Andrew Jeffords and Rosemary George tackled the Herculean task of writing an eight page feature to describe the Languedoc in the March issue of Decanter. A region so diverse and adventuruous is incredibly hard to encapsule in just a few pages, so they focused on giving readers a taste of that diversity. And I think they did a really fantastic job.
Andrew Jeffords explains the pleasure of discovery and adventure in the Languedoc:
“One of the reasons why I wanted to live in this area was discovery. Sure, we could have moved to Dijon and I could have biked down to Vosne every Sunday and worshipped at the walls of Romanée-Conti, saving up for a bottle per decade, but where’s the pleasure in that? Languedoc, by contrast, is a giant funfair complete with eye-popping rides and weird sideshows, flashing lights and duck shoots and test-your-strength bells. Some of its wines are impolite, barely house-trained; others are exciting enough to make your hair stand on end. I love it.”
After Jeffords’ brilliant introduction, Rosemary George digs into the meat of the Languedoc. A blow by blow analysis of Faugeres, La Clape, Terrasses du Larzac, Limoux, Minervois la Liviniere, Cabardes, and Pic Saint Loup (and Pezenas gets its own feature later in the magazine, p 114). Each area description tries to explain what makes it so special and I think she George does a great job creating an image of each appellation. She also gets a couple namedrops in for each area so you can get a feel for some of the movers and shakers.
No ink about me this time, but that’s actually pretty encouraging! This article is about how vibrant and unexpected the region is. And in a way, I’m old news. Since I started Love That Languedoc (years ago!?) dozens of new wineries have started up and dozens of wines have come to new levels of prominence. This region is a vast sea and we’re seeing a rising tide that I hope will change the wine world forever.
This is part of the continued coverage of Toques et Clochers, the Sieur d’Arques auction in Limoux that raises funds to rennovate local churches each year. Thanks to Sud de France Export for inviting me to the event and even getting me a seat at the super exclusive gala dinner. Video at the bottom of the page!
The even lasts a few days. On Saturday, the town whose churchtower is being redone becomes an open air festival. This year, sleepy mountain town Couiza welcomed some 50,000+ visitors through the winding village roads to enjoy several thousand liters of Chardonnay. It’s really surreal to see these little villages roped off (traffic is rerouted to go around the village and you can only access it by buses from other neighboring towns) and flooded by sooo many festive spirits.
It’s the kind of event that defies logic. And the fact that it’s organized in a different village each year means they have to redo all the logistics from scratch. Nothing is the same year to year. A very impressive event on a scale that independent producers like me could never accomplish even if united.
But the moment that defines the event is the auction on Sunday where bidders will raise their paddles and buy up limited runs of wine in barrel. There’s a big tasting so that everybody can pick their favorite barrels of wine for the vintage. Then there’s a long auction where 80 lots are sold and people bid on wine. Some are there just to support the event and the rennovation. Others are shrewdly trying to grab the best deals because there are some real pearls that you can uncover in the tasting. So the most devoted tasters who spend all morning researching will have an opportunity to buy barrels that the casual visitors didn’t discover. The average barrel price was 4,500 Euro or so this year. The highest bid was about 6,400 Euro, as I recall.
And then we celebrate with a massive dinner. As the French are wont to do.
This video is a presentation of the dishes, the wine pairings, and a musical accompaniment for each course. Nice. In English and French since this is a very International crowd. Only a few hundred people get to attend the gala and it’s a pleasure to bring you behind closed doors to see all the yummy treats and wines and dancing clowns(?!) that bring this event to a close so delightfully.
The commissaire priseur closed the bidding and announced that the barrel had been won by… Twitter? Did I hear that right? So I approached the Dutchman who claims to have been bidding on behalf of Twitter and by golly, I did hear right.
Gilles Faëlens explains how Bacchantes represented Twitter-ers at the auction:
Basically, they tweeted about Toques et Clochers, the famous wine auction that helps rennovate church towers in the sleepy south of France. The tweet said they’d be down in Limoux bidding on barrels and asked if anybody was interested in buying part of a barrel. The overwhelming response from Holland alone allowed them to buy an entire barrel, pre-sold. Nice!
This is a great story because Twitter-users are combining forces and using hyperspeed communication technology to participate in an event that is normally very exclusive. And they’re saving a part of our rural French landscape in the process. Way to go to tweeters.
@cunovanthoff is the actual Twitter account that roiled up all this support. But it’s hard to tell since he’s tweeting in Dutch.
I’ll follow up with more about Toques et Clochers 2010 VERY SOON.
The wines: Cuvée Occitania, Château Rives-Blanques, AOC Limoux Xaxa 2004, Château Rives-Blanques, Vin de Table Vendanges d’Hiver
Brebis (sheep/ewe milk) Roquefort (Did you know this is Languedoc too?)
honey and fig juice, artisanal
Occitania – this area pre-French identity; “Languedoc” means language of oc. Oc means “yes” in Occitan.
“Nostra terra mentis pas” means “our land does not lie.”
Mauzac – One of the three varietals included in Limoux’s AOC. I think it’s also grown in Gaillac. Rives Blanques is one of the very estates that produces Mauzac as a still wine.