Is French Wine Online? (Yes. It is.)

2011 has been a very peculiar year.  Throughout the year, virtually all of France’s wine regions were reporting very advanced vine growth and early harvests (Bordeaux, Loire, Languedoc among others), and some of those predictions came true while other areas are now reporting perfectly normal harvest dates.

Some people are harvesting early

Some readers never scroll down to read the whole post, so I’ll start off by saying some regions are harvesting early this year.  And some microclimates within the Languedoc Roussillon are significantly early as well.

clairette pressing at pech d'andre

photo: Pech d'Andre

You can see that harvests have started in August in various parts of l’Aude and the Roussillon.  Michel Gassier in the Costieres de Nimes (the part of Rhone closest to Languedoc) harvested his Vigonier on the 18th and 19th of August.

Also, a quick glance at the blogs from this year and last year show some regions are very far ahead.  Champagne Tarlant reported a 27 day difference between 2010’s first day of harvest and 2011’s first day of harvest. Pretty epic.  And according to Terre de Vin, the earliest harvest since 1822!

Cremant d’Alsace is also a couple weeks ahead of schedule while still Alsacian whites seem to have normalized according to Harpers.

Some winemakers are only slightly early

As Carol Emmas mentioned in Harpers, many regions overestimated the advancement of their vines.  Especially the Languedoc Roussillon seems to have normalized its harvest dates.  Emmas quotes Pascal Fulla and me and we seem to agree about harvest dates being pretty normal this year.  Emmas also talks to Gavin Quinney at Bauduc who says harvest will only be 10-12 days early (a significant drop from the 3 week advance earlier in the year).

It might be interesting to look at the specific areas where these winemakers are.  Pascal Fulla and I are both in relatively special areas of the Languedoc.  Tiny appellations that are known for slower ripening than the lower plains of the region.  So maybe that’s why our harvest dates don’t seem so exceptional while other people in the region are still looking at very early harvests.

I’d also point out that some of my varietals are very far ahead and others aren’t at all.  So the global harvest date doesn’t necessarily change even though some later varietals are coming in early.

Blogs are awesome

I guess this post got really nerdy.  But if there is a general interest point to take away, it’s that blogs are cool.  We can check in with winemakers and get real updates about weather in vineyards around the world.  We have access to so much information and we get true insight into the vineyard’s growth cycle.  Sometimes that information can be misleading, but if you’re interested, then you can learn at the same pace as the winemakers.

 

Customer review of Domaine O’Vineyards Trah Lah Lah 2008:

Posted by Dale Timewell-Davis on 11:32 09/05/2011

Comment on: Domaine O’Vineyards Trah Lah Lah 2008

I can’t remember the last time I bought a bottle of French red, my own opinion is that you can getter better value for money elsewhere. Did I say is? I meant was. This is a fabulous wine, a real treat!

Our review of the week from a customer at Naked Wines.  Nice to hear that we converted Dale to French wine!  That’s right.  There’s real value in the Languedoc Roussillon!

Jancis just wrote a very cleverly titled article “11 into 33 does go” (you have to subscribe to read the whole thing).  This is more than just a simple math question.  It’s a reference to French department numbers.  11 is Aude (Languedoc) and 33 is Gironde (Bordeaux).  And this article talks about the sad truth that nobody likes to discuss.

While tons of our region’s wine cooperatives flounder and go out of business, there are still some cooperatives and negociants with tankers pumping wine nearly 24/7.  It makes you think that there’s a lot of hustle and bustle.  But where is the wine going?  And at what cost?

Well, a short inspection of the license plates reveals a lot.  All the tankers filling up with Languedoc wine have license plates that read 33.  Gironde. Bordeaux. It’s nearly impossible to prove what happens once the wine gets into the winery since the French classification system is almost 100% enforced by paper trail alone.  But that’s where the wine is going.  Or at least, that’s where the trucks came from.

I’m really happy to see a writer of Jancis’ level talking about this issue because it’s a real wine story.  Not a lot of that in wine journalism today.

After the recent france.fr fiasco, a lot of my winemaking peers have been teasing me for France’s total inability to get on with the 21st century.  To summarize, France FINALLY got itself a national website (france.fr) and did a big launch party on Bastille Day.  Maybe they should have picked a less volatile holiday that isn’t about shaking the foundations of well-structured hierarchies, because their servers immediately crashed.

While they initially claimed that the servers had just been overwhelmed by the huge numbers drawn in on the successful launch day, the site stayed down far longer than acceptable.  And the message eventually changed to something like, “uh, sorry we’re experiencing technical difficulties and we have to like check a bunch of stuff…and stuff.”  Their facebook page hasn’t been updated since July 14th when they assured us that the site would be back up in a couple of hours.  And the site is still down as I write this post 2 weeks later.

So of course this feeds all my friends’ relentless teasing.  Yes, France is SO behind on the Internet.

Well let me tell you, that French wine is NOT very far behind.  We certainly started late.  I remember that when Americans were switching from dialup to cable modems, France was just weening itself off the MiniTel and AOL had just launched in France.  So it’s undeniable that France was very late to the game.

But, in specific areas of interest like wine, France has played a good amount of catch-up.  For evidence, I point you to the list of wineries with frequently updated websites, the list of wineries who tweet, and the list of winemakers on facebook (and these lists are only Languedoc-Roussillon producers).

Also, I thought I’d do a directory of some of the people I met at VinoCamp Paris.  This wine-tech unconference afforded me the opportunity to see a lot of people doing interesting things with wine online.  And so here’s a chance to do some call outs while simultaneously proving that the French know how to use the Internet sometimes.

Starting with the sponsors, media partners and winemakers:

  • Regioneo – Delicious regional food merchants online, lots of gift baskets.  Had a big array of riettes from different parts.  Very yummy.
  • WineEverybody – Free wine 2.0 aggregator, incorporating twitters, hand-picked blogs, message boards, etc. into a unified and simple interface.  I reviewed an earlier version of the beta a while back.  I also made a query for Languedoc on WineEverybody my homepage so that my dad accidentally reads about the region on his way to espn.com  and he really loves it.  I think it’s a simple alternative to RSS feeds or an enormous influx of emails and it’s simple enough for my tech-illiterate dad to use it.
  • vinobest - Web merchant that uses team buying to get group discounts, snazzy video explaining that concept:
  • iDealwine – Site that links online wine sales and real-life wine auctions where you can buy, sell or estimate value of wines.  I think they authenticate and stuff too.  Lots of different services.  An idealwine video that explains all the varied stuff they do.
  • VenteALaPropriete.com – web merchant that tries to assist in pre-ordered direct sales of fine wines
  • Vins de Bordeaux – I was going to leave them off the list because I didn’t meet anybody from this group. I think they sponsored the event and sent wines, but they weren’t necessarily there in person. But I didn’t want people thinking that I have some axe to grind. So, in the spirit of wine regions not beating each other up, here they are on the list.  (EDIT:) Benjamin Anseaume was there to talk up Bordeaux wines.  He is their community manager.  … I need to get sud de France to want one of these.
  • Vicky Wine – Vicky presented her remarkably robust gamay, a wine crafted at her family’s estate.  But she’s not just a pretty blogger that pours her daddy’s wine.  She is an epic event planner and the driving force in making get togethers like VinoCamp Paris a success.
  • Champagne Tarlant – While I had already met Benoit Tarlant on the wine circuit, it was a great pleasure to meet the other Tarlant, Melanie, as she poured a marvelous dry Champagne.  Really up my alley.  It made my dad jealous that he couldn’t be there to try it.  Very strong web presence.  Probably showcases the need for small Champagne producers to differentiate themselves.  While Champagne is a huge share of the French wine business, almost all of that money goes to a few prestigious mass marketed houses.  The rest of the indie producers have to work very hard to promote their personal brand despite the fact that the “Champagne brand” is so strong.
  • Champagne Dehu – Benoit Déhu (are all small Champagne dudes with online presences named Benoit?) poured a totally different style of Champagne with a light dosage and maybe a bit more approachable by the uninitiated.  Lots of fun.  This guy is still building his online presence and he’s going to events like this to study how exactly he should go about it.  Not everybody should start a video blog and not everybody really has the mentality required to maintain a successful twitter profile.  So Benoit Déhu is weighing his options and seeing how exactly to embark online.
  • O’Vineyards – This guy is a creep. ;D
  • La Cantine – While this isn’t strictly an example of French wine online, La Cantine is a business that clearly understands the importance of technology and they do a great job of bridging the gap between the eworld and the real world.  It’s a joint workspace tucked away in a beautiful ruelle in the 9eme arrondissement de Paris.  This has become a real hot spot for reunions, conferences, training camps, etc.  And the place is full of high speed Internet, bean bag chairs, conference rooms, mixing boards, avi cables, and overhead projectors (it’s even got a bar).  It’s like I designed the place.  But I didn’t.  Here is an interview of the man who I think is in charge of stuff over there.  And there’s also some sort of relationship with Silicon Sentier.
  • European Wine Bloggers Conference – Coming up in Vienna, Austria this year on October 22nd-24th. Should be a blast. Totally different atmosphere than the American counterpart.
  • Bourgogne Live – Amazing duo who maintain a lively, fabulous blog focused on Bourgogne. I’d like to flatter myself by saying that what I do at Love That Languedoc, they do at Bourgogne Live. And there might be a short dissertation in the works about how the differences between our blogs sort of fit the character of our respective regions. Post pending.
  • I left one sponsor off the list and I don’t want them to be mad. But I honestly think that posting a link to their website would be sort of embarassing to them.  But once the site is more complete, I will happily link to it.  And I hope they don’t get upset with me.

The rest of the gang:

  • Grégoire Japiot – community manager and all around moving force. How awesome is it that his twitter handle is just like one of the most common names in France?
  • Philippe Hugon and Marie Tieulie – Vinternet and Wine Everybody.  [edit: forgot that Philippe assembled this list of attendees who tweeet]
  • MySocialWinery – Pierrick is a savvy business kid who wants to help get more French winemakers online.  He’s focusing on winemakers who are present in the US, where he has some work experience.   He just visited O’Vineyards the other day and I can’t wait to see his various projects around France.
  • Emmanuel Delmas [link edited]- Sommelier and blogger are two titles that often carry a lot of pejorative baggage, but Emmanuel is downright awesome. A nice, charming guy who is approachable and easy to talk to despite the intimidating amount of wine knowledge he has.
  • Vineolia – Benoit and Marc’s new wine tasting notes site.
  • Les Mois du Vin – Olivier Suremain’s wine of the month club. You might recall that he was present at the Love That Languedoc Paris Tasting organized by Miss Vicky.
  • Vodka & Co., one of the seminal wine and SPIRITS French sites.
  • VinoGusto – Marc Roisin’s wine-based social network.
  • Vinblog – A guy blogging about wine, almost exclusively about Alsace
  • Oenos – Young wine bloggers in the Loire – should get together with Jim Budd.
  • Cédric Ringenbach – Board game developer using the Internet to promote
  • Vindicateur – Like an online (and therefore potentially much larger and more complete) wine guide
  • MesVignes.com – more involved than “rent a vine” programs, but less ownership and lower cost than a crushpad-style custom crush.  Represented by Ludovic Roif at vinocamp
  • Veronique Barretto – blogger who I hear will be working with Catavino in the upcoming future.
  • Tag de Vin – Elise is part of the Nantes team that puts QR codes on wine bottles
  • BKWine (not to be confused with BK Wine! :D)- Per Karlsson and his wife Britt are wine travel guides who have a big online video presence
  • SoWine – Finally met Marie Mascré who is behind Sowine consulting agency and blog
  • MonVino Show – I think I met Thomas and maybe I saw his counterpart Patrick too.  Cool new video blog about wine in French.
  • Musique et VinPauline Boet orchestrates the social media and online presence of Musique et Vin events and programming that are built around the combination of music and wine.
  • Atie Cartographie – Thierry Aumeunier showed us the BETA of his wine mapping software that is exceptionally detailed and cool but kind of TMI for the average consumer. BUT I LOVE IT.
  • L’Actu du Vin – Marthe Henry runs a wine news blog.
  • Monogramme Marketing – This guy was nice and I had no idea that he was heading up some projects in Beaune until I came back home and checked out the site.
  • Christophe Ducamp – I have no idea what xtof means. Might be an xkcd joke. ;D  No but I think I recognize this guy. He spoke up in panels if I recall correctly.
  • MarcWines – I’m not sure what Marc does but we were in all the same sessions so I remember him! :D  Based out of Geneva, he seems to be a swiss army knife of wine websites offering tours, wine clubs, retail(?), and anything else you might need.
  • Mandarine - Translates between French and Mandarin, specifically focused on wine marketing.
  • Augmented Reality blog – Olivier and Gregory were around to share insight about how augmented reality and other stuff can be applied to wine.

So this list shows that there are lots of interesting wine-related tech start ups.  And stop telling me that France is allergic to the Internet.  There is a generation of people bringing French wine online.  And once there’s wine, the rest of France will follow.

Oh and maybe a small post script.  Please don’t get upset, but this needs to be said.  Vinogusto, vinblog, vindicateur, vineolia, vinternet, vinobest, vindiesel and vinanybodyelse: it is super hard to remember which of you is which.  Actually, vinternet and vindicateur make a lot of sense to me thematically, and they’re both puns. So I remember them.  But the rest of you and anybody out there thinking about starting a French wine site… consider that there are a lot of vinsuffixes out there already.

How to find us

Domaine O’Vineyards is just a few kilometres north of Carcassonne. GPS coordinates: 43.259622, 2.340387

Domaine O’Vineyards
885 Avenue de la Montagne Noire
11620 Villemoustaussou, France
Tel: +33(0) 630 189 910

  1. Follow the signs to Mazamet/ Villemoustaussou until the D118 (the last straight road) and the Dyneff gas station on the roundabout.
  2. Take the exit towards Pennautier. Continue 500m to a small roundabout and go straight over.
  3. Look out for the second road on your right, Avenue des Cévennes which goes up hill (about 1km) to Avenue de la Montagne Noire.
  4. At the last juction, bear left at the road sign “Ave de la Montagne Noire” (confusing as it seems to show a right turn)
  5. After another 500m you will see our red brick color building in the middle of the vines.