The French Vineyards of Occitanie
Occitanie is considered one of the newest French wine regions and it is located only 2 hours from Barcelona. The name for the region references a large southern European realm where people spoke a Latin-derived language called Occitan. This French vineyards region covers a territory similar to that ruled by the Counts of Toulouse in the 12th – 13th centuries and presents a Mediterranean coast on the southeast and is adjacent to Provence-Alpes-Cate d’Azur on the east, Auvergne-Rhome Alpes on the northeast, Nouvelle-Aquitaine on the west and northwest and shares foreign borders with Andorra and Spain on the south. This area is one of the oldest wine regions in the world, with documented Greek planted vineyards from the 5th century BC.
The area combines the neighboring Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrenees regions, and is home to Montpelier, Toulouse and Perpignan. This is also the birthplace of sparkling wine (1531), in the town of Limoux, produced by the monks at the Abbaye de Saint-Hilaire, 150 years prior to the birth of Dom Perignon who introduced the sparkles to the area that made it famous – Champagne. The local bubbles were sipped by Thomas Jefferson and it was the only sparkling wine in Jefferson’s personal cellar.
Languedoc-Roussillon, was once noted as the country’s “wine lake” because it produced mass volumes of wine for the French military during WW1. For years it made the country’s cheapest wine – for the troops. Fortunately, recent efforts have focused on quality over quantity, and this attentiveness has been successful. The region currently includes 549,194 acres of vineyards (more land than all of Australia), producing 327,360,000 gallons of wine (75 percent red, 13 percent white, 8 percent rose, and 2 percent sparkling and fortified / sweet). Of these wines, there are 36 AOC wines (29 red, white and rose, 3 sparkling and 4 sweet).
The most widely planted grapes are: Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, Cinsault, Merlot, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Grenache (noir and blanc), Muscat, Bourboulenc, Clairette, Mauzac and Picpoul. The soils are a mix of schist, sandstone, scree, limestone, clay and sandy-clay. Famous appellations include Muscat de rivesaltes, Blanquette du Limoux, sparkling wine, Corbiere, Minervois, Saint-Chinian, Pic Saint-Loup, Picpoul de Pinet and Colioure.