Why write a book on the wines of the Languedoc?
Why write about the Languedoc now? Quite simply, and without exaggeration, it is the most exciting wine region of the whole of France. The pace of change in the last few years has been breath-taking, and for that reason I wanted to concentrate on the Languedoc of the 21stcentury and describe the many changes in the region and the new wine growers who are behind those changes. In a nutshell, the region has become, in the words of one grower, more confident and another suggested, more sage,wiser and more grown up. It is not only that work in the vineyard and cellar have improved dramatically, but that the atmosphere has changed, with a buoyancy and optimism. While it is true, that there are still problems, and indeed dull wines, there is the underlying realisation that the Languedoc has so much to offer. The lure of the Languedoc for outsiders, and newcomers to wine, is very strong, and many said that it was more welcoming than other regions they explored. The newcomers have brought ideas from elsewhere and that all adds to a vibrant melting pot of dynamic attitudes. There is an extraordinary enthusiasm and energy amongst the wine growers. I have lost count of the times somebody said:c’est ma passion. Life may be hard; their vines may be frosted or hailed, but they simply could not imagine doing anything else, and they are all making the very best wine that they can. They enjoy the liberty that the Languedoc offers; if you make an appellation, you must conform to its regulations, but if you make an IGP, the rules are much more flexible, and if you make Vin de France, the restrictions are minimal. For this reason, the Languedoc is a hotbed of experimentation, with a wonderful choice of grape varieties. The appellations retain the established varieties, but the producers of IGP and Vin de France may experiment virtually to their heart’s content.
There has been much to discover. As a local wine merchant observed, the new estates are popping up like mushrooms. The newest appellation of the Languedoc, the Terrasses du Larzac, has absorbed 25 new estates since 2011; Faugères had four new wine growers in 2014, and a further four since then. There are new arrivals at every vintage, and those are the people on whom I wanted to concentrate for this book, for they are the people who are creating the Languedoc of the 21stcentury. Of course, I could not ignore the long-established estates, and indeed some of the cooperatives, where they continue to perform well for their appellation, but my focus is on the new developments and the newcomers of the past 17 years. There are well over 2,500 estates in the Languedoc, so selection was essential and I apologise for all the omissions, of which there are doubtless numerous, but I also hope that I have paved the way to new discoveries, in the 200 or so estates covered in the book.