Long regarded as a producer of cheap bulk wine to be served in jugs or mixed with better vintages, Languedoc-Roussillon is now producing a wide range of world-class wines. The vineyards cover a full 740,300 acres––three times the size of the vineyards of Bordeaux––and today one in ten bottles consumed worldwide hails from the region.
AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) labels such as Banyuls, Corbières, Costières de Nîmes, Côteaux du Languedoc and Minervois are full-bodied reds that are on wine lists of the best restaurants and in the cellars of connoisseurs the world over. The area is also famous for its white fortified wines such as Muscat de Frontignan or Muscat de Lunel.
Renowned for the diversity of its agricultural produce, Languedoc-Roussillon boasts a delicious and authentic cuisine. Of course, the Mediterranean provides the ingredients for many dishes: anchovies from Collioure, oysters from Bouzigues, mussels from Sète and the various fish to make the local version of bouillabaisse. Nîmes’ specialty is brandade de morue, a creamy emulsion of cod, mashed potatoes, olive oil and garlic that is served on toasts or used as pie filling.
Meat dishes include Roussillon’s gardiane, a beef stew generously doused with red wine, and the Pézenas’ petits patés (meat pies); these delicacies from Molière’s home town feature a mixture of lamb, brown sugar and lemon zest enveloped in a thin layer of rich pastry. Wild mushrooms such as cèpes and girolles are common in the forests of Gévaudan, whose specialty is aligot, a mixture of mashed potatoes, local cheese and cream. Cévennes is famous for its Pélardon––a small, round, flat cheese made with goat milk––and trout can be fished in the streams that run down to the coast.
Languedoc-Roussillon is one of France’s main bee-keeping regions and honey is an ingredient in many local deserts. Locally grown almonds are used for various cookies and pastries, as well as galichoux, a marzipan-based cake that is a specialty of Montpellier.