Rise of Languedoc ‘cru’ a sign of things to come

The “unprecedented” speed with which Terrasses du Larzac has achieved AOC status is just the beginning, according to one MW.

Matthew Stubbs MW

Matthew Stubbs MW (centre left) and winemaker Andre Leenhardt in a vinyard in Pic Saint Loup

Terrasses du Larzac was submitted to the French national appellation body, the INAO, for AOC status on 1 July 2010.

This week, as reported in the drinks business, its new classification was approved.

According to Matthew Stubbs MW, the timeframe within which Terrasses du Larzac has achieved recognition is impressive.

“The fast-track of Terrasses du Larzac to AOC is unprecedented for the Languedoc, the last one to do it was Picpoul de Pinet and it took them nearly 20 years, it took Corbières 26 years,” he said.

Stubbs, head of Vinicole, the centre for wine education in Languedoc-Roussillon, has been based in the region for 11 years and believes there are many reasons why this has happened to Terrasses du Larzac.

He said: “You’ve got to look at their track record for at least the last decade, there’s been a really high proportion of top end wines produced.”

“As an example look at Olivier Jullien at Jullien Mas who’s been operating since 1986 and maintained a top reputation for over 20 years.”

Also operating at the top end, albeit outside the specifications of the greater AOC, are producers such Mas de Daumas Gassac, famously referred to by French gastronomic bible, Gault Millau, as the ‘Lafite Rothschild of the Languedoc.

But it’s not the star producers who have the potential to make the region great, says Stubbs, it’s something broader.

“There is a collective will which has helped elevate Terrasses du Larzac, it really means something when they put Terrasses du Larzac on the label,” he said.

“There’s a sense of people working to put together a quality product and working together to do so.”

This quality has brought Terrasses du Larzac its own appellation and France’s newest AOC is following in some esteemed footsteps according to Stubbs who noted: “If you look at the Rhone 40 years ago, Côte Rôtie could be picked up for pennies and Condrieu had all but disappeared.”

Recognition took a bit of time for Côte Rôtie but Stubbs insisted that the portents are good for Terrasses du Larzac.

He said: “There’s been lost of investment since 2000 not just locally but from outside the region and internationally.”

“There’s also been lots of press interest for five or six years,” he said, referring to wine writers such as Andrew Jefford who’ve been championing the region for some time.”

Other factors also play their part including climatic and geographical characteristics which Stubbs says make Terrasses du Larzac unique.

“It’s a big area with a huge range of soil types and different micro climates and the Larzac plateau has a positive influence on rain fall and temperature.”

Some parts of the new AOC also share traits with one of France’s most highly regarded regions, Châteauneuf du Pape, namely the galets or “pudding stones” which act to continue ripening the vines throughout the evening.

Pricing will also be effected by the change.

“The region represents excellent value and prices will go up but they’ll still be good value, it’s simply a matter of market recognition and there will be upward pressure on pricing,” said Stubbs.

Stubbs believe there is also likely to be a positive impact on how the region is marketed with a change from Coteaux de Languedoc Terrasses du Larzac to Terrasses du Larzac as it “simplifies things for people” with the name now a “smaller mouthful.”

 

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