7 wines to taste at Vinisud

This is part of my guide to ViniSud 2012.

Vinisud is a massive wine trade fair in Montpellier.  It’s easy to get lost in the sea of mediterranean winemakers, so I’ve compiled a list of southern French wines that I think are genuinely interesting.

If you ever feel overwhelmed, just take a deep breath, pick somebody from this list and visit them.  I’m sure they’ll treat you well.  I picked people who are pretty spread out across all the halls so wherever you have your wine-induced panic attack, you’ll be near one of these producers.

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  1. Chateau de Nages  – Michel & Tina Gassier – Hall 11
  2. Chateau de Gaure – Pierre Fabre – Hall 7
  3. Clos du Gravillas – John & Nicole Bojanowski – Hall 9
  4. Chene Bleu Rosé – Nicole Sierra Rolet – Hall 11
  5. l’Oustal Blanc Naick blanc – Claude & Isabel Fonquerle – Hall 6 (tuesday afternoon only)
  6. Domaine des Homs – Jean Marc & Anne de Crozals – Hall 10
  7. O’Vineyards – That’s me. – Hall 1

chateau de nages Chateau de Nages Vielles Vignes 2011
Tina & Michel Gassier – Costieres de Nimes
Hall 11 Aisle A Stand 99

This wine is one of the strongest arguments I’ve ever tasted for exploration of organic and biodynamic practices at my own vineyard.  That’s a pretty hefty statement, so let me explain myself.  I am  not convinced that organic wine is inherently better from a moral or ecological perspective.  I am therefore only interested in it to the extent that it can make my wine taste better.  Gassier makes my style of wine, big, dense, rich, etc. while preserving a certain level of freshness and acidity that keeps the wine from becoming overbearing.  He also has a relatively huge property.  Something like 6 times as big as O’Vineyards.  So if he can do it, I can.  And he swears that his wines have benefited from it.  So I’m intrigued.  More at the Gassier blog or Nages website.

chateau de gaureChateau de Gaure Campagne Chardonnay 2010
Pierre Fabre – Limoux
Hall 7 Aisle A Stand 74

Pierre Fabre started making wines a bit south of my vineyard at almost the exact same time.  On top of making fantastic wines, he’s a great artist and every vintage gets a different painting of his.  He’s recently released a new white wine where the label is painted by his five year old son!  It’s a great wine with some real value and the painting hilariously looks like his style at first glance.  He’s got a huge smile and loves to share his wines with strangers. more at gaure website or blog


clos du gravillasClos du Gravillas Lo Vièlh Carignan
Nicole & John Bojanowski – St Jean de Minervois
Hall 9 Aisle B Stand 46

St Jean de Minervois is famous for its muscat, but I’m sending you to the crazies up on the hill that make a pure Carignan.  They famously defended the grape to Jancis Robinson and other journalists who sometimes looked down on the variety.  You can taste a 100% Carignan done right and decide if it’s worth all the fuss.
chene bleu vinesChêne Bleu / Domaine de La Verrière Rosé
Nicole Sierra-Rolet – Southern Rhône
Hall 11 Stand C64

This year, you can taste a rosé made for red wine drinkers.  It’s direct press and serious business.  If you go to their stand and say “Go ahead, make my day,” they’ll pour you their Clint Eastwood styled rosé.  🙂

To their merit, Chêne Bleu was one of the few wineries that sent me an email so good I just wanted to publish their words:

Chêne Bleu takes the Clint Eastwood approach to winemaking – it’s not an adventure if someone’s done the same thing already – so when we set out to make a rosé, we wanted it to be different from the norm and to stand proudly alongside our critically acclaimed reds and whites. This rosé is not for knocking back by the pool. It’s one of the few direct press rosés made; and we call it our ‘anti-rosé rosé’ because we believe that even those who aren’t usually rosé fans will love its ‘chewy’ texture, long finish and ability to stand up to lovely rich Mediterranean food and spicy Eastern dishes. Through the years it’s won accolades all over the world including designation as a ‘Vin Mythique’ in La Revue du Vin de France. Come by the stand and, if you use the password ‘Go ahead, make my day’, you can see if you agree with us, and the critics, in a taste test alongside some spicy food.

oustal blancL’Oustal Blanc Naick Blanc
Isabel & Claude Fonquerle – la Liviniere
Hall 6 Aisle A Stand 13 (Tuesday afternoon only)

A brother from another mother, the high end reds at l’Oustal Blanc remind me of a more mediterranean version of my own wines.  But what’s really intriguing is their 100% Grenache Gris.  A white wine for red wine drinkers.  This is one of the whites that pushed dad and me over the edge and made us decide to harvest our white grapes and make a white wine in 2012.  Claude will only be at ViniSud Tuesday afternoon.  You can also catch this wine at an OFF event we’re doing together on Tuesday at the Aeroport Hotel.

domaine des homs at millesime bioDomaine des Homs Paul 2011
Anne & Jean Marc de Crozals – Minervois
Hall 10 Aisle A Stand 8

I met these winemakers because we both make Cabardes wines, but I think their true specialty is their organic Minervois estate.  In a blind tasting I once confused this wine with a 60 € bottle from a more notorious estate, and the Cuvée Paul is thankfully much more affordable. 🙂  It’s a minervois that manages to capture ripe fruit without getting overbearing.  And they were some of our first neighbors to have us over for a drink when we got to the region.  So cheers.



Joe draws wine from a barrelO’Vineyards Stranger, Stranger 2007
Joe, Ryan and Liz O’Connell – Cabardes
Hall 1 Aisle B Stand 21

I’d be remiss if I didn’t invite you to come visit my family’s stand.  My parents, Joe and Liz O’Connell, don’t usually get a chance to talk because I am always blabbing for them online.  But at Vinisud, you can meet the silent majority of O’Vineyards!  And they’re coming with a special treat.  Ask about the “Stranger, Stranger” and they’ll give you a taste of a 100% Merlot they only made in 2007, in commemoration of all the strangers who helped us when we first moved to the Languedoc.  This wine always cheers us up, and it was the first bottle my dad reached for when the New Orleans Saints got knocked out of the NFL playoffs this month.

How to find us

Domaine O’Vineyards, located in the North Arrondissement of Carcassonne, is just minutes from the Carcassonne train station, the Medieval City, and the Carcassonne Airport.
GPS coordinates: 43.259622, 2.340387

Wine, Dine, Relax at our Boutique Vineyard
Unique thing to do in Carcassonne
Wine Cellar. Winery Visits. Wine Tasting.
Wine & Food Pairing

North Arrondissement of Carcassonne
885 Avenue de la Montagne Noire
11620 Villemoustaussou, France
Tel: +33(0) 630 189 910

  1. Best by GPS.
    Follow the signs to Mazamet/ Villemoustaussou using the D118. At the end of the last straight part of D118, you will come to a roundabout with the Dyneff gas station.
  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 curves up hill (about 1km) to Avenue de la Montagne Noire on the left.
  4. At the last juction, bear left. 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.