Tips on buying Languedoc wines
Jamie Ivey, formerly a lawyer in London, gave up his career to undertake an improbable quest - finding the palest rosé in France.
He is now a full time writer and will complete a move to the south of France by the end of this summer.
Find out more about the book by visiting
Hangover free hols in Languedoc wine country...
You’ve been rammed on an overcrowded flight from the UK, sweated your way through baggage reclaim, queued for the hire car, got lost, asked a local, and then finally found the right village. It’s near the end of a gloriously hot day and everybody’s craning their necks to get the first glimpse of the Mas. Will it look like the photos in the brochure?
There’s relief almost euphoria when it does - the pool is glinting, the air is heavy with the scent of herbs, the grounds throb with cicadas, and the first thing you want to do is settle down with a glass of wine. The easiest option is to rush off down to the local hypermarket and buy all the wine for the week, after all rosé is only €3 a bottle. But, unless you want to spend your holiday with a throbbing headache, don’t succumb to temptation.
Ignore the lure of the nearest Géant, pick up something at the Petit Casino and leave the proper wine shopping until the next day.
There are three different types of wine producers in Languedoc:- récoltants, négociants, and co-ops. A récoltant makes and bottles his own wine on the premises, a négociant buys other people’s wines in great quantity and mixes them together and co-ops make wine by pooling the grapes of all the growers in the area.
Most supermarkets in the UK and France stock négociant and co-op wines, because (with some exceptions) they tend to be mass produced and therefore cheaper. The wine you should drink while you are on holiday is made by récoltants - the small producers who are being squeezed out of business by the international wine industry.
You may provoke a debate which will last all morning but the best way to track down a good récoltant is to ask for a recommendation in the local boulangerie or boucherie, preferably for a vigneron who still hand harvests (vendange a main). Typically you’ll be directed deep into the countryside where nothing but dirt tracks de-lineate the rows of vines that march over the horizon. Then all you have to do is avoid the seemingly ubiquitous and ferocious vineyard dogs and fill your boot for the week.
There’s no comparison between drinking something you’ve plucked from a supermarket shelf and a wine from a vineyard you’ve visited, somehow you can taste the land – the crumbling soil and the gnarled old vines plunging their roots deep to find water.
There are other advantages too – a hand harvested wine is likely to have had fewer chemicals added – machine harvesting can bruise the grapes meaning that fermentation begins in the field and not in the carefully controlled environment of the cave. Chemicals then need to be added to stabilise the wine. And if the resulting wine is transported over long distances to be mixed with other wines by a négociant, more chemicals will be stirred into the soup. The result for the unwary consumer of cheap supermarket rosé is a horrible headache the next morning.
So leave the Paracetamol at home and make sure that you buy from a good local Languedoc producer this summer.
- Jamie Ivey