Languedoc (formerly 'Coteaux du Languedoc') is a key appellation used in southern France's Languedoc-Roussillon wine region. It covers dry table wines of all three colors (red, white and rosé) from all over the region, but leaves the sweet and sparkling wines to other more specialized appellations. Around 75% of all Languedoc wine is red, the remaining 25% being split roughly down the middle between whites and rosés. The appellation covers most of the Languedoc region and nearly a third of all the wine-bearing vines in France.
The typical Languedoc red is a medium-bodied, fruit-forward wine. The finest examples are slightly heavier-bodied and have darker, more savory aromas with hints of spice, underbrush and leather. The grape varieties used to make these are the classic southern French varieties Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre, often with a hint of Carignan or Cinsaut.
The appellation's white wines are made from Grenache Blanc, Clairette and Bourboulenc, with occasional recourse to the Rhone Valley varieties Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne. In one very specific case (Picpoul du Pinet), the little-known local variety Picpoul is also used. The rosés are based on the key red varieties, with support from the white varieties. (© Wine-Searcher)
As with other generic regional appellations (e.g. Cotes du Rhone), the Languedoc title serves as an entry-level starting point for wines from all over Languedoc-Roussillon. It is complemented by numerous other appellations dotted around the region (e.g. Saint-Chinian, Minervois, Fitou), which focus much more closely on a particular place and wine style.
The Languedoc appellation identifies a number of sub-regions whose wines are of particularly high quality. From east to west, these are: Sommieres, Pic Saint-Loup, Gres de Montpellier, Terrasses du Larzac, Pezenas and the famous La Clape. The idiosyncratic white wine appellation Picpoul de Pinet is treated as a sub-region here.
Within the sub-regions mentioned above are a number of smaller officially recognized vineyard areas referred to simply as 'terroirs'. The most famous of these are arguably Saint-Drezery and Cabrieres. The tiny Montpeyroux area is also of note – a tiny area just a few miles west of Aniane (home to the revered wineries Mas de Daumas Gassac and Domaine de la Grange des Peres). Having been officially identified as sources of high-quality wine, these areas are permitted to append their own names to the Languedoc appellation (e.g. 'Languedoc La Clape').
The renaming from Coteaux du Languedoc, and the overhaul of the appellation laws, have all been part of an effort to improve the reputation of Languedoc-Roussillon and its wines. One of the most significant steps taken was to progressively reduce the proportion of Carignan and Cinsaut used in the local wines. The appellation laws forbid these two varieties (individually or combined) from making up more than 40% of any standard Languedoc wine. There are even stronger restrictions on the varieties, for wines claiming any of the appellation's sub-region or terroir titles (e.g. La Clape). The most notable of these is the exceptionally high minimum age at which Carignan vines qualify for the Gres de Montpellier title – a daunting 8 years.
'Coteaux du Languedoc' had a five-year grace period until 2012, during which time it existed side by side with 'Languedoc'.