You think of French wine and you think of Bordeaux or Burgundy. That’s normal. They make great wines in these regions. Wines of Kings even. Thank goodness there are other wine regions in France and other people who have enjoyed wine for the past few centuries, not just kings. Real people. People like you and me. People that have to consider price and want to pair our wine with perhaps a veggie based meal, or even pre-gaming. Don’t judge me, we’ve all done it. With that in mind, I have really loved exploring the many other wine regions in this blessed country (it’s a tough life). For the most part, things have be grand! You know by now that I am obsessed with all things Beaujolais and The Loire. The people are kind and humble and the wines are badass. With my eyes now on the south of France, I was optimistic for the same experience.
I have tasted a fair few wines from The Languedoc. By no means an expert, I have mostly enjoyed what I have been lucky enough to experience. The mix of grenache, syrah and mourvedre (among others, notably cinsault) has been easy-going and friendly. The Languedoc has provided nice fruit forward and sometimes spicy accompaniments to a cheeky cheese board or two. No complaints here. I’ll take a Languedoc over a Bordeaux any day ha! So, visiting the region was exciting for me. I was hoping to be inspired by a ‘wine for the people’ and ‘all for wine, wine for all’ attitude. You know, something that made me think “yeah cool, I see what you’r doing and I like it”. That I did not get. Full disclaimer, I only visited three wineries and am not saying that the whole region is a dud. Far from it! Things are just vulnerable and need some good looking after.
There is a lot of room for improvement in The Languedoc. A lot of potential. With a history of table wine, the past is bleak and blurred. For today’s winemakers, this presents an interesting challenge. There are fewer AOC rules and a freedom to play. Wouldn’t you want to jump on that? The terroir seems healthy and the climate is warm and inviting. The recipe is perfect for interesting, rule-breaking and unexpected wines. However, as one winemaker told me recently, “people are part of the terroir”. This is a vital point. With all else in place to make better and more contemporary wines, it will be down to the winemakers and wine drinkers to demand better wine. Is there a taste for this in The Languedoc? Has the cultural history scared too deep? I’m not sure.
The three Chateaux I visited were nice. That’s about it. They are female run and have centuries old history. With that kind of street cred I was expecting a real creativity, a “let’s get ’em” spunk. Yet, what I found was a little ho-hum. One chateau only really wanted to focus on the history of the building (it was cool) and presented the 400 years of winemaking as secondary. The second only really wanted to talk about the supermarkets that I could find the wine in. The third told me that it wasn’t worth exporting their wine to Australia. The overall attitude felt like we were stuck in the 1950s. It felt outdated and for an audience of non-wine drinkers. To say that they didn’t care about their wines would be a bit harsh. But, it felt like they didn’t care about their wines. It was as though the joy of wine wasn’t there and that they were making wine simply because “that is what they did”. That is, my experience was fine, but could have been so much more. That’s a shame. Same goes for the wine.
In a world where consumer wine interest is skyrocketing, globalisation is a game changer and climate change is undeniable, wine makers don’t have the luxury of progressing without passion. For me, a love for what you do is essential. I sure hope The Languedoc can find that love and use their goods to make some magic. All of the ingredients are there. I hope they can step up to the plate and give their northern cousins a run for their money. Come on, someone needs to knock down the big guys ha!