With Christmas a couple of days away and New Year’s Eve well on the horizon, it’s time for important decisions: which wines will you choose to bring joy to the festivities and bring your food pairings to life. It’s worth looking beyond the usual suspects lining the supermarket shelves. The festive period is a perfect time to discover new regions and wines, and explore the stories of the places and people behind them.
The Languedoc, with its fascinating mosaic of terroirs, offers diversity and sophisticated simplicity across its many appellations and styles. From traditional method sparkling wines to luscious sweet and fortified pours, this is a region whose wines are inextricably linked to the multiple cultures that crossed the Mediterranean since the beginning of times, creating a melting pot of oenological and gastronomic traditions. Coastal and mountain terroirs have long been home to a wide variety of grape varieties, in turn shaping the character of various appellations whose historical track record is matched by a constant capacity to innovate and improve.
Today, Languedoc combines the classicism of well-established names – think Crémant de Limoux or Corbières – with the innovative flare of lesser-known appellations, such as Fitou or Terrases de Larzac, increasingly recognised for their expressiveness and consistency.
The local, ancestral winemaking traditions mean that the work of today’s winemakers rests upon a wealth of knowledge and a deep connection with the local terroirs. Behind each bottle of a Languedoc AOP wine are stories that will bring meaning and character to your Christmas celebrations. But quality and identity are not the only calling cards of the Languedoc AOPs: they also offer uniquely good value, proving that there’s no need to break the bank to have finely crafted, expressive wines at your table.
If looking for the perfect sparkling wine to open festivities, Crémant and Blanquette de Limoux offer a great alternative to pricier, traditional method counterparts. Their trademark elegance and salinity makes them not only ideal celebration bubbles but perfect food companions as well.
As an apéritif, you might also want to consider a crisp, mineral Picpoul de Pinet, itself a piece of history produced from the ancestral Piquepoul grape – wines that carry the breezes and smells of the Mediterranean. Again these also make great food wines, with a special affinity with the flavours of the sea – grilled fish, seafood platters, sushi, sashimi.
For those for whom any celebration calls for a bottle of rosé, the young Cabardès appellation offers fleshy, gastronomic Syrah and Grenache-based pink wines, that combine freshness with moreish appeal.
The Languedoc is also a place of powerful, complex reds which are increasingly turning heads among sommeliers and wine buyers. They combine structure, ageing potential and a savoury, quintessential Mediterranean flare (think aromas of dried herbs and garrigue), alongside a plush drinkability and fruit complexity. Expressions from Fitou, Saint-Chinian, Terrasses de Larzac, Corbières or Faugères, are just some of the wines guaranteed to lift the flavours of your Christmas Turkey or loaf.
And to finish in style, the many fortified iterations of Muscat Blanc a Petit Grains and Muscat of Alexandria, with their fragrant lusciousness and underlying freshness will underline the zesty spiciness of a good Christmas cake.
Explore Languedoc AOP wines this Christmas – wines that encapsulate the season’s values of simplicity, authenticity and unpretentiousness. A unique combination of historical legacy and down-to-earth generosity.
Six Languedoc AOP wines to try this festive season:
Antech, Cuvée Saint-Laurent, Crémant de Limoux 2019
From one of the appellation’s flagship producers comes this expressive vintage Crémant de Limoux. The Chardonnay-dominant blend was aged for 24 months on the lees, lending the wine a creamy, nutty appeal. A fantastic food-friendly sparkling that punches well above the weight of its price tag.
£12.95 from The Wine Society
Les Vignobles de Foncalieu, Haut Bridau, Picpoul de Pinet, 2021
Foncalieu has long been one of the Languedoc’s leading cooperatives, driven by a strong commitment to quality and sustainability. Their wide range of AOC and IGP wines provide a perfect overview of the collective efforts of Languedoc growers and producers to deliver consistently good wines at the best value. This Picpoul de Pinet being a perfect example, with its gentle minerality and saline freshness. The best pairing for the festive smoked salmon and creamy cheeses.
£9.99 from Majestic
Château de Pennautier, Rosé, Cabardès, 2020/21
An explosion of crunchy red fruit in this Merlot-based rosé to which nuances of melon and lychee add an exotic twist. Château de Pennautier sits just six kilometres away from the 13th-century fortress town of Carcassonne, and the 1620 estate is the beating heart of Nicolas de Lorgeril’s project.
£11.99 from Majestic
Domaine Jones, Fitou, 2020
The brainchild of England-born Katie Jones, Domaine Jones gained, in but a few years, a cult following for the expressiveness and purity of its range. ThisFitou blends Carignan, Grenache and Syrah from old, low-yielding vines (the only plot owned by Jones herself), in a perfect balance of fruit depth, savoury complexity and mineral freshness., Simply delicious.
£13.50 from The Wine Society
Domaine de La Réserve d’O, La Réserve d’O Rouge, Terrasses de Larzac 2018
In recent years Terrasses de Larzac has emerged as a leading red wine appellation, favoured by sommeliers and wine buyers for the balance, complexity and gastronomic appeal of its wines. As shown in this biodynamic (Demeter certified) blend of Syrah, Grenache and Cinsault, full of energy, fresh minerality and with incredible length.
£25.95 from Lea & Sandeman
Domaine Les Tailhades, Petit Grain, Muscat de Saint-Jean de Minervois, 2020
Often overlooked in favour of the better-known Muscat the Rivesaltes, Muscat de Saint-Jean de Minervois is produced from Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains in lieu of its Alexandria counterpart. But it has the same, if not more, aromatic nuances and a refreshing lift that will provide the best ending to any meal. And, as this example from Domaine Les Tailhades shows, you can’t possibly get anything better at this price point.
£7.95 from Hennings Wine