Friday, 2 March 2012


I headed down to Montpellier on Sunday for the biggest wine fair of the year exclusively for wines from the Midi and the Rhone … right up my street! The fair has grown hugely since it started back in 2003.

I remember the first one, couldn’t afford the bus fare there let alone a stand and I still owe Maurynates J Montagne of Clos del Rey, D Laffite of Domaine Soulanes and JR Calvet (now partner with the famous St.Emilion garagiste Jean-Luc Thunevin) for the ride and the hotel room floor! But I will always remember those few days where I was able to taste the delights of the Midi grape varietals together in one place for the first time.

We were all there this time round too, but we each had our own transport, own wines to be proud of and thankfully, our own hotel rooms! For me, even only ten years ago this seemed like a far off dream; to be able to afford the time away from our vineyards to travel to a wine fair.

In that first visit, us lot from Maury were (and still are) Grenache fanatics be it noir, gris or blanc. Having the opportunity to taste the diversity of many other tiny appellations and meet the producers of the Midi and Rhone region was what I can only imagine meeting people from the outskirts of the universe is like; we just didn’t think it was possible!

But now we can, due to more people drinking wine, transport, more exposure on social networks, TV, books, shops and restaurants. I always remember how long it took to get myself to Tavel once to taste my favourite Grenache rosé … and there they all were on one stand! You just need to taste and talk.

I made the most of my time at this fair by firstly annoying a very well turned out Corsican stand, tasting every Vermentino on offer plus a few from under the counter reserved for better clients! Now, three vintages into making my ‘Un Vent de Folie’ Vermentino, I absolutely loved the wines on offer from all over the island and there were plenty of new winemaking ideas to try for my next vintage. My personal standouts were the very different styles of Clos Canarelli from Figari and the Domaine Leccia from Patromonio; I didn’t get time to taste the reds, hopefully next year.

Heading southwards out of Hall 6 I didn’t get very far before stumbling on the Rhone wines … I admittedly got rather lost tasting some stunning 2010 Châteauneuf-du-Papes now in bottle. Finally I made it through to home turf, the Roussillon. Familiar faces everywhere, none other more for me than the best Maury winemaker of all, Daniel Lafitte with his ever-supporting wife Kathy.

I have been in France long enough now to not flinch from cheek kisses and hugs from hardy vignerons, but I was glad it was over and we could get on tasting some of his wines. His wines are fantastic and our evolution of Grenache winemaking has been very similar, from the days of the richest oaky wines to today’s preferred fruit-filled styles. Daniel is an organic producer, but can’t be arsed to go to Perpignan to fill out all the paper work to get it credited. He says it would be valuable time away from the vineyards! I love the way Daniel’s winemaking style has evolved and he is still someone I drink wines from all over the world with … always over a great Catalan dish on his little farm nestled in between Maury and Tautavel.

After the Roussillon section I headed to the ‘International’ section. The French were clearly the hosts as they had bundled all the Spanish, Italians, Turks, Moroccans and Portuguese together into a side hall! My mate Norrel Robertson the ‘Flying Scotsman’ – or Escosses Volante in Spanish – was there presenting his excellent wines from Calatayud. His white El Puno Viognier is just superb and the Grenaches grown on slate for his El Puno red and Manga del Bruja are really something.

That evening we went Grenache mad and joined the party at the G-night organised by the Grenache Symposium where people solely dedicated to Grenache showed their wines in a cool bar with DJ and tapas food. I will be showing the Chai Grenache’s next time round: GG, Un Vent de Folie and the XV du Président.


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