What qualifies me to write and comment on the Languedoc? Quite simply, I have been following its development for thirty years. I was one of the first women to pass the Master of Wine exams, back in 1979, and I became a freelance wine writer in 1981, since when I have written eleven books, covering not only the Languedoc, but also Chablis, Tuscany and New Zealand.
My very first visit to a wine cellar in the Languedoc was in 1979 and I have returned regularly since then, researching two books, firstly French Country Wines, and subsequently The Wines of the South of France, from Banyuls to Bellet. French Country Wines was published in 1990 and took me off the beaten track to many lost vineyards of France, but inevitably the Midi formed a large part of the book. In those days you sensed the beginnings of a revival in the fortunes of the region; some of the estates with a serious reputation today, were leading the way back in the 1980s, such as Gilbert Alquier in Faugères; Daniel Domergue in the Minervois; Domaine Cazes in Rivesaltes. Aimé Guibert had made his first vintage at Mas de Daumas Gassac in 1978 and set an unprecedented price expectation for a wine from the south of France. Alain Roux was making pace-setting wines at the Prieuré de St. Jean de Bébian. Other reputations have faded and many others were yet to be made. My visit to the Pic St. Loup focused on the cooperative at St. Mathieu de Tréviers, and on that cooperative alone. The leading names such as l’Hortus, Mas Bruguière, Mas de Mortiès, Clos Marie, or Domaine de Cazeneuve were as yet quite unknown. The same phenomenon applies to the village of Montpeyroux, whose wines were also represented by the village cooperative. At the time no one foresaw the enormous development that would take place in the 1990s. Nonetheless back then, the Languedoc intrigued me. On the last day of my last research trip for French Country Wines, back in October 1987, I had lunch in Narbonne with Claude Vialade, who was the export director for one of the big players of the region, les Vignerons Val d’Orbieu, an enormous marketing and export association of cooperatives and smaller wine producers. One of us said: there is a book to be written on the Languedoc. I mentally filed the idea and ten years on, and two or three books later, I embarked on The Wines of the South of France, which covered all the vineyards between the Spanish and Italian borders, including Provence as well as Languedoc Roussillon, and also the island of Corsica. The Wines of the South of France was published in 2001 and examines the vineyards of the Midi as they were on the eve of the millennium. I could write a second, comparable book, featuring only wine growers who have started making wine in this century. But these days it is impossible to keep abreast of the pace of change with the printed word; the region demands the immediacy of the web. Numerous research trips only served to fuel my enthusiasm for the wonderful region of the Languedoc. Holidays in gîtes between Perpignan and Draguignan, as well as snatched weekends in the middle of research trips, enabled my husband and I to decide on our favourite corner of the Languedoc. And in 2004 we bought a house within easy reach of the towns of Pézenas and Clermont l’Hérault, which gives me a wonderful base for visiting the local wine growers. Our village does not have a particular reputation for its wine, but many of the nearby villages do. We are in very easy reach of Faugères, St. Chinian, some of the highlights of the Coteaux du Languedoc and the new area of Pézenas, as well as the Vin de Pays des Côtes de Thongue, which is one of the more innovative of the numerous vins de pays of the region. So with this blog, I hope to keep abreast of some of the many new and exciting developments in the region
Introduction to the Languedoc
Why the Languedoc? Quite simply, it is without doubt the most exciting and innovative wine region of France. Everything is possible; the appellations may lay down ground rules, but the parallel vins de pays allow for unlimited experimentation, creating a host of new and exciting wines. Over the last twenty years or so this vast vineyard, which stretches from the Spanish border round to the delta of the Rhone has undergone a dramatic transformation, so that the wines have improved out of all recognition. And that pace of change continues unabated, with each vintage bringing new wine growers and new wines. Those are the wines and people I want to talk about, as well as old established favourites. And since wine goes with food, I do not intend to ignore the rich gastronomy of the region. And I also reserve the right occasionally to extend this blog beyond the confines of the Languedoc, into Provence and Corsica and maybe even further afield.