There are some wine merchants who stand out above others. One of them is Richards Walford, set up by Roy Richards and Mark Walford back in 1982. I know that when I meet a new wine grower and ask who their UK agent is, if the reply is Richards Walford, the wines will be interesting in the very best sense of that over used word. I may not necessarily like them, but they will be wines with character and personality that stand out from the run of the mill.
So the introduction to their latest report on the Languedoc made depressing reading. They have an exciting range of Languedoc wines, from such talented growers as Remy Pedrono at Roc d’Anglade, Gérard Gauby in Calce, Jean Michel Alquier in Faugères, Mas Champart in St. Chinian, to name but a few, but they are having problems in selling these wines.
It seems that we are not prepared to pay a sensible price for these wonderfully original wines, and the Languedoc has still to shed its image of cheap wine. In fact the region offers remarkably good value; some of wines are expensive, but deservedly so, and the best of the Languedoc is still cheaper than much mediocre wine from the classic regions of France.
Let me quote Madeline Mehalko from Richards Walford, as I cannot express the situation any better.
“I am going to be controversial (and trite, sorry…) and reference an article from the Parker website in a positive manner. Not by Mr. Parker himself, but the infinitely more objective David Schildknecht. In his last overview of the Languedoc, he praises the excellent quality, exciting potential, and all-round uniqueness of the wines of the region. Then notes that no one is buying them. This is a problem that we at Richards Walford know all too well. Sadly, as the vintages of certain wines pile up, we are forced to re-assess whether we should be shipping them any longer, and in some cases, even offering them. It is a heartbreaking experience to have to tell a talented vigneron with whom you have a long-standing relationship that you can no longer sell their wines because consumers view the Languedoc as a ‘cheap’ region and refuse to pay more. I don’t pretend to have an easy answer to this; as the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water…
I believe Rémy Pédréno of Roc d’Anglade puts it best. When confronted with a proclamation that the top Languedoc Roussillon wines are too expensive he will say: “Life isn’t about a price, it’s about an emotion. If you can’t sell an emotion, you have missed the point.” Missed the point indeed, because in fact, you can buy the very best Languedoc wines that will give pleasure now and for many years to come for a fraction of the cost of many a mediocre Burgundy or Bordeaux. So here is my plea: don’t let these wines disappear from the UK, or altogether for that matter – there is an increasing trend for growers in the South to rip up wonderful old vines and replace them with high-yielding varieties which are easier to sell. They may take a little bit of hand-selling, but they are so worth it.”
Of course the Languedoc has its fair share of over oaked, over extracted, clumsily made wines – not everything is perfect, but the best of the Languedoc offers some of the most exciting drinking in the whole of France. And these are wines that are accessible and affordable. They are not cheap – cheap wines will come from the run-of-the-mill cooperatives or from growers who do not see the need to invest in their future. The best come from people who are building their future, from the wine growers I feature in this blog.
And sadly Pierre Quinonero from Domaine de la Garance ( see my posting of last week) is a victim of Richards Walford’s need to curtail their Languedoc list, and consequently his wines, including older vintages, are on special offer. They are not cheap, but they are stuffed with character, with a strong sense of place. Take a look at their website www.r-w.co.uk I should add that Richards Walford are not retailers, but wholesalers, but they will obviously be able to supply information about stockists when something on their list catches your eye.