Big Split in the French wine region

© Fra Gaul
| Fitou is once again leaving the wider Languedoc appellation, and it’s not the only one.

It’s been around for a while, but it’s still a shock to hear that two of Languedoc’s best-known sub-regions are leaving the appellation and going solo.

It’s the biggest story in a week of upheaval for the wine world, which has also seen spammers slammed, looters rewarded and vineyards grow. Read on for other news you may have missed this week.

Fitou and Corbières leave Languedoc

If you thought international relations were a little strained, it’s just as bad regionally in Languedoc. Since July 2021, unease has been bubbling between several representatives within the CIVL (the Languedoc wine trade body) and, all too predictably, eventually boiled over with Fitou and Corbières set to leave the organisation.

The head of the Corbières winegrowers’ union, Olivier Verdale, told French wine news site this week that representatives of his organization had voted unanimously to leave the CIVL by 2023 but that, according to the terms of their association, there are still 18 months to find a solution.

“The ball is in their court,” Verdale said.

After celebrating the 10th anniversary of his return to the fold, Fitou is preparing to leave the organization again (Fitou left the CIVL in 2006 and returned in 2012). In addition, the head of the Fitou winegrowers’ union, Alain Gleyzes, is also building a reputation loud and clear as a man with lively metaphors, based on transport, attentive to the situation.

“We ordered a taxi but got stuck in the row, paying for gas,” he told Vitisphere this week. In August, the problem was still fuel-related, but with a more menacing air: “I don’t want to shell out gas for a car that I’m not going to take a ride in. […] I think I’d rather stab a tire and pour sugar in the tank.”

Two other regions (Malpère and Faugères) were to follow suit although Malpère has since voted to stay.

The spat revolves around procedure within the CIVL and a previously informal understanding that so-called “direct sellers” could sit on the organisation’s assembly of wine merchants (negociants). This practice ended in July last year (bringing the CIVL into line with other wine trade bodies across the country, but causing much local wailing and gnashing of teeth).

For a general recap of the original situation, see article #4 here.

Australian wine retailer slammed for spam

A Melbourne-based wine retailer has been fined A$200,000 ($140,000) for breaching telemarketing and spam laws after calling and texting people who had already opted out of marketing offers. The Wine Group, whose retail stores Top Drop and Oak Road Estate, not only sent unsolicited messages and calls to people who had previously unsubscribed, they allegedly continued to do so after being warned by the ‘ACMA (Australian Communications and Media Authority) – a bold move, but unlikely to win the sympathy of the authorities.

“We have contacted The Wine Group on several occasions to let them know that we have received consumer complaints about its marketing,” ACMA President Nerida O’Loughlin told the Australian Associated Press. “This regulator contact was not taken as an opportunity to resolve the issues, therefore, we have this action against The Wine Group.”

As well as paying over A$200,000 in fines, the retailer was ordered to appoint an independent consultant to review its compliance over the next three years.

Ribera del Duero obtains the first Vino de Pago

If you ever want to illustrate the problem with Spain’s supposedly highest appellation – the single estate, Vino de Pago, title – look no further than recent news that the Ribera del Duero region is to get its first estate. of this type.

Because while the largest winery in the region (and, by all accounts, the country), Vega Sicilia, could potentially be considered a Vino de Pago – more likely a Vino de Pago (A), to borrow to another controversial ranking – you have to drive 15 minutes further west, on the so-called “golden mile” of Ribera, to get to Bodegas Vizar, the region’s first Vino de Pago.

While such sarcasm should in no way detract from the quality of Bodegas Vizar’s wines (indeed, all judgment of quality and merit is probably best left in the hands of those familiar with Vizar’s wines), the juxtaposition of the region’s official estate with that of what is, especially in Spain itself, considered one of the world’s great wines, does the already controversial title no favors.

Nonetheless, Bodegas Vizar and its 90-hectare (220-acre) Dehesa Peñalba estate, just east of the city of Valladolid, had been claiming the title since 2015. According to Spanish foodie publication Sobremesa, the vineyard is planted with the regional mainstay Tempranillo as well as Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

“We are extremely proud to have entered the exclusive world of Vinos de Pago,” Isabel Turrado, director of Bodegas Vizar, told the publication. “But above all, it opens the way for other wine estates in the region to work in this direction.”

The title Vino de Pago, created in 2003, has long been controversial. “DO Pago was doomed from the start, because everything that becomes official and bureaucratic in Spain then becomes political,” renowned Spanish writer and winery owner Victor de la Serna told in 2014.

More local vineyards are springing up in France

After the story of a local group of wine lovers planting a vineyard in the village of Angles in the Vendée department of western France (see news item n°5 here), comes others news about establishing vineyards in unexpected parts of rural France.

The first is Lèves, just north of Chartres and 70km (40 miles) southwest of the outskirts of Paris (and 140km / 80 miles northeast of Tours) where a local band – La Vigne de Lèves – planted two hectares (five acres) of Romorantin Blanc, the grape variety best associated with the Cour-Cheverny appellation about 120 km (75 miles) to the south.

“We are an association, we do not pass ourselves off as winegrowers or winegrowers,” group boss François Mebs told local newspaper Le Parisien. The group plans to learn about viticulture and winemaking and hopes to produce its first wine by 2026.

“We are not pros. We will all learn, with the help of the nurseryman and with the help of the winegrowers who will guide us”, adds Mebs. the plantation was financed by the group thanks to the adhesion of the members of the association and sponsorship. The wine produced, provisionally entitled “Blanc de Lèves” will not be marketed and will be intended for consumption at local and association events.

It won’t be the first time the region has seen grapes. There is already a small wine production scene in the region covering rosé and sparkling wines and, as with much of France, the region was home to vineyards in the early to mid 19th century.

“The area was covered in vineyards, with many wine growers,” Mebs said. “All that disappeared in the 19th century with the arrival of the railway and the arrival of phylloxera.

And in another obscure wine region of France: this time Vorey, just north of Le Puy-en-Velay, about 120 km southwest of Lyon, in the Haute-Loire department. Here, a local group dubbed the Confrérie de Vourei (they have their own robes) have had mixed fortunes reviving old plantations of Baco Noir and Oberlin vines (a hybrid from a cross of Gamay and Vitis riparia) – the two hybrids that had helped to partially revive French wine production after the ravages of phylloxera.

Despite the help of benevolent winegrowers over the past four years (the Confrérie was created in 2012 after five years as “Association des Vignerons de Vourei”), it was not easy.

“[The winemakers] helps us a lot to improve the final product,” said one of the Confrérie, Gérard Deygas, to the regional daily Le Progrès. “For example, our wine tasted like a stable. We said to ourselves that it came from the place since we vinified the wine in an old farm. But even after changing location, the result was the same. We then learned that it was a recurring problem with the Baco grape when you don’t have everything under control.”

Nevertheless, the Vorey Wine Brotherhood now produces two wines a year from a half-hectare vineyard or, in local parlance, seven Voreysian (1.2 acre) “cartonnées”. According to the head of the Brotherhood, Gilles Collange, 2100 vines have been planted in a neighboring town and the local passion for viticulture is spreading.

“There is a real craze around wine and ancient grape varieties in Haute-Loire,” said Collange. “More and more young people are settling here. Also, in the fall, we will organize a seminar for Haute-Loire winegrowers right here in Vorey.

Locals get supplies from an overturned wine truck

Now let’s move on to Argentina, where an overturned wine truck on Highway 89 in the country’s northern Chaco province allowed several less scrupulous residents of the town of Charata to stock up on red wine . The truck reportedly hit a pothole, knocking a large number of bottles over the edge, some of which survived the accident.

With the Malbec red grass, locals were captured on video using a range of ploys to take off with the bottles intact, including stopping at the roadside to load a few into the back of a utility vehicle .

“Calm as an iguana, this guy,” said the man behind the camera. “Son of…”, he added, pans to another local running away with a wheelbarrow loaded with bottles.

According to the regional newspaper Los Andes, police officers present at the incident were also seen loading bottles into patrol cars.

This was not an isolated incident – see also the story of the looting of a wine truck by police last year – Los Andes also pointing out that a similar episode, albeit a bit more chaotic (and horrible), happened in Córdoba, central Argentina, last month after a truck carrying 280 pigs overturned, scattering live and dead pigs on the tarmac.

“Footage of the incident shows police arriving at the scene to take appropriate action as residents dragged screaming piglets into trucks, possibly with the intention of butchering them,” the newspaper said.

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