South of France

A catch-all heading, South of France covers a huge variety of regions and styles from well-known favourites such as Provence rosé and Picpoul to lesser names, virtually unheard of outside of their locality.

International varietals are produced by big companies and co-operatives while small producers experiment with amphorae and local grape varieties. The number of organic producers is also on the increase, particularly on the drier Mediterranean side.

Crisp dry white wines are abundant in Gascony and the South-West, some using grapes once destined for Armagnac. The whites of Languedoc-Roussillon, in contrast, tend to be bigger and gentler with Mediterranean and Rhône white grapes vying with Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay for space. Within the Languedoc, Picpoul de Pinet is de rigueur for delivering pure summer pleasure whilst the whites from the cooler climate of Limoux are more serious, Burgundian even, while those from Collioure on the Roussillon coast and further inland have great minerality. The pale rosé wines of Provence have caught the imagination in the last few years, but there are rivals – often better value – from the Languedoc and these lookalikes can be excellent. Gascony rosés, made from Bordeaux and south-western grapes, tend to be more blackcurranty in flavour.

Overall, red wines are the most important style in the South which has a diversity of climates and terroirs that allows it to produce a vast number of very different wines. Languedoc-Roussillon is arguably the area of the most wine innovation in France making both varietal wines alongside a roster of AOCs such as Minervois, Corbières and (Coteaux du) Languedoc. Provence’s most famous red is from beside the sea at Bandol whereas Gascony and the South-West fields Bergerac, Pécharmant and Madiran as its star player.

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