Usually when you are big, attention and respect follow along. People don’t mess with you. Bad stuff is not said about you, at least not to your face. In crowded conditions, room is made for you.

So what’s the deal with the vast Languedoc-Roussillon area of southern France? How did this region become the poster child for mediocrity and lack of pride? I’m here to tell you that some people’s opinion of this place is wrong and misguided.

First of all, the real history of the area is one of the most fascinating tales of any region in France, and that’s saying something. Here was the frontier, wild and almost lawless during the Middle Ages and the eras preceding. The Romans, Visigoths, Moors and the Cathars (a rebellious sect of the Catholic Church) all set up shop in this area and each left their marks. The language, architecture, cuisine and beverages are all accumulations of many cultures.

Even the name of this southernmost area of France – bounded by the Mediterranean, the Midi-Pyrenees, Andorra and the Catalan region to the west – is a reference to the language difference, the language of Occitane: Languedoc (laingh wuh dock). Nothing would please me more than to spend many moments telling stories of this area but my editor thinks this is supposed to be a beverage column, and since I would like to continue employment here at least until next week, I will move into the realm of the fermented juice of the grape.

The Languedoc-Roussillon is the largest wine grape growing region in Europe. Incidentally, it is also the site of the largest medieval walled city in Europe, Carcassonne. Oh, sorry, did I just slip in a historical reference?

What makes this entire area unique on The Continent is that, for the most part, it’s a wide open ball game. Grape growers can grow what they want where they want. As you know, that sort of freedom is not common in Europe. We take it for granted in America – that the government does not tell us what to grow, where and how to deal with the crop – but in Europe there is more control from governing bodies over those issues.

So you are just as likely to see pinot noir from the Languedoc, as well as Syrah. And in very large quantities. More than 750,000 acres of vineyards are in the Languedoc, three times the amount of vineyard land in Bordeaux. Vines grew here before man showed up, in the Pliocene era. The first domesticated vineyards in Gaul (France) were here.

The Mediterranean climate and the sandy soil are ideal for all kinds of fruit. Lately the wines have been designated Sud de France to give the region some local pride and offer the consumer some guidance as to what is in the bottle. Many wine labels from this region emulate the classic labels of Bordeaux, adding borrowed credibility to the effort along with a little class that is not necessarily a part of the Languedoc experience.  

But, before you develop the wrong idea, the wines are very good, especially for the price. Across the board, the Languedoc turns out some of the better priced wines in all of Europe.

It is likely you will not be familiar with some of the points of origin for the wines of the Languedoc. Very few of us have sat around a dinner table and discussed the merits of a wine from Narbonne or Beziers as compared to the wines of Cabardés.

All of this has some relevance since this part of France has seen its value soar recently as the world rediscovered the beauty of rosé wines – many of the great ones come from the Languedoc and neighboring Provence. 

That does not shortchange the beautiful reds from Pic St. Loup (give the wines of Chateau La Roque a whirl) or the Domaine Sainte Eugenie Corbieres, or even a full range of reds, whites and rosés stylishly constructed by Domaine Sainte Rose from the area in proximity to the River Thongue.

When you taste the wines of the Languedoc, savor the aromas and the flavors of the region, and learn of the dramatic history, you have engaged in one of life’s great pleasures to know a place and its wines.

Pardon me, I have to pull a few corks.




Read Happy Hour here on every Wednesday, and listen to The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, hosted by Tim, every weekday, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. on WGSO 990AM and streamed at Also check out Last Call, Tim’s photo- feature every month in New Orleans Magazine.