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Languedoc-Roussillon, the undiscovered French adventure in wine & diverse cuisine

The Vineyards Surrounding Azille
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By: Natalie Trent

 

 

When visiting the Languedoc region, you are definitely in wine country and must visit several vineyards on your journey while tasting your way through the eclectic cuisine that originates from the surrounding Mediterranean countries. 

 

The Languedoc-Roussillon region is dominated by over 500,000 acres of vineyards, three times that of Bordeaux. Wine production has been happening for centuries in this area, some say that the vines have existed here since the beginning of mankind! The varied climate and soils, from sand to shale to clay, are perfect for growing many varieties of grapes that are able to produce some fantastic bottles of well known appellations like AOC Minervois & AOC Corbières, whose reds, whites & rose’s are perfect for almost every taste.

 

In this region you will find the original and local Mourvèdre, Grenache, Syrah & Viognier grape varietals, however you will also discover many grapes that have been brought in and successfully grown in the south like Cabernet-Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon-blanc & Chardonnay. With all these wonderful individual flavours & features, the wines have all taken on their own personalities depending on terrain & wine producer, with blends & bottles too numerous to list all in one place.

 

In the Languedoc Roussillon, the cuisine and local ingredients are quite different within the large, spread-out region, changing with the varied landscapes and inhabitants. Almost every department in the Languedoc has a favorite or specialty dish that they claim as their own, based on historical locally grown food sources.


Cassoulet has been claimed as the dish of the area west of the sea, with Castelnaudry and Carcassone each arguing that this heavy, winter bean & cured-meat casserole is their own cultural invention. A wild boar stew, made in the style of a slow-cooked beef bourguignon, is featured on menus running along the mountain ranges where the chestnut eating sanglier is hunted.


Confit de canard is a specialty from the Languedoc, and is eaten at any time of year as the duck has been preserved in its own fat for a savory, melt-in-your-mouth meal. You’ll find tapenade made from locally grown olives, fig jam from thousands of local fig trees, as well as the strong black truffle growing at the base of the local mountain trees, if wild boars haven’t found them first!


On the coast, the town of Sète is famous for its little seafood pies called Tielle. Local, fresh oysters and mussels are cultivated in the shallow lagoons of the Etang de Thau on the coastal strip near Montpellier, and salt is cultivated in Gruissan’s salt-water flats.


In the region’s northern, rocky hills you’ll find a variety of goat’s cheese direct from producers’ farms and at local markets, and artisan honey is popular with tastes that range from lavender to wild thyme.


Vegetables also abound in the region so don’t be surprised to find wild asparagus, leeks or garlic growing alongside the country roads, and after a good rain in the forests, there are many edible mushrooms from the Black Mountains and the Cévennes. In the western part of the region you’ll find local apple and cherry trees, sweet onions, chestnut trees galore, and along the canal, local rice.


Working your way south in the Languedoc-Roussillon, you’ll find the Spanish influenced cuisine, as Paella becomes a local dish, and taken from the large North-African community, the Tagine is common, made with local lamb, raisins and the ever present couscous grain.


Markets are still common-place in the region and most offer local produce, butchers, seafood and artisan products – well worth stalking one or two during your visit!