Garrigue is the French word for "scrub" or “scrubland”, a low, ecoregion of plant community that grows extensively all over the south of France and Mediterranean forests. The origin of the word comes from the Provençal word garriga, which has roots to carra, or rock. As garrigue is usually associated with calcareous plateaus rich in limestone. The word is also often used to describe aromas found in red wines from the Rhône valley, Provence and Languedoc-Roussillon.
You can't help but notice it when you visit southern France, it is practically everywhere. There are even entire regions protected for the survival of wild garrigue. Vines and garrigue have grown together for thousands of years and still overlap today. It’s not unusual to find vineyards that have garrigue growing in between the rows. Garrigue is not just a scrub but also a whole dimension of terroir. Just like other flora environments influence aromas in wine, (eucalyptus in Australia, truffles in Piedmont) , garrigue is rich in aromatic oils and soluble monoterpenes from the herbs, flowers, and leaf litter that leach into the soils. Giving the grapes similar aromatic nuances.
I found this great picture on Stillblog.net taken by Mary Jo Hoffman while she was helping to harvest grapes in Faugères. video here It is a collection of items that are found all over the vineyards. Rosemary, wild lavender, pinecones, thyme, limestone, nuts and even sea shells, reminders that this whole are used to be under water millions of years ago.
I love the scent of garrigue in wine and made a list of some of my favorites.
50 year old grenache vines on clay, limestone and sandy soils farmed old-fashioned by the Laurent family in Montbrison-sur-Lez. The wine is rustic, fleshy, full of spice with plenty of wild herbs, black pepper and game.
Located just a few miles from the Mediterranean Sea on top of the mountain called Gros-Cerveau, this property lies on a sweet spot of rich red clay, hence the name Terrebrune “brown earth”. Made mostly from Mourvèdre, this wine is surprisingly high toned, fresh and concentrated. You can smell the earth while the garrigue adds floral notes to the wine. Very feminine in style, with tremendous aging potential. We tasted a 1991 Rosé while I was there and it was outstanding.
“The forgotten vines” are clustered in a tiny village less than an hour northeast of Montpellier. Winemaker Jean-Baptiste Granier keeps the winemaking simple, using indigenous yeast and the blending 40 year old Grenache , Syrah and Carignan to make this deep colored red with a polished texture. The aromas of wild strawberries, mint, rosemary and tarragon are upfront, while subtle hints of smoked meat, black pepper and leather are on the finish.