L'Or de Bacchus", life
is gold, it encompasses the richness of the sun, the fertility
of the land and the plentifullness of the sea.
home we sometimes do not appreciate the dedication to perfection
that these producers go to. Their passion is passed to the
next generation and, far from leaving this poor region behind,
the Daughters and Sons are returning from work experience
around the World to breathe new life into this fabulous area.
Please take time to search for Languedocienne wines, you will
not be disappointed.
article was provided by GoHolidayFrance organisers of Cooking
Holidays and Wine Tours in the Languedoc region of France
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