Sunday, 22 June 2014

A wine book the Languedoc could do with

Wine books specific to the Languedoc are a mixed bag, but then that's the case for any wine region. The challenge; the Languedoc-Roussillon is vast and a hotbed of new entrants. This makes the useful half-life of any book covering growers and their wine much reduced.

Three books stand out for me.

Languedoc-Roussillon: The Wines and Winemakers by Paul Strang has given most pleasure. Published in 2002 and out of print, but still worth acquiring second hand.

Rosemary George's The Wines of the South of France is of the same era, 2001, and is the definitive English guide with a focus on producers. Available for the Amazon Kindle, a physical copy will be tougher to track down. Fortunately Rosemary is a prolific poster on the region's definitive wine blog

While the above two will appeal to aficionados, The Wines of the Languedoc-Roussillon by Wendy Gedney (2014) is an up to date introduction that will excel at inspiring and educating wine lovers to the region's total wine culture. Don't expect many producer recommendations - that need is best served by blogs these days. Read more about Wendy, her wine holidays and her book on

I must also mention Virgile's Vineyard: A Year in the Languedoc Wine Country by Patrick Moon
(2004 and 2013). More an insight into local life with an appeal well beyond wine buffs, although I found Patric's food and produce orientated follow up Arrazat's Aubergines: Inside a Languedoc Kitchen and even better read.

The reality of publishing and publishers today means new specialist subject books are in decline. However, there is an alternative approach for authors. A year of so ago I took a punt and helped "crowd fund" Wink Lorch's book project Jura Wine. She regularly presents at my local Charlemagne Wine Club and the evenings are always left-field, passionate and through provoking.

Sufficient backers paid for a copy in advance to go beyond just securing publication and Wink was able to write 350 pages with some tasteful professional photographs. Wherever you need it delivered to, you can purchase a copy directly from Wink here

Does the Jura and Languedoc have anything in common?  For any overlap in wine styles you need to go the vin naturel route - the Jura is home to the father of modern natural wine in France, Pierre Overnoy. Less tenuous and more relevant, both are under appreciated and little understood regions.

Is such a fine book viable for the Languedoc? The Jura has 200 vignerons and the majority are presented in Wink's book and required several months of research visits. The Languedoc is simply so much bigger. The Herault valley area alone has over 200 producers and even Rosemary George's master-work covers barely 20.

I can't see anything remotely comprehensive in print happening, but more musings on this later.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

La Clape hail damage

A hail storm hit La Clape on the evening of Friday 13th June and has caused significant damage, especially on the western (Narbonne) flank of the massif. Starting with hail stones the size of peas the storm lasted some 45 minutes with peach stone sized lumps doing the damage. Some 250 ha have been affected to varying degrees.

Chateau Ricardelle, with wines listed by no less than Berry Brothers & Rudd in the UK, has been the worst hit and will lose 90% of their crop from 38 ha of vines. Neighbour Domaine Peche Redon is reported to have lost an estimated third. As well as impacting the 2014 harvest, damage to the vine growth that will form buds the following year will severely affect 2015.

Hail damage in the Languedoc is rare and most vineyards are not specifically insured for hail damage. Perhaps the best hope will be for the ministry of agriculture to declare a natural disaster that will mean at least some payments will be made in compensation.

I have a particular fondness for the massif having helped pick grapes in a private vineyard near Peche Redon.