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Ep 25: TNWG Win Times: South of France in Focus

Good afternoon all!

This week we are focusing on the South of France - incorporating wines of the Languedoc, Roussillon and Provence. 

  • Languedoc is the departements of Aude, Herault and Gard.

  • Roussillon is the departement of Pyrenees-Orientales.

💡 First big FACT: The Languedoc-Roussillon has more hectares under vine than the individual countries of Argentina, Chile, Australia or South Africa (total 224,000 ha under vine in the region).

💡Second FACT: Due to high winds and warm weather with lack of rainfall, the Languedoc-Roussillon has the lowest yields of all French regions.


Mainly low lying alluvial plain plus reclaimed hill sites. Climate is Mediterranean. Wine growing in the region dating back to Greek and Roman colony times and transformed by the building of the Canal du Midi. IGP make up most of the wine categories, only 15% of production is AOC level. Co-ops used to account for 90% of the wine in the region, now it is down to around 60% but still large!

Interesting to note though that in 1968 total area under vine was twice as much as now! With a lot of vineyards having been pulled up and removed due to over production.

Rainfall is below 600mm a year, dry Tramontane NW wind blowing around 200 days a year so low disease pressures. Organic farming therefore enabled by a large proportion of wine makers in the region.

Grape varieties grown in order of volume in the region: Syrah, Grenache Noir, Merlot, Carignan, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.

🍇 CARIGNAN - buds late and ripens late. It can produce high yields (200hl/ha) so low flavour intensity until it becomes old (ie over 50yrs old). Prone to powdery mildew and grape moths. Not suited to mechanised harvesting. High acidity and tannin, typically unoaked, medium ruby, blackberry fruit content.

Typically, the vine management has been in bush vine format, but more recent wineries have moved to trellising to reduce hand harvest costs. Most inexpensive wines (IGP wines) are mechanised and made by crushing the grapes and fermenting them on the skins for 5-7 days to limit extraction of tannins. Carbonic maceration is commonly employed to produce the fruity wines with medium to deep colour and low tannins. 

IGP Wines

IGP wines represent nearly 70% of Languedoc production. Max yields 90hl/ha for white and red, 100hl/ha for rose and upto 58 varietals allowed. IGP Pays d'OC produces 10-15% of all French wine. Half of the production is sold in France, top 3 exports are Germany, Netherlands and Belgium. 

AOC Wines

The Languedoc AOCS for red wine require a minimum of 2 varieties, most of them also give an upper limit for each variety. For example, with the exception of Cabardes AOC and Malepere AOC, all the Languedoc appellations require the use of Grenache Noir in the blend. In Corbieres AOC and Fitou AOC, the principal grape is Carignan. Slightly more confusing are that the sub-zones can have different rules to the parent appellation too. Each AOC typically has a max yield of around 45-50hl/ha. Languedoc AOC allows 50hl/ha for reds and 60hl/ha for whites.

As an example broken down from the Languedoc AOC:

  • principal varietals are Grenache Noir, Syrah and Mourvedre.

  • a min of 2 varieties must be used, including at least one of the principal varieties. 

  • No variety can be more than 80% of a blend.

  • The total combination of the principal varietals must make up a min of 40% of the blend.

  • The other varieties cannot make up more than 30% of the blend.

Confused, yet?

Regional appellation wines - medium intensity, simple blackberry and red plum fruit, medium tannins, acidity, alcohol and body. 

Named appellations (eg Corbieres AOC) - medium to medium+ intensity, blackberry and red plum fruit and herb notes, medium tannins, medium to medium+ acidity, medium to high alcohol and medium+ to full body.

Sub-Appellations (e.g. Corbieres-Boutenac AOC) - medium+ to pronounced intensity, medium+ tannins.

Key Appellations in the Languedoc

🍇Corbieres AOC - hilly appellation SW of Narbonne, over 10,000ha (4th largest in France). Tauch and D'Alaric mountain ranges, vineyards upto 450m altitude. Nearly 90% red wine, at least 40% must be from Carignan, Grenache Noir, Mourvedre or Syrah). Max yield is 50hl/ha.

🍇Minervois AOC - range of zones, close to Med. Most red and rose wines made from Grenache Noir, Syrah, Mourvedre, and Lledoner Pelut. Must be a blend of at least 2 varietals, with principal above making up at least 50% but no one varietal more than 80%.

🍇 Minervois La Liviniere AOC - red wine only. Limestone terrace with slopes upto 400m in altitude. Same rules as Minervois.

🍇Saint-Chinian AOC - mainly red and rose wines, min 50% from Grenache Noir, Syrah or Mourvedre. Northern zone is arid fast draining schist soils, southern is clay and limestone.

🍇 Fitou AOC - First AOC in the region, formed in 1948. Coastal area is flat with clay and limestone. Inland is mountainous, schis soils. Focus is Carignan and Grenache Noir. Mont Tauch (co-op) makes up approx 50% of the appellation.

🍇 Faugeres AOC - 250-400m altitude on low fertile schist soils. High proportion of certified organic grape growing, they also have to be aged for a year before release. 90% sold domestically.

🍇Pic Saint-Loup AOC - more continental climate, rainfall 1,000mm per year. Syrah must be 50% of the blend. Only red and rose wines.

🍇 Terrasses du Larzac AOC - AOC in 2014. 120-200m altitude and some as much as 400m. Big diurnal range. Red wines only and a blend of at least 3 varietals. 

🍇La Clape AOC - AOC in 2015. Close to Narbonne. Red wines are 80% of total production, although is well known for its whites - min 60% from Grenache Blanc and/or Bourboulenc.

🍇Picpoul de Pinet AOC - White wine made from Piquepoul Blanc. Retains acidity whilst ripening as a varietal. Evolved from base wine for Vermouth to elegant whites. Max yield is 55hl/ha. Dry and medium bodied with medium+ to high acidity, medium intensity lemon fruit and light floral notes. 67% is exported and UK, USA and Germany main markets. 

🍇Malepere AOC - influenced by the Atlantic, blend of at least 2 varieties, min 40% Merlot.

🍇Cabardes AOC - must be a blend of 40% each of Bordeaux varieties (two Cabs and Merlot) and Grenache Noir and/or Syrah.

🍇Limoux AOC - sparkling wine production.


Overall, rose wine production due to demand by 35% between 2010 and 2017. Most of the focus has been on medium level priced wines, driven by small private producers. 


Roussillon is considerably smaller than the Languedoc and makes up around 22,000 hectares (1/3 of its size back in 1980). Dominated by the massive Pyrenees, many located on the foothills of these mountains. Around 70% of the vineyard is classified as AOC. Around a quarter of the production is Vins Doux Naturels (VDNs - sweet wines) and equally distributed between AOC wines and PGI wines. 75% of the region is driven by co-ops. Mostly red but do have rose and white wines.

It is a warm and windy Med climate, 500-600mm rainfall annually. 15% is organically farmed. Most important varieties are Grenache Noir, Syrah, Carignan and Mourvedre for red and rose wines, Muscats and Macabeo for whites.

Bush vines is again normal historically, like the region of Languedoc. Mostly hand harvested too.

Key Appellations

🍇 Cotes du Roussillon AOC - a large appellation (circa 5,000 ha), includes the entre department of Pyrenees-Orientales. Lower slope orientated (100-250m), max yield is 48hl/ha. Principal grape varietals for red and rose wines are Carignan, Grenache Noir, Mourvedre and Syrah. Max allowed is 50% Carignan, whilst Syrah and Mourvedre must be min 25%. Wines need to be a min of 2 varietals and limited to 80% of final blend. 

🍇 Cotes du Roussillon Villages AOC - less than half the size of the above. Red wines only, with same rules. Vines are on slopes of 100-400m. Max yield is 45hl/ha.

🍇 Collioure AOC - small appellation, extending along the coast of Spain border. Full bodied, dry red and white wines made on steep terraces above the Med. Whites made predominantly from Grenache Gris. Max yield is 40hl/ha for red and white wines. Typical yield is 20-25hl/ha.

🍇IGP Cotes Catalanes - covers the whole of Pyreenes-Orientales. 

Similar to the Languedoc region, the Roussillon can make their red wines either by pressing the fruit and maceration on the skins or by carbonic maceration. Co-ops still making up a large percentage of importance in the region but there is a focus on higher quality wines, especially from the likes of Chapoutier from the Rhone and in the region the likes of La Soula, Close des Fees etc. 80% of the wine sold is domestically consumed, with China, Belgium and Germany taking up the export 3 big markets.


The region is synonymous with rose wine, made principally from Grenache Noir and Cinsaut - I am sure we have all had some in our lives. Rose accounts for 90% of Provence's AOC wines, which represents around 40-45% of France's AOC rose wine. However, there is a growing interest in red wine from Grenache Noir, Syrah, Cinsaut, Mourvedre and Carignan as the new focus and small amounts of Rolle and Clairette for white.

Provence isa warm Med climate with adequate rainfall. The cold Mistral wind giving that cooling influence and reducing fungal disease. 20% of vineyards are certified organic. Altitudes of upto 400m in inland sites. 

Traditional bush vines are being replaced by trellised vines to aid mechanisation. Harvest date setting is key as whilst you harvest for making rose earlier than red wine, you still need the tannins to be ripe to avoid bitterness. The pale colour comes from low level of colour in the skins of Grenache Noir, Cinsault and local variety Tibouren as well as the AOC allowing upto 20% of white varieties to be blended. The fruit is usually handled carefully and as such is chilled down to 4 degrees, reducing the rate of oxidation. Fermentation usually with a cultured yeast is restricted to between 14-18 degrees and MUST be fermented to dry. 

Interestingly though, and maybe not well known, if the desired colour is darker or deeper than desired when making the rose, it can be reduced by fining the wine to become more salmon-pink typical for the region. Typically, the wines are stored for a short period (2-3 months) on lees in stainless steel - although my favourite rose producer, Chateau d'Esclans tends to keep the wine on lees for 8-10 months to really add extra texture to the wine and place in oak.

Key Appellations of Provence

🍇 Cotes de Provence AOC - largest appellation with 20,000 ha under vine, 95% rose. Principal grape varietals - Grenache Noir, Cinsault, Mourvedre, Syrah and Tibouren. Max yield is 55hl/ha. Typically pale pink-orange, light to medium intensity raspberry and red plum with herb notes, medium acidity, alcohol and body. 

🍇 Bandol AOC - More red wine thank rose. South facing slope orientated vineyards. Typically rocky limestone and clay, down to 600 ha of vines. Typically baoneked by Mourvedre which only ripens in very warm climates. Red wines must be between 50-95% and aged in oak for a min of 18 months. Rose wines have between 20-95%, max yields restricted to 40hl/ha.

🍇 From the 1930s Provence also gained a few more AOCs - namely Bellet AOCCassis AOC (for white wine mostly) and Palette AOC. In 1955 cru classe status was granted to 23 estates and 18 remain.

58% of the volume of Provence wine is sold domestically in France, with US, UK and Netherlands the 3 big export countries. France is incidentally the number one consumer of rose wine at 36% of total world consumption.


Southern France Wines

🙌 TNWG Few Tips on Southern France 🙌

  • Whispering Angel is a super, well branded, commercialised pink rose wine, however, look at others in Provence for price comparisons.

  • Try Rose wines that are a deeper colour too. We are as a consumer always keen on the salmon-pink rose wines, but as seen even this week at a tasting I hosted, the darker pinks have a lot to offer - in extra body, texture, flavour profile and in my view, more of a food linking wine.

  • Bandol - a great deep red wine. If you are looking for your full bodied reds, then Mourvedre definitely brings you that from the region of Bandol and at a very good price point too versus other highly rated regions.

  • Fitou - a great blended red wine. Carignan grape varietal led but will be blended with others and a wonderful red wine again versus the price ranges of more established wine regions in France.

  • There is HUGE diversity as you have seen above in the region, with wine profiles and grape varietals - at a super price point, so try different styles and blends to find your favourite for your palate.



Interestingly, my take year on year was that the LWF was fairly busy the first day or so, in fact, throughout the 3 days, the masterclasses were very oversubscribed with queues for all. The decline of 8% in visitor numbers overall surprises me, but what does not, is the quality. The amount of wine producers and agents who I spoke to who referenced how valuable the meetings were and supplier discussions was a great positive!



On the week (as at 24th May 13:30 LDN) changes:

EQUITIES: ⬇️ FTSE 100 down 1.2%; ⬇️ DAX down 0.4%; ⬇️S&P 500 down 0.52%; Nikkei 225 flat%; ⬇️ Dow Jones down 2.1%;

COMMODITIES: ⬇️ Brent Oil down 3.1% ; ⬇️ Crude Oil down 3.7% ; ⬇️ Gold down 2.7%; ⬆️ Silver up 0.5%; ⬇️ Copper down 3.9%

BONDS (in yield terms): ⬆️ UK 2yrs higher 0.2135%; ⬆️ UK 10yrs higher 0.16%; ⬆️ German 10yrs higher 0.115%, ⬆️ US 2yrs higher 0.149%; ⬇️ US 10yrs higher 0.086%;

Well you would have been doing exceptionally well to make money week on week this week, with the bourses and indexes in equities all down (Nikkei was pretty flat) and bonds led their rise higher in yield. On the back of a snap election call from Tory leader, Sunak and inflation still running hotter than expectations in the UK. 

In the US, the FED officials continue to bang the drum around inflation still being sticky and that rates will be higher for longer, it suggests we are not there yet before we see a first cut implemented. 

I got this wrong. Hands up. I didn't see the UK calling an election pre summer and therefore, the likelihood of now an interest rate cut in June is exceedingly unlikely, especially as the Bank of England have announced they will not be making any press releases or public statements until post the election from here on. The US was, as we suspected, in a better position to hold rates, but now it looks like the ECB could be the first to pull the trigger!

Regarding the Bank of England, there is therefore a greater likelihood of an August interest rate cut and this will be with further inflation releases prior to the decision, which may make it easier to address by the members. As a result, bond yields have risen (inversely means cheaper in price) and even the safe havens of precious metals like Gold have had a pause in price. 

At this juncture, I am still happy to hold long US equities and precious metals more generally, although for those who have gone long Copper and 'secondary metals', I would be tempted to sell out of them after a good run and take stock, leaving a solitary long Gold positioning as somewhat of a hedge. Property announcements in the UK of late have not been great and the suggestion is we are in for a period of over supply, so I would be tempted to hold if you are not through the process of selling already.


💥 This week was spent mostly at the London Wine Fair - look out for a number of recommendations and findings over the course of the next few weeks. If you want to hear them, best to follow @thenorthernwineguy on Instagram for updates.

💥 We also had a fabulous evening event for the Cavendish Cancer Care club, held at Lykke in Sheffield in New Era Square. If you have not seen the photos of the event, take a look at my previous posts or better yet follow Cavendish Cancer Care to find out the next events upcoming.

🎙️ The podcasts have been on the back burner and due to sickness sadly it was postponed for others, however I was still able to interview the wonderful Sarah Knowles MW from The Wine Society and you will be able to hear all about her recommendations and her path into the drinks industry early next week post bank holiday when the issue is released.

🏖️ Reminder, for holidays, The Northern Wine Guy is now in collaboration with Catherine Bracegirdle as your Personalised Travel Consultant for all your travel needs including wine holidays or holidays that encompass wine regions too! Jump to the landing page here to start your next adventure.

For now, enjoy your bank holiday weekend coming up AND finally ONE last announcement - look out for a Breaking Announcement on what the next step is for The Andy and Olly Show - it may or may not involve the process of starting to make our own wine in Europe somewhere..... 

Cheers 🍷🍷🍷

Andy a.k.a The Northern Wine Guy

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