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State structure

France is a democratic republic that came into being in 1789 when the French Revolution put an end to the monarchy and the feudal form of government. There are 101 departments in total (96 in France and 5 in the overseas territories), all numbered in alphabetical order. The departments are divided into 326 arrondissements, which in turn are subdivided into approx. 3800 cantons. The smallest administrative units are approx. 37,000 municipalities. The districts and cantons have only an administrative significance, the municipalities have very limited powers.

The departments turned out to be too small to function properly, so the country was redistributed into 22 regions. Every six years, people go to the polls to elect a departmental council. They, in turn, elect the executive board (4-7 members) of the department, the departmental commission. At the head is the prefect, the representative of the national government. The main task of a regional council is to promote the social, economic and cultural development of the region. An advisory committee, which includes social and economic organisations, assists the regional parliament in this task.

The Languedoc-Roussillon region comprises the departments of Lozère, Gard, Hérault, Aude and Pyrénées-Orientales. Montpellier is the capital of the Hérault department and of the Languedoc-Roussillon region. Together with its suburbs, Montpellier has about 450,000 inhabitants and is the eighth largest municipality in France. For the current political situation in France, see the history section.

Typical Languedoc-Roussillon


On the shores of the Mediterranean, between the Rhone delta and Spain, the vineyards of this sunny region form the most extensive wine region in the world! With approximately 300,000 ha of vineyards, the Languedoc-Roussillion region is responsible for 40% of French wine production. This is mainly due to exceptionally favourable natural conditions.

The region mainly produces red wines, many of them "Vin de Table" (table wine), but mostly "Vin de Pays" (country wine). For a number of years, efforts have been made to improve the quality of the wine, mainly through the development of grape varieties such as Grenache and Cinsault. Other grape varieties are Mourvèdre, Carigan and Syrah.

Languedoc-Roussillon has three wine regions, with a total of 32 AOC designations (AOC = Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée): the vallée du Rhône, the coteaux du Languedoc and the Roussillon. These high-quality wines are carefully regulated, including in terms of cultivation methods, location, grape variety and minimum alcohol content.

he quality requirements associated with the AOC label are met by Costières de Nîmes, Faugères, Saint-Chinian, Minervois, Fitou, Cabardès, Collioure and Malepère, among others.

Thuir, the capital of the Aspres, is home to the aperitif producer Byrrh, possessor of the largest oak barrel in the world (1 million litres).


The famous Roquefort cheese is produced in Roquefort-sur-Soulzon, probably for many thousands of years. The Romans, too, loved the cheese.

The cheese is made from raw, whole sheep's milk without additives. Homogenisation and pasteurisation are not necessary and processing takes place in local factories. The curdled milk transforms in 'fleurines' (crevices in an underground rock) to become the 'king of cheeses' as Diderot called it.

The fungus that turns the curdled milk into cheese and creates green-blue veins is Penicillium roqueforti. The mould process takes about three months and the annual production is 17,000 tonnes, of which about 15% goes to the United States and European Union countries. The milk comes from the Lacaune sheep.


In the 'corridas', the animals are killed, but in the 'course camarguaise', the bulls remain unharmed. Courses are held in many villages in the Camargue.

In a 'course camarguaise' six bulls perform. Between the horns of the bulls a 'cocarde' (red cloth), two 'glands' (white woolen tassels) and two 'ficelles' (cords) are attached. When the bull appears in the arena, twelve 'raseteurs' dressed in white try to grab the attributes and get to safety.


Bongartz, M. / Languedoc-Roussillon

Brutinot, L. / Languedoc-Roussillon

Deggau, H. / Wandelgids Cevennen en Languedoc

Encarta Encyclopedie

Graaf, G. de / Languedoc-Roussillon

Hiddema, B. / Languedoc-Roussillon : Camargue, Cevennen


Languedoc Roussillon : Gorges du Tarn, Cevennen, Carcassonne, Perpignan

Pijnenburg, H. / Cevennen, Languedoc

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated March 2024
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