Corbières AOC: The land of Carignan (and a few others)

If you’ve made it to Carcassonne you might already be quite familiar with the wines of Corbières, an AOC (Appellation d’origine contrôlée) producing more wine than any other AOC in the Languedoc.

It’s a fascinating appellation showing just how place (terroir), the winemaker and the grape variety all play their part in producing something very different. The variation in style between each wine made in Corbières is quite remarkable.

That said, if dark fruits and licorice are your thing, maybe Corbières is for you. If one tried to put a finger on the style of what is being produced out there, the reds tend to be spicy, fruity and full bodied. I tried one recently and I found it big on the licorice, but also floral and herbal. Certainly something to go well with game or roast lamb on a Sunday. Only small amounts of white and rosé make up the balance, as red is the specialty of the region.

The x-factor of Corbières may lie in its terroir. Wine writer Hugh Johnson describes it as a geological chaos of mountain and and valley reaching from the sea 60 kilometres inland to the Aude département. Limestone, schist, volcanic rock and sand make up the earth and the influences of both the Atlantic and the Mediterranean play their part in making this land unique, with the micro-climates and soil types being varied throughout. For this reason the AOC is split into 11 different terroirs including Sigean, Lézignan, Boutenac and Lagrasse.

Carignan is the most common red wine grape. It is quite resistant to heat and wind, and hence does well in Corbières. Old vines grown on dry gravelly slopes are helping produce some superb wine. Typically Carignan gives the wine a deep, rich colour, sturdy tannins and high acidity. It is often blended with the other varieties of the AOC to bring a softer, fruitier wine.

Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre are also heavily involved. Grenache is low in tannins, complimenting the highly tannic Carignan. Syrah brings those rich, dark plummy fruits and even hints of chocolate and burnt rubber, and Mourvèdre brings body, bouquet and ageing capacity to the wine.

This fascinating appellation is well worth a try. Check out our oddly Carignan-free Corbières, on offer until the end of June with the rest of our Languedoc range under €25.

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