Wine and more from Languedoc-Roussillon

by Marta Burgués

In the heart of the Pyrénées-Orientales department, between the Mediterranean and Corbières, flanked by the mountains of Canigou and Les Albères, the Languedoc-Roussillon vines grow in a variety of landscapes, soils and microclimates.

The wine producing area is crossed by three valleys and includes several types of terrain, hills, slopes and terraces, where soils of slate, gneiss, granite, gravel and limestone give character to the famous wines of Roussillon. Seven natural dry and sweet wines with denomination of origin are found in over 38,000 hectares of vineyards spread across these lands.

Roussillon can be divided according to its production of natural dry and sweet wines. The first come from the Côtes du Roussillon, mainly red; Côtes du Roussillon Villages, exclusively red, and Collioure, which produces red and rosé. While natural sweets are called Rivesaltes, Maury, Banyuls, Banyuls Grand Cru and Muscat de Rivesaltes.

Four types, grenats, young reds, ambrés, mature whites, tuilés, aged reds, and ‘hors d’age’, 5 or more years old, the Rivesaltes sweet wines are perfect as appetizers and even to accompany a first course. Experts say that the strong flavors of the vintage wines go well with salted almonds, pistachios or peanuts, while the fruitiness and tannins of grenat whet the appetite, and combinations with dishes such as duck with cherries, figs or nectarines, are striking.

Gastronomy is one of the great attractions of Languedoc-Rousillon, both for its products and the tradition of its emblematic dishes. The basic ingredients of this region correspond to its geography both Mediterranean and Provençal. Here the olive oil, garlic and basil are key seasonings, while predominate the aromas of the Provençal garrigue (scrubland) such as thyme, rosemary, laurel, etc. The classic French cheeses, honey and fruit are also remarkable.

One of its most famous dishes is the Cassoulet, original from Aude in Languedoc, though disputed by several towns. This consists of “lingot” beans mixed with duck confit, garlic, sausage and pork fat. Eventually partridge or lamb is added to the preparation. Then, all ingredients are simmered in a cassole (clay pot). Regarding the sweets, the Villaret family  is designated as responsible for enchant the gourmands with croquants de Villaret, a generational secret produced only in Nimes. This glazed and crunchy sweet is made with orange blossom, almond and lemon essence.

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