The O’Vineyards UK tour was a blast. Thanks to everybody who participated, organized, drank, or just wished they could be there.
There were two parts:
- The Languedoc Outsiders (scroll down for press coverage and reviews)
- Naked Wine Villages (click for a full post about the UK Villages Tour with amateur reviews)
- French Radio London interview
For now I’ll talk about the Languedoc Outsiders. Updates on the Naked Wine Villages Tour will come later.
The Languedoc Outsiders tasting took place at the Maison du Languedoc Roussillon on Cavendish Square where Louise Hurren united 12 winemakers from all walks of life who have come to the Languedoc Roussillon to make wine with a different perspective. The event went very well with something like 70 tasters over the course of the day. They were all engaged, enthusiastic and appreciative. And when I ran around at the end of the day to taste the wines myself, I understood why everybody had so much fun. Killer wines. Very happy with the whole event. Can’t wait for a version in the Languedoc!
Here is some of the press coverage O’Vineyards received from the Outsiders event so far:
“Each producer has its own interesting story to tell about how they came to the south of France — and having them all under one roof proved an inspirational way to demonstrate that good winemaking is an achievable feat for anyone, anywhere and at any time in their lives.”
“O’Vineyards Proprietor’s Reserve: A blend of Old World and Californian styles, it has a nose of damson and deep-red fruits, with a hint of orange and cloves. The palate is juicy and dry, well-balanced with good length and a bright future. O’Vineyards wine is made by 20-something American Ryan O’Connell who came to Carcassonne in 2005 and is founder of blogging site love-that-languedoc.com”
—Harpers, Carol Emmas
“Ryan O’Connell, his American father Joe and French/Vietnamese mother Liz arrived France in 2005, having traded the family business building luxury homes in Florida for a more rural existence making wine in the Cabardès region. Ryan is full of infectious enthusiasm and, as well as making some very good wines, works tirelessly in promoting the wines of southern France as a whole. His favourite toy is his flip video camera, which he uses to good effect, creating an ever-increasing number of informative and enthusiastic (and occasionally very funny) short videos, featuring visits to different growers the length and breadth of Languedoc and Roussillon, which he posts regularly on his Love That Languedoc blog. In fact, Ryan leaves no stone un-turned in using the power of the Internet to get the message across about the joys of wine as a whole, and about Languedoc and Roussillon in particular. Long may he keep blogging, Facebooking, Tweeting and generally bigging-up his adopted region!”
O’Vineyards O’Syrah 2005 Vin de Pays de La Cité de Carcassone
100% Syrah. Cassis, plums and bramble, beef and spice aromas – lots of fruit, but savoury too, with notes of garrigue herbs. The palate is rich and very spicy, but the Syrah character still comes through, and it is surprisingly elegant, for such a big wine.? At 5 years old, it is good to drink, but there is absolutely no hurry.
O’Vineyards Trah Lah Lah 2005 Vin de Pays de La Cité de Carcassone
65% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon. Deep, dark colour, with a tiny rim. Again, a savoury, meaty nose, like a fruity gravy, with hints of new leather. The palate is rich with sweet fruit, still quite tannic, but with good underlying acidity. The finish is bitter-sweet. Another keeper. For me, not quite as enjoyable as the Syrah, but a good wine nonetheless.
O’Vineyards Proprietor’s Reserve 2005 Cabardès
Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. There’s oak, but it is nicely integrated, with plenty of rich cassis and plum fruit, leather, polished wood and spice. The palate is loaded with rich, sweet fruit flavours, but with excellent balancing acidity, something akin to a new world Claret blend. In fact, if I somebody told me it was from California, I might believe them – and that would be no mean compliment. Very nice wine!
I like the way Ryan and his father are pushing the boundaries in the somewhat unfashionable (by which I mean relatively unknown) region of Cabardès, immersing themselves totally in the French culture, whilst bringing fresh ideas and new world innovation to the winemaking process. They deserve to succeed.
Brett the Wine Maestro:
Ryan O’Connell, the cheeky chappy, together with his parents, Joe (American) and Liz (French Vietnamese) moved from Florida in 2005 to set up the O’Vineyards in Cabardes, within view of Carcassonne. They now produce a range of five robust, rich red wines made with Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Ryan is a great ambassador for the Languedoc, the Outsiders and la joie de vivre.
—Brett the Wine Maestro
O’Vineyards must be as well known for Ryan O’Connell and his extrovert Languedoc wine videos as it is for wine. Being near Carcassonne the Mediterranean influence is relatively feeble which is why Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are more suited. One word that summarises the three 2005s, their first full vintage, is oomph – but these wines are certainly not out of control and are not trying to be Bordeaux. O’Syrah 2005 is nice and chewy and I got pine, mint and dried plums. Trah Lah Lah 2005 (Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon) had spice and plenty of classic Merlot fruit cake and plum. Proprietor’s Reserve 2005 (Syrah with Merlot and Cabernet) combines the elements of the first two but racks up the fruit concentration while keeping everything in balance – it will go on for years.
—Graham Tiggs, Languedoc Wine
Juliet Bruce Jones:
Passion is an overused word when it comes to wine but it’s difficult to see what else could justify giving up a well-paid desk job to scrape by making wine in rural France. Any romantic dreams vanish after weeks of pruning in January’s biting winds. So they have made a conscious decision to move country and careers, as opposed to inheriting a domaine. Starting from scratch means having to learn quickly, not be afraid to ask lots of questions and to ask for advice. And just, well, give it a go.
—Juliet Bruce Jones, MW
Attending the tasting of the “Outsiders”, a group of Languedoc-Roussillon producers, in London this week made me think about what might have been. They’ve all done what I briefly considered, investing in vineyard and winery projects in the south of France, in many cases giving up successful careers to do so. The dozen members come from the UK, Ireland, Holland, Switzerland, New Zealand, Sweden, the USA and Bordeaux. If the last location sounds less exotic, it shouldn’t do. To most Bordelais, the Languedoc might as well be Tahiti.
—Tim Atkin, MW
Early Bird Wine
Along with F.O. shoes and F.O. money, there is F.O. wine.
—Early Bird Wine News
The Mediterranean south is France’s biggest vineyard area, and one of the country’s most exciting wine-producing regions. So much so that over the past couple of decades folk from all over the world have been relocating to the south and following their vinous dreams, a move that invariably involves a change of career, from teaching, the law, advertising, finance, sales and marketing etc.
At a tasting this month in London a number of these so-monikered, (for the purposes of creative PR, one imagines), ‘Languedoc Outsiders’ presented some of their wines.
—Sally Easton, MW
The CIVL (Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins du Languedoc — but I’m sure you knew that ;D) has declared a new system of classification in the Languedoc to separate and celebrate the “Grands vins du Languedoc” and “Grands Crus du Languedoc”. Articles in Harpers and Drinks Business for the full story.
A lot of people have been asking me what I think about this and I guess I should take a moment to express my personal feelings about how the CIVL’s newly declared hierarchy.
On the one hand, the Languedoc is certainly entitled to having some Grands Crus or terroirs/wineries that have proven themselves over time to be emblematic champions of the region. It might seem absurd or capricious today to arbitrarily say that certain places or people are better winemakers than others. But hey, fake it til you make it. In a hundred years, the Grands Crus du Languedoc might seem just as legitimate as the Grands Crus de Bordeaux or Grands Crus de Bourgogne (determined by the laws from 1855, parcel drawings of Cistercian monks, and other really legit old stuff).
That said, it’s a pretty classic move for my dear region. At a time when so much of the world mocks the complexity, capriciousness, and obsolesence of the Grands Crus system in other parts of France, we establish a long term plan to incorporate it into how we sell wine. We’re about 200 years too late. But hey, it can’t really hurt us.
At worst, a couple of people (generally folks who are “in the know” about wine) will ridicule the effort. But at best, we can seriously raise self-esteem in the area. We have to throw our old defeatist attitude in the rubbish bin. The Languedoc is GREAT. And we have Grands Crus too! Power to us.
Now, what do we hope to gain from it? Other than just being a positive mantra to sort of repeat to yourself as you wake up each morning? I don’t know.
When Frederic Jeanjean, President of the CIVL and owner of Jeanjean (edit: large groupe viticole based out of Terrasses du Larzac) says the strategy will “transform the Languedoc into a profitable, quality wine?making region”, I think that’s a little ambitious. Really? Calling certain wines and crus Grand is going to transform the Languedoc into a profitable quality winemaking region? That’s a tall order. What exactly is the strategy being referred to? Well, the Drinks Business article alludes to “a detailed action plan of technical, economic and marketing strategies, which will provide a framework for its activities over the coming years.” Let me tell you, that I have not seen much of that detailed plan of action.
Short of checking the CIVL news site (which I really like), I don’t get much news from them at all. You might assume this is some fault of mine, but let me clarify my relationship to the interprofession. I am forced to pay dues to put AOC Cabardes on my wine bottles. And a significant portion of those dues goes to the CIVL. So I am a paying member of the Interprofession. Then they also send you letters and try to get you to pay as an individual. So they have my address. But they don’t send me invitations to the assemblee generale. Just more requests for me to make double payments on my wine production.
Here’s the only thing I have received regarding the new hierarchy plan, copied and pasted from an email sent within the AOC Cabardes ODG (our syndicat):
Premier niveau : LES VINS DU LANGUEDOC
ð Niveau d’objectif : entre 3 et 4 € par col (prix TTC consommateurs) et pour les marques de distributeurs : 2,50 € par col (prix TTC consommateurs).
ðPrix vrac d’objectif : 90 à 100 € l’hl avec un rendement de : 50 à 55 hl/ha
ðPrix plancher d’objectif : 80€ l’hl.
Deuxième Niveau : LES GRANDS VINS DU LANGUEDOC
ðNiveau d’objectif :entre 4 € et 7 € par col (prix TTC consommateurs).
ðRendement de 48 à 50 hl/ha
ðPossibilité de repli en AOC LANGUEDOC (a priori pour le Cabardès sous réserve d’identification par l’INAO des parcelles complantées en cépages méditerranéens)
Troisième Niveau : LES CRUS DU LANGUEDOC
ðNiveau d’objectif : au-delà de 7-10 €/cols (prix TTC consommateurs au caveau)
Les AOP du Languedoc seront réparties entre le deuxième niveau (les grands vins du Languedoc) et le troisième niveau (les crus du Languedoc) en fonction :
– du souhait de positionnement des ODG de chaque appellation
– de critères économiques précis garantissant l’homogénéité du segment de marché.
Les critères économiques retenus en première analyse pour accéder au segment « crus du Languedoc » :
– nombre de producteurs (entre 30 et 50 metteurs en marché),
– volume de production (entre 25.000 à 35.000 hectolitres commercialisés),
– rendement maximum (45 hl/ha : critères INAO 2008),
– prix vrac (>150 €/hl) ou pourcentage des ventes directes (>70%),
– prix consommateurs (caveau > 10 € TTC / GD : > 7 € TTC ),
– mise en bouteille en région restreinte de production
And this is a CIVL powerpoint PROJET DE SEGMENTATION DE L’OFFRE DES AOC which ostensibly originates from that June assemblee referred to in the Drinks Business article.
So I guess the plan is just to limit each tier to a certain yield, certain price per bottle, total number of producers, certain size of plantation, and quantity of production (although this should really be a function of yield and size of plantations).
Anyway, this is a really long post just to say that I don’t really know what I think about this new strategy. If the CIVL continues to operate in a way that even a winemaker like me who spends a great deal of effort trying to stay branché has no idea what they’re doing, I don’t see how this new system of classification can “transform the Languedoc into a profitable, quality wine?making region”. A rose by any other name.
But at the same time, I’m glad to see they’re sending out positive press releases and that people are reading that stuff. Because hey, we deserve grands crus just as much as Bordeaux if not more.
PS – One of the execs at the CIVL said that the new hierarchy will “mould the future of the Languedoc region for the next 15 years.” … Even that seems a little ambitious. I feel like I’m probably going to have more impact on this region than some system of classification put forth by the CIVL (who has lost a lot of gumption in the Freche years) but I guess that’s a subject for another post.