Corbieres is an important appellation of the Languedoc-Roussillon region of southern France. One of the better-known Languedoc titles, Corbieres is also one of the most productive. Its vineyards turn out large quantities of red and rose wines, along with a growing number of whites.
Red wines are the appellation's forte; they are famously rich, herb-scented wines, made from Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Carignan. Rose wines from Corbieres are also well-respected, produced from the same red varieties, combined with Grenache Gris and Picpoul. White wines constitute only a small percentage of the total output. They are made from a wide selection of varieties – most notably Bourboulenc, Grenache Blanc, Maccabeu, Marsanne and Roussanne.
The Corbieres appellation covers a large, roughly square area, 37 miles (57km) wide, to the south and west of Narbonne. The terrain and climate here vary considerably, ranging from the Pyrenean foothills in the south and west, to the flatter, lower-lying areas of the coastal plain near Narbonne. Because of this the zone has been divided into various sub-appellations – terroirs – which may add their names to that of the Corbieres appellation on labels. The aim of this is to provide consumers with more precise information about a wine's origins.
In the southern Hautes-Corbieres and Durban terroirs, the landscape is significantly hillier than elsewhere in the appellation. Some local vineyards are located at altitudes of 1650ft (500m), planted on mostly schistous soils. The climate is Mediterranean, but the nights are cooler due to the increased altitude, bringing the added benefit of wider-ranging diurnal temperature variation. Two hilly enclaves here are reserved for the oldest of the Languedoc region's red wine appellations: Fitou.
The Sigean and Fontfroide terroirs in the east are the warmest parts of Corbieres, being located at lower altitudes and close to the moderating influences of the Mediterranean Sea. Two large lagoons – the Etang de Bages and the Etang de L'Ayrolle – serve to stabilize the climate further, freeing the vineyards from the changeable weather of the mountains. Although this consistency is a bonus in some ways, it deprives the vines of fresh, cooler nights, which would help maintain natural acids to balance out the sugars developed over the long, hot days.
Lagrasse is an area at the center of Corbieres, located at the very start of the Pyrenean foothills. Recognized as a source of higher-quality wines, it was granted its own appellation in 2005 – AOC Corbieres-Boutenac.
The vineyards of the northernmost area, known as Alaric, are divided between the plains in the north and the south-facing slopes of the Montagne d'Alaric. Although not they are not planted at particularly high altitudes (a maximum of 984ft/300m), the southern orientation of these vineyards offers extended exposure to the sun, which helps to ripen the Mourvedre grapes in particular.