France - Minervois
Minervois is one of the more northerly AOCs in the Languedoc-Roussillon, located due east of the medieval town of Carcassonne. It covers over 5,000 ha and is one of the most consistent of the Languedoc appellations, more supple wines than those produced in Corbieres, just to the south.
Granted AOC status in 1985 Minervois has progressed rapidly in terms of quality. The predominant grape varieties are Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre, which must collectively make up at least 60% of the blend, possibly complemented by Carignan (which used to dominate but now can account for no more than 40% of the blend) and Cinsaut. AOC regulations require the wine to be blended, so single varietal wines are labelled Vin de Pays.
Full or partial carbonic maceration (up to two weeks) is used for vinifying most Carignan. Other red wine varieties are traditionally fermented for longer periods, with frequent pumping over or punching down to encourage greater extraction. De-stemming is increasingly being used to reduce the tannin levels in the wines, and the reds are generally aged for at least a year before release with barrel maturation is becoming more common.