Traditionally known for its good-value rustic red blends, this Languedoc heartland region is forging a new reputation for quality and great terroirs. James Lawther MW heads south for a visit…
It’s the size and rugged beauty that assails you. Corbières is such a massive chunk of land and within its borders the terrain is so wild and resplendent. Rocky garrigue harbours bush-trained and trellised vines as well as pine, cherry, almond and olive trees, with fir and oak in the higher reaches. Some of the hillside vineyards seem incredibly remote, yet the major cities of Carcassonne and Narbonne to the north and Perpignan to the south are never far away, with the beach resorts of the Mediterranean adjacent to the east.
Scroll down for James Lawther MW’s top 12 Corbières reds to try
Viticulture has always been the mainstay of the region. When I first visited in 1997 there were just over 14,000ha of AP Corbières declared, producing an average 600,000hl, the equivalent of 80 million bottles. These days the figure stands at 10,600ha with an output of 390,000hl or 52m bottles, but it is still the Languedoc’s leading appellation by volume.
Corbières at a glance
Area under vine: 10,600ha (12% farmed organically)
Production: 390,000hl; 52 million bottles
Independent wineries: 241
Wine styles: Red (87%), rosé (10%), dry white (3%)
Soils: Predominantly limestone-clay
Grape varieties: Red & rosé Syrah (30%), Carignan (29%), Grenache Noir (29%), Mourvèdre (8%), Cinsault (3%), others (1%). White Grenache Blanc (41%), Roussanne (14%), Vermentino (13%), Marsanne (12%), Macabeo (11%), Bourboulenc (8%), Muscat à Petits Grains (1%)
Blending: Two varieties minimum required for AP Corbières (all colours), including a primary variety representing no less than 40% and no more than 80% of the blend