Millésime Bio is a wonderfully egalitarian wine fair. Everyone gets the same facilities, irrespective of size of estate and power of wallet: namely a large table with a white tablecloth and an unlimited supply of water and ice. There are none of the fancy, and indeed sometimes intimidating stands of Vinisud or Vinexpo. The 400 odd exhibitors are all in one large hall in the Parc des Expositions outside Montpellier. There are wide aisles, so it’s nicely uncrowded, but with all the regions mixed up together, so that you find Provence next to Bordeaux and Burgundy alongside the Languedoc. And it’s a great way to catch up with familiar wine growers and to meet some new ones and taste their wines in pretty relaxed surroundings.
There were numerous highlights for me. Happenstance led me first toChâteau la Baronne in the Corbières; their wines have gone from strength to strength over the last few years, with some wonderfully elegant wines, especially for Corbières, which can sometimes be rather rustic. It is always good to see Hugo Stewart from Les Clos Perdus in Peyriac-de-Mer. Again, he and Paul Old produce a range of Corbières and also some Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes from their second vineyard.
The cutting edge growers of the Fenouillèdes part of Roussillon were well represented, with Thomas Lubbe of Domaine Matassa, Eric Monné of Clot de l’Oum, Olivier Pithon, Jean-Philippe Padié, as well as a new estate, Domaine de l’Horizon, created by a young German, Thomas Teibert with a first vintage in 2007. As coincidence would have it, I was reading Revue des Vins de France in the departure lounge at Gatwick, waiting for a delayed Easyjet flight, and there was a glowing account of Thomas Teibert, so it was great to put the face to the name.
I had a brief excursion into Provence, for the wines of Domaine de la Courtade with Richard Auther from the enchanting island of Poquerolles. Pierre Michelland was there from Domaine de la Realtière in the Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence and I enjoyed an update with Patricia Ortelli from Château la Calisse in the Coteaux Varois-en-Provence. It has been a good ten years since I lasted visited her property. The same goes for Hildegard Horat at Domaine la Grange de Quatre Sous at Assignan on the edge of St. Chinian. She is one of the very few to grow Petite Arvine, and also Malbec.
I know Karen Turner as the Australian winemaker at the Prieuré de St. Jean de Bébian, but was delighted to have the chance to taste the wines from her own estate, Domaine Turner-Pageot, which she has developed with her French husband, Emmanuel, with their first vintage in 2008. Another discovery was Domaine de Cébène in Faugères, and also Réserve d’O at Arboras in the Terrasses de Larzac.
A chance encounter in the queue for the buffet found me chatting to Gavin Grisfield, the talented winemaker at Domaine de Sauvageonne in the Terrasses de Larzac at St. Jean de la Blaquière. He brought me up to date; he has now left Sauvageonne to concentrate on his own newly created estate of Domaine les Salses. He has four hectares at nearby St. Privat and his first vintage was 2009. I promised to go and visit soon.
As for old favourites, there was Domaine de Clovallon, with the white Aurièges and delicious Faugères; Domaine de Gravillas at St. Jean-de-Minervois, Domaine Cazaban in Cabardès, Château Lascaux from the Pic St. Loup and Daniel le Conte de Floris with his range of original and satisfying reds, not to mention a characterful Carignan blanc, Lune Blanche. I could mention more names, but lists do not make for interesting reading. Suffice it to say that I left after two days feeling that I had only just scratched the surface of what was on offer. And having, hopefully, whetted your appetite, I have good intentions of covering some of these estates in more detail, over the next week or so.