France: Languedoc Roussillon

Around Béziers

Wines from the Faugères, Saint Chinian and Minervois areas
By Richard James

This Guide was last updated on 11 February 2010
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Main wine styles

Reds

Those wines produced on schist are supple with red fruit flavours with hints of vanilla; others from clay-limestone terroir are more tannic and concentrated. Wines coming from the more westerly vineyards are elegant with good tannic structure, with red fruit flavours and hints of spice. Ageing in wood for around 12 months was traditionally carried out in old oak casks, but many estates have invested in new barriques. Most of the best wines can age well for six years or more.

Whites

Dry, medium or sweet wines produced. Most of the best ones are dry except for sometimes very good Vin Doux Naturels made from Muscat (see below), which is also increasingly used to make zesty dry whites. Minervois white can be particularly aromatic, and certain estates in St-Chinian and Faugères are developing rich, barrel-fermented styles.

Rosés

Crisp, fruity, yet quite weighty styles. The best ones coming from Faugères can be floral and aromatic; and in St-Chinian Syrah and Mourvèdre are proving to be a suitable base for serious, food-orientated dry rosés.

Vins Doux Naturels

These fortified wines (15-16%) are made using the mutage process, by adding grape spirit to the juice at the start of fermentation. This stops fermentation and leaves some residual sugar. Strict criteria concerning alcohol and sugar levels have to be met before wines can be labelled accordingly, and the yield is low to control stocks. Ranging from golden to orange in colour these wines are luscious and sweet.

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