Stretching from the Pyrenees to the garrigue-covered hills of Nîmes, the Languedoc-Roussillon is the world's largest wine region - now considered to be the jewel in the crown of modern winemaking in France. Dynamic young winemakers fly in from all over the world to gain experience but also share their own expertise - and the archaic appellation laws are ignored by maverick winemakers producing some magnificent wines in the region.
In the late 1800s, following the introduction of railway, the reliable, sunny weather and rolling plains of the region provided a perfect landscape to create an outdoor "wine factory". Light reds were transported to the north to feed an insatiable appetite for everyday wines. A strong tradition of co-ops in the Languedoc has sometimes focused on quantity over quality, and in the 1990s the government even incentivised farmers to rip up their vines, to avoid adding to Europe's growing wine lake. But recently we have witnessed a surge in smaller, privately owned wineries.
Previously, the vast plains between Narbonne and Béziers were used for the planting of vines. Now modern winemakers are heading for the hills, literally, because of the cooler temperatures at night, after long days of Mediterranean sunshine. The soils are carved out of a limestone base that is ideal for premium-quality wines. The mistral winds have the ability to dry the vines after sporadic rains and cool them through warmer temperatures; a perfect symphony of natural elements promotes exceptional vine growing. All it needs are the talented and dynamic conductors and gifted winemakers who see the potential this region has to offer. Jean-Michel Cazes of Lynch-Bages purchased land and has produced the wonderful Domaine l'Ostal Cazes in Minervois, while Anne Gros of the famous Vosne-Romanée appellation also set her sights on Minervois due to the soil's similarity to Burgundy.
There's a certain charm to the Languedoc that other French wine regions don't possess. The culture here is of learning and innovation. Sustainable winemaking is at its core, with organic, biodynamic and natural wines becoming the norm. Winemakers are more relaxed in their approach, with less concentration on the sometimes staid appellation structure. Cellar doors are wide open for direct sales. Of course, this is also an opportunity for these proud winemakers to discuss their cutting-edge stainless steel wineries, the selection of exciting grapes they're using, and the variety of microclimates they have. There's little room for modesty in this ferocious revival in the Languedoc. These young, vibrant vignerons are loud and proud, and are communicating their message through their exceptional wines.
It is difficult to choose only five wines to represent the region because, despite soaring summer temperatures, the higher-altitude wines continue to give us a freshness and depth of flavour that is so interesting.
Brigid hosts @brideys_wine_chats on Instagram, with live tastings each week
Wine of the week: Mas de Daumas Gassac Rouge, IGP Saint-Guilhem- Le-DÉsert 2007
€45, 13.5pc, from La Touche Wines, Blackrock Cellar, rednosewine.com and curiouswines.ie
The humble IGP classification belies the stellar quality and consistent reputation of this wine, considered to be the only Grand Cru of the Midi. Predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon, this wine emanates dark fruits, cassis, brooding leather aromas and svelte tannins that are delicately matched with garrigue and liquorice. Regarded as a true French classic.
Domaine l'Ostal Rosé , IGP Pays d'Oc 2019
€15.95, 13pc, from O'Briens
Very pale pink with aromas of pomegranate and rose petals, this crisp rosé from the famous Lynch-Bages dynasty is made in the coolest vineyards within its Languedoc domain. The grapes are pressed at a very low temperature to ensure freshness and a light colour.
Laurent Miquel 'Bardou', Saint-Chinian 2014
€20, 15pc, Dunnes Stores
100pc Syrah from a single plot in the quality-driven Saint-Chinian region. A mix of new and old oak does not mask the ripe blackcurrants and dark berries with touches of pepper, spice and vanilla.
Jean babou, Élégance Blanquette de Limoux, Brut N/V
€26.95, 12.5pc, exclusive to The Corkscrew; thecorkscrew.ie
This sparkling Blanquette is 90pc Mauzac, with the remaining 10pc Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay. A fresh nose with white flowers, pears and grapefruit on the palate.
Cave l'Ormarine, Duc de Morny, Picpoul de Pinet 2019
€15.95, 13pc, from The Corkscrew, Donnybrook Fair and winemason.ie
A deliciously crisp white that's a perfect match with seafood. Pears and melon on the palate followed by candied lemon zest on the finish.
From now until the end of September, Philip Dunne, sommelier at Wilde at The Westbury in Dublin, is offering an exclusive Flight of the Rosé tasting experience to accompany the summer menus, with a pour from each of the three rosés from the Château d'Esclans Provençal rosé collection: Whispering Angel, Rock Angel and Les Clans. See what all the fuss is about and decide for yourself. Priced €30pp.