from the REPublic: I love Languedoc

September 6, 2011 · 3 comments

A view of Collioure

I really really do!  It could be the sun, sea, and schist of Collioure, the beautiful rugged landscape of the Catalan highlands, or the ruins of Quéribus perched above the windswept vineyards of Maury . Maybe it’s my soft spot for Carignan, or the golden hue of Rivesaltes Ambré in the glass, the fantastic values and diversity that can be found among the region, or the salt-of-the-earth people tending the vines and making the wines… this is a place of wildness and romance…

… and then of course there’s Cassoulet…  but that’s beside the point.

The fact of the matter is that the region has suffered from a bit of an image problem over the past few decades. And the many wineries that are striving to change this image armed with nothing but honesty, hard work, and the fruits of their harvest are often at a disadvantage as lazy Winebuyer knows what sells in his establishment… Rhone. Bordeaux. Burgundy. Yawn. Don’t get me wrong, there’s obviously a place for these other “best-selling” regions and they deserve their kudos as well. But, dear winebuyer, you are depriving your customers when you ignore entire regions and their many AOCs therein. 

Dear winebuyer,

You knew I only had Languedoc wines to offer you, and that you’re totally uninterested in the region.  But you’re so incredibly polite that you arranged for me to meet you and open several bottles of wine over the course of hour-long appointment.  And you were so gentle when you let me down, telling me there were no circumstances under which you’d ever buy a bottle from that region.  I’m glad you didn’t make that clear before meeting.

I’m glad because your insightful comments into the wines we tasted have really opened my eyes to the inner workings of the wine business.  You pointed to the shelf with about a dozen SKUs from the Languedoc Roussillon, wines I recognized to be mass produced supermarket wines.  You pointed to those bottles and said “I can’t sell any of the wine I have from your region.”  And I can’t understand why you’re having trouble moving these wines that are readily available in every supermarket in the country at 60% of your retail price.  It’s so strange that bigger companies that move millions of bottles can offer such competition to a shrewd independent merchant such as yourself.

And then you immediately pointed out that my portfolio had another problem.  It was nothing like the other wines you’ve tasted from my region.  The ones you can’t sell.  You’re right of course.  The wines I’m offering are nothing like the ones you can’t sell.  In order to appeal to businesses like yours, I should find wines that closely resemble the ones you can’t sell.  Then you will gladly buy them and be unable to sell them.  It’s good for you, good for me, and most importantly it sends a positive message to the producers who have foolishly poured their lives into their work for decades.  Thank god you’ve shared your view point with me so that I can relay it back to the wine producers.  Make wine we can’t sell, you fools!

You shared your opinion with me instead of buying wine.  And I have to admit that the lesson I learned today was far better than a sale.

Your devoted student,
Wine Rep.

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