France: Languedoc Roussillon

Around Narbonne

The wines of the Corbières and Fitou areas
By Richard James

This Guide was last updated on 03 February 2010
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Main grape varieties

Red

Carignan
Thrives well on the hills in schist soils. It produces aromatic tannic wines with good colour when grown on old vines with low yields.

Cinsault
Results in supple, light wines and is particularly suited for rosé production.

Grenache
Thrives in dry conditions, but is susceptible to disease. The wines are rich in aromas and texture.

Syrah
Ripens early and tends to get overripe except at altitude. However, when vinified carefully it gives wines with strong colour and perfume and good structure. Plantings are on the increase.

Mourvèdre
This late ripener, which ripens well in southern-facing vineyards, grows best on stony slopes where it is less likely to suffer from the effects of drought. It produces wines with excellent colour, structure and spicy, meaty flavours.

Merlot
Widely used for Vins de Pays, it´s most successful in cooler areas picked at perfect ripeness; otherwise the wines can be either too stalky or jammy.

Cabernet Sauvignon
Widely used for Vins de Pays, the best examples show rich cassis fruit and a solid framework..


White

Grenache Blanc
Used in blends to add supple fruit and body.

Grenache Gris
Some of the best, barrel-fermented white Corbières have a large proportion of Grenache Gris, which is rich, exotic and spicy in character.

Viognier
Relative newcomer to the Languedoc, which is beginning to show great potential in the hands of certain producers. It is used mainly in Vin de Pays either on its own or as part of a blend.

Bourboulenc
Used as a blending ingredient.

Clairette
This variety is well-suited to poor, dry soils.

Marsanne
Used occasionally in blends or as a varietal Vin de Pays, it lends honeyed flavours and oily texture.

Roussanne
Used occasionally in blends or as a varietal Vin de Pays, it adds floral honeysuckle notes and zesty mouth-feel.

Rolle
Used occasionally in blends. Also known as Vermentino.

Macabeu
Used occasionally in blends.

Chardonnay
Used for Vins de Pays, when not over-cropped and well handled, the wines really are France´s answer to the New World..

Sauvignon Blanc
Used increasingly successfully for lively, citrus flavoured Vins de Pays.


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