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14 December 2004

Languedoc wines speak the same language

Here's the original version of my story published on Decanter.com 14/12/2004.

The Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins du Languedoc (CIVL) has revealed plans to promote all the different appellations (AOC) under the one umbrella of ‘Languedoc’, and to work together with other producers to push the idea of ‘South of France’ in export markets. At the AGM held on 3rd December, the CIVL announced details of their marketing strategy for 2005 supported by a budget of €4 million, including a 30% increase in expenditure earmarked for export promotions and advertising. The boldest move is the willingness of the three largest regional associations – the CIVL, the Conseil Interprofessionnel Vins du Roussillon (CIVR) and Vins de Pays d’Oc growers – to pool their ideas and resources. The combined pot for export campaigns comes to €2.7 million. This new found cooperation takes in the ‘Printemps du Languedoc et du Roussillon’ tasting in London on 15th February, mini-fairs in Toronto and Vancouver in May and a joint stand at Germany’s Prowein exhibition.

The “common geographical ground focusing on the south of France” should communicate the diversity of the region’s wines better to the consumer. “The idea is simple,” Rémy Wuatelet, Marketing Director of the CIVL explained. “With intense international competition, we need to offer a complementary range that suits the market and consumer – still wines, varietals, sparkling and sweet – for a winning formula.” Individual Languedoc AOCs include traditional red blends such as Fitou and Corbières; the ‘cru’ subregions of Minervois la Livinière and Pic Saint Loup; dry whites Picpoul de Pinet and Clairette, Limoux sparkling wines and a variety of fortified Muscats. These will be marketed alongside Vins de Pays ‘cépages’ such as Syrah, Chardonnay and Grenache, and Côtes du Roussillon wines.

Michel Laroche, who already labels his varietal wines ‘South of France’, agrees working together “is fundamental; there’s too much complexity and we need to simplify things. South of France is more abstract yet means more.” Putting Languedoc in the spotlight also fits in with plans to launch an inter-regional AOC, which are awaiting approval from the INAO. The ad campaign in English centres on the Languedoc cross logo, which appears on specially embossed bottles, and the catchphrase ‘Fine French Mediterranean wines’. In addition, a ‘destinations’ theme links wine routes to tourism. Exports of Languedoc-Roussillon wines for the first eight months of 2004 were down 7% in volume and 3% in value. However, Canada, Japan and the US show positive trends outperforming all other countries, albeit from a smaller base.

03 December 2004

Fête des Vignes, Montpellier 2004

Discover 18 worthwhile wines tasted at the first "Fête des Vignes de Montpellier Agglomération" (that's like the 'Greater Montpellier' area). While in town on a gloriously sunny, early December afternoon, I stumbled across this local fair ("for local people") in the elegant imperial Place de la Comédie. The wine capital of the South is literally surrounded by vines (although it probably shouldn't be given the location of certain vineyards) - all of the growers mentioned here are on the Montpellier wine route. This is Coteaux du Languedoc country taking in individual areas such as Grés de Montpellier and Pic Saint-Loup, as well as attractive vins de pays varietals too. Plus a few dry and sweet guest Muscats thrown in...

Domaine de PiquetConfidence NV sparkling wine - Quite fine nose displaying light toasty notes, crisp v milky palate finishing with subtle yeasty touches. A surprise. 87

Domaine de Causse
2001 Cabernet/Merlot, vin de pays d'Oc - Lovely cassis fruit with rustic notes, tangy leafy edges too but it's ripe and rounded with a bit of bite and good length. 89
2003 Muscat, vin de pays d'Oc (Muscat à Petits Grains) - Aromatic dry and fruity, fairly fleshy style yet elegant and grapey, showing good depth of fruit.85+

Domaine de Rieucoulon
2003 Carignan rosé, vin de pays Collines de la Moure - Crisp dry and tight in the mouth set against nice elegant fruit and style. 85
2003 Merlot, vin de pays d'Oc - Impressive depth of plummy fruit tinged with leafy notes, quite weighty and concentrated within a firm framework. €5 87

Domaine de Terre Megere2001 'Clapas' Grés de Montpellier (SyrahGrenacheMourvèdre) - A touch 'reductive' on the nose (ever so slightly vegetal) but this disappears into the smoky plummy whole, with lightly herbal edges; richer riper palate, very firm and stonky finish. 87+

Château de Fourques2001 Coteaux du Languedoc (SyrahGrenacheCinsault) - Minty blackcurrant and cherry aromas, nice tangy fruit, firm tannins but ripe and textured. 85+

Château de Flaugergues2002 Cuvée Sommelière Grés de Montpellier (SyrahGrenacheMourvèdre) - Firm tannins and tight structure with long finish; not revealing much at the moment so difficult to say. €9 87

Le Chemin des RêvesLa Première Cuvée (SyrahCarignanGrenache) - Benoît Viot made this as vin de table because he felt like it: Soft fruity cherry notes showing elegant depth, fairly light yet quite long and attractive with it. 84+

Vignobles Baron de la Liquisse
2000 Lion d'Azur Grés de Montpellier (95% Syrah) - Herbal peppery nose leads to delicious black fruit palate, ripe v firm texture with subtle concentration and length. 92
2003 Rosé d'Aurore, Coteaux du Languedoc (Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault) - Attractive style showing elegance yet weight too, lively raspberry fruit then oilier texture on the finish. Drink with grilled red mullet. 85+
2002 Tradition 'Terroir de Verargues', Coteaux du Languedoc (Syrah, Carignan, Grenache) - Soft ripe and smoky with plenty of liquorice and 'sweet' red fruits, supple tannin mouth-feel and lovely mature fruit to finish. 88+

Château de Stony
2002 Lumière d'Automne, vin de pays d'Oc (Muscat à Petits Grains, 14%) - Made with over-ripe grapes in oak casks. Coconut oak notes mingle with quite rich sweetness (50 grams/litre residual sugar), fairly toasty/spicy but underneath it's concentrated, fruity and nicely textured. Unusual, needs time. €13 for 50cl 90
2003 Muscat de Frontignan, Cuvée Sélection de Vendanges (Muscat à Petits Grains, 15%) - Vin Doux Naturel fortified to 15% leaving natural sweetness. Starts with a fair kick of alcohol, but this also has delicious Muscat fruit intensity and sweetness balancing it out. €7.80 89
2003 Muscat Sec, vin de pays d'Oc (Muscat à Petits Grains, 13%) - Perfumed grapey aromas lead to crisp bite on the palate, yet it's soft and elegant too with very dry finish. €4.60 87

Latest Stony here (March 09).

La Magdelaine d'Exindre2003 Muscat de Mireval 'Vent d'Anges' (Muscat à Petits Grains, 15%) - Classic style Vin Doux Naturel fortified Muscat with delicious grapey orangey fruit, intense yet elegant sweetness, pretty full-on finish. €10.20 87+

Domaine Desvabre
2003 Pic Saint-Loup Fût de Chêne (Syrah, Grenache) - Spicier and toastier than the 'tradition' below with coconut vanilla edges, quite concentrated and tight with rounded tannins; more 'modern' style but good with it. 89
2003 Pic Saint-Loup Tradition (Syrah, Grenache) - Nice smoky rustic fruit, soft mouth-feel with a touch of dry grip too, finishing with elegance and power combined. 89


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