U.S.-based French wine lovers will be familiar with the wine regions of Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Rhone, and likely the wines of Alsace, Loire, the rosés of Provence, and of course, Champagne. But not as many quality wines of the Languedoc region find their way into the restaurants and wine shops of the United States.
This may be because for years the Roussillon-Languedoc region was known for quantity over quality. But that has changed and now, if you are looking for where to go wine tasting in the South of France, the Languedoc offers many advantages.
Since my husband is an aspiring sommelier, and one of my happy places is amongst the vines, we decided to plan a romantic getaway to the South of France last summer since we loved wine tasting in Tuscany so much the previous year.
Searching around for ideas, we stumbled across an article about this lesser-visited wine region, which was also very affordable, and it ticked all our boxes – inexpensive but charming accommodations, quaint towns and villages to explore, near a beach, with hundreds of wineries and wine festivals to choose from.
Really, how could we go wrong? (Besides that 100+ degree heat wave?)
Wine Tasting in Languedoc in the South of France
There are over 21,000 wine-growing estates in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, representing a range of great wines over 36 controlled-origin appellations, producing the most of the wines of France and five percent of the world’s wine. The primary white varietals include sparkling Crémant de Limoux and my newfound favorite, the Picpoul de Pinet white.
The region is certainly giving Provence a run for its money with delicious and affordable rosé. Reds include Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mourvedre, Syrah, and Muscat de St-Jean de Minervois.
We did some research on our own and got recommendations from our local wine shop on which vineyards might offer wine tastings in English and produce fine wines. But we also relied on the experts and took Languedoc wine tours with both Taste du Languedoc and Montpellier Wine Tours for full day wine experiences.
Of the wineries we visited, these were our favorites:
Chateau Ricardelle near Narbonne has been owned by an Italian man, Bruno Pellegrini, since 1990. The vineyard suffered a powerful hailstorm that hit on Friday, June 13, 2014, which destroyed many of the vines. To show their resilience and the spirit of community that allowed them to survive, one of the red wines is named Vendredi XIII for the Friday the 13th. My favorites from Chateau Ricardelle were the Les Dames de Ricardelle Viognier and the rosé.
Chateau Ricardelle is located at Route de Gruissan, 11 100 Narbonne, France
Sarrat de Goundy
Also located in the Le Clape region near Narbonne, not far from Chateau Ricardelle, Sarrat de Goundy offers a fun tasting environment, especially if you go while the pop-up restaurant is open or a special event is going on. There is a covered, outdoor area with a wood-burning oven and large bar/event space inside. Otherwise, when making an appointment make sure to request an English-speaking host, unless you speak French.
Sarrat de Goundy is located at 46 avenue de Narbonne, F-11110, Armissan
Chateau Massamier La Mignarde
Named the best French red wine in all categories at the International Wine Challenge in 2005, Chateau Massamier La Mignarde is a best of a hidden gem. Instead of an elaborate tasting room, you will get a personalized tasting service in one of the old barns on property – complete with the adorable barn kitten. Just make sure you call ahead for an appointment. Winegrower meals and vineyard tours are also available at the property located 30 km from Carcassonne and 40 km from Narbonne. After your visit, plan to have lunch at the nearby Les Meulieres and sample a few more local wines with your meal.
Chateau Massamier La Mignarde is located at 11700 Pépieux, France
Clos du Gravillas
St-Jean de Minervois is known for its sweet Muscadet, but when Nicole and John purchased land in this tiny village to form Clos du Gravillas, they were determined to show that other varietals and quality wine can be made here. Nicole, the winemaker, is originally from Narbonne, and her husband John that helps run the winery hails from Kentucky so having an English-led tasting is not a problem – but reservations are required. This small vineyard only ships a limited amount of wine to the United States, like the Sur la Lune that is 50% carignan and 50% syrah, but be sure to taste some of those that can only be found locally.
Clos du Gravillas is located at 15 route de Bize, 34360 Saint-Jean-de-Minervois, France
Mas du Novi
Located on the grounds of an 11th century estate owned by an Abbey, Mas du Novi has a deep winemaking history. Today, this estate near Montpellier is open to the public for tasting and tours. The wines reflect the strong winds and sea spray, leveraging the power of the soil to create great drinkability. The Chardonnay du Monde is a three-time Gold Medal winner.
Mas du Novi is located at Route de Villeveyrac, D5, 34530 Montagnac, France
Chateau St Pierre Serjac
Chateau St Pierre Serjac is a working wine estate with a luxury hotel and self-catering properties. You can really make a day of your visit with a trip to the spa, lunch on the terrace overlooking the infinity pool and vineyards, and a personalized wine tasting or vineyard tour. Be sure to make reservations in advance.
Chateau St Pierre Serjac is located at D30 between Pouzolles and Magalas, 34480 Puissalicon
If you are looking for a California-style tasting experience at a large wine producer that you can find at home, Chateau L’Hospitalet by Gerard Bertrand fits the bill. You will need to book tickets in advance for a wine tour through the vineyards, followed by a tasting in their expansive wine shop and tasting room. The property also includes a 3-star hotel and Restaurant L’art de vivre – but we wouldn’t recommend the jazz dinner.
Chateau L’Hospitalet is located at Route de Narbonne-Plage, 11100 Narbonne, France
Where to Stay in Languedoc
Of course, when you visit Languedoc in the South of France, there is so much more to do besides drink wine. There are charming villages and towns to explore, beautiful beaches to relax at, and luxurious chateaus to rest your head.
We spent our first few days at a stylish bed and breakfast in the town of Montreal, near Carcassonne. Unfortunately they were selling the property, or I would highly recommend it for couples visiting the region. Splitting up our week in Languedoc between two locations allowed us to cover more ground without endless hours in the car.
Chateau Les Carrasses
The last five days of our stay was at Chateau Les Carrasses near Capestang. This four-star, luxury chateau offered everything we were looking for – a stunning chateau set within a vineyard at affordable prices. There are rooms in the main chateau, or the property also offers apartments or villas (some with private pools) to rent.
The Chateau offers a full-service restaurant, kids’ club for families, and a beautiful infinity pool that we enjoyed during that broiling heat wave. There are also tennis and volleyball courts on site, and you can borrow bikes to ride into town, through the vineyards, or along the nearby Canal du Midi.
If you are looking for even more luxury, its five-star sister property, Chateau St. Pierre de Serjac, also offers a gourmet restaurant and on-site spa. We actually popped over their for dinner and a spa treatment one afternoon. (Note: we were hosted for dinner and spa treatments at Chateau St. Pierre de Serjac but paid for our stay at Chateau Les Carrasses.)
Tips for Wine Tasting in the South of France
There are a few things to keep in mind when planning a wine tasting trip to the Languedoc region:
- Appointments are required. The wine tourism industry is quite nascent in this area and you won’t find the crowds of people in tasting rooms that you will see in the United States.
- Be careful driving. Roads are narrow and can be windy. Speeds are closely monitored by traffic cameras and police and they are not tolerant of drinking and driving. So plan your days accordingly or book a wine tour!
- Make a plan. You may want to arrange your plan of attack to explore one AOC region at a time so you can really get a sense of the varietals that area is known for and distinguish between different producers.
- You won’t cover it all! There are 36 appellations so you may want to start with 3-5 to cover in a week such as Limoux, Minervois, Le Clape, etc.
- Think beyond wineries. In addition to visiting wineries, you can also stop into the many Caveau in this region, which will typically represent a number of winemakers that are partners in the Caveau.
- Make time to explore more than just the wineries. Here are my recommendations for the towns and villages you shouldn’t miss!