The South of France is a vast region, ranging from Nice on the Mediterranean coast in the east, to Biarritz on the Atlantic coast in the west. It’s separated from northern Spain and the Iberian Peninsula by the Pyrenees Mountains.
The latest Occitanie tasting showcased the sheer variety of appellations that can be found here. Historically, Occitania was a culturally distinct area encompassing parts of France, Spain and Italy, where the Occitan language was spoken. Today the term Occitanie describes a French administrative region, created in 2016 by combining the areas of Languedoc-Roussillon and the Midi-Pyrénées.
The region is bordered by Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur in the east, Nouvelle-Aquitaine in the west and Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes in the north.
Occitanie is now the largest wine region in France. A total of 263,000ha of vineyards produce around a third of the country’s total wine production.
In particular the area is known for organic and biodynamic viticulture, thanks to a generous Mediterranean climate. There are a total of 1,557 organic wineries here, working with 23,303ha of organic vineyards.
The numbers are impressive and perhaps it’s no surprise that they translate into a vast array of wine styles. Wines from Occitanie can be red, white and rosé and are produced across 87 AOP (Appellation d’Origine Protégée) regions. These include Languedoc, Faugères, Minervois, Corbières, Côtes de Gascogne, Pic-St-Loup, Cahors and Côtes de Roussillon.
Producers can choose to make wines within the appellation system or the less restrictive IGP (Indication Géographique Protégée) system. This is a great place to start if you’re looking for value wines from this area.
Stylistically wine lovers are spoiled for choice in Occitanie. Options range from crisp whites such as Picpoul de Pinet – perfect with seafood – to the full-bodied reds of Côtes du Roussillon-Villages, via fruity Pic-St-Loup rosés. Not forgetting the naturally sweet wines of Banyuls.
Many wines are approachable blends, featuring grapes such as the red Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah and Carignan, or white Colombard, Roussanne and Chenin Blanc.
The choice can be overwhelming, so we’ve highlighted some favourites from the tasting, all costing less than £20. They include a honeyed white blend of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne and Vermentino from Côtes Catalanes; an organic IGP Pays d’Oc rosé and a hidden gem red, made from the unusual Fer Servadou grape in the little-known IGP of Aveyron.