A few weeks back France gained a new appellation: AOC / AOP Terrasses du Larzac. It used to be a separate sub-designation within the greater Languedoc appellation: “Languedoc Terrasses du Larzac”. The INAO gave its approval on June 26, 2014 for it to become its own appellation, without any mention Languedoc. But was it a good idea?
The new Terrasses du Larzac appellation is located in an area west and north of Montpellier. It covers 2000 hectares spread out over 32 communes. There are 60 independent wine producers and 5 cooperatives. The altitude is between 80 and 200 metres. There are large variations in the soil but much of it is clay-limestone.
The wines from Terrasses du Larzac are archetypical Languedoc wines. They are made from the classic Languedoc varieties and often have a genuine southern warm style, full-bodied, with a lot of herbs and spices. The Languedoc garrigue.
Here’s a sign that now will have to be changed:
Here are the key rules for the appellation:
- AOC Terrasses du Larzac is only for red wines
- The wines must be a blend of a minimum of three grape varieties
- Five varieties are permitted: grenache, mourvèdre, carignan, syrah and cinsault
- Maximum yield is 45 hl/ha
- a) Grenache, mourvèdre, syrah and carignan must together represent a minimum of 75%. b) no single grape variety may represent more than 75%. These two rules apply to the planting in the vineyard (not the wines).
- The wines should be aged (i.e. not released to the market) at least 12 months.
This is the second unique appellation that has come out of the once all-encompassing “Coteaux du Languedoc” (which no longer exists). The first “own” appellation was, curiously, the white Picpoul de Pinet.
We must of course say congratulations to the ambitious growers of this new appellation. They make excellent wines. They have of course made excellent wines for a long time. The new appellation is in a way a “government” recognition of the quality.
But is it good?
The wines are, as I mentioned, good. Excellent. Delicious. Genuinely Languedoc.
But is this new appellation a good idea?
I am not so sure.
Many wine regions and micro-regions tend to insist that “we are different” and therefore they think that they should be recognised under a different name. Many a new appellation has been created like this.
Creating a new appellation also tends to force the wine producers to improve the quality of their wines, which is of course a good idea.
But from a consumer perspective and from a marketing & sales perspective I don’t think it necessarily is a good idea.
Languedoc is becoming a well-known name. In France it has, unfortunately, not the best of reputations, due to its history as a volume wine region. But outside of France “Languedoc” is well on its way to become well-known as a region in the south of France producing very good quality affordable wines.
But has any wine lover in the US or the UK, or China or any other significant market ever heard of Terrasses du Larzac? Hardly. Have they heard of the Languedoc? Yes, most likely, with a positive image of the south of France tied to it.
Does it make sense to change name from one that is becoming known for quality wines to one that virtually no one has heard of?…
So if the wine producers in Terrasses du Larzac want to export their wines, then I think it was not a wise choice. If they want to sell their wines only in France, then it was – perhaps – a good, or at least an acceptable choice.
It is again the decision of emphasising “we are unique” rather than thinking of what makes sense for the consumers.
More excellent Terrasses du Larzac producers
BKWine’s guest writer David Furer has written a series of four articles on BKWine Magazine on wines and producers in the Terrasses du Larzac. He has met, among others, high quality producers Mas Cal Demoura, Mas de l’Écriture, Mas Jullien, Mas de Chimères and Domaine du Pas de l’Escalette as well as several others.
Read his four articles here:
- Terrasses du Larzac in the heart of the Languedoc wine region
- Terrasses du Larzac wine producers (1): Mas des Chimères, Mas Conscience, La Pèira en Damaisèla, Le Clos du Serres
- Terrasses du Larzac wine producers (2): Château de Jonquières, Mas de l’Écriture, Mas Cal Demoura, Mas Jullien
- Terrasses du Larzac wine producers (3): Domaine du Pas de l’Escalette, Domaine de la Sauvageonne, Vignes Oubliées
We have written a book about the wines and the winemakers of the Languedoc. Unfortunately it is as yet only available in Swedish.
Travel to the world’s wine regions with the experts in wine and the specialist in wine travel.
The unique wine tour experience!
This post is also available in: Swedish