The Tasting Panel magazine

July 2014

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36  /  the tasting panel  /  july 2014 APPELLATIONS R iding the wave of interest in off-the- radar wines, producers in southwestern France are showing off a new pride of place, hoping to capture the imagination of Millennial drinkers who now routinely turn the other cheek when it comes to fussy wines. At the forefront of this new wave of wine promoters is the Pays d'Oc. Known as Vins de Pays (country wine) until 2009, it is now a recognized IGP (Indication Géographique Protégée) spanning 88,000 hectares over four departments in the Languedoc-Roussillon and neighboring Lozère. The Pays d'Oc image was first cultivated in 1987 by pioneering producers Robert Skalli and Jacques Gravegeal. And while the designation isn't exactly new, the message is: No longer known as simple country wine, the added IGP designation comes with a guaran- tee of quality, traceability and origin—a first for this region once known for bargain wine of dubious quality. Producers have "renovated and restructured the vineyards . . . and we are now under a system of quality control," says Delphine Lorentz, Communications Director for the Pays d'Oc IGP. An external bureau tests some 22,000 samples annually for certification; those not passing are downgraded to table wine and cannot use the designation on their label. The Pays d'Oc IGP Producers Union created a three-tier identity for the wines: "Collection" for premium wines; "Style" for everyday, value wines; and "Seduction" for the entry-level segment, which may come in bottles, cans and Tetra Pak. A 21-member "Brand Club" was created to facilitate promotion and adherence to brand principles and messaging. Large vignerons such as Gérard Bertrand and Jean-Claude Mas of the Arrogant Frog brand have long been unofficial ambassadors for the region. But now, Lorentz says, "[More] producers are concentrating on getting the best out of their domaines," and letting people know that the "cheap and cheerful" label no longer applies. "The idea of varietal wines was crazy in the South of France," says Emmanuel Floutier, who runs the 300-year-old estate Domaine du Grand Chemin with his father, Jean-Marc, in the village of Savignargues. "No one thought we had a denomination with specific charac- teristics." Their domaine produces wines that "speak more of the territory than of terroir," says his father, sporting a straw hat with the Pays d'Oc logo. Jean-Claude Mas is so confident about the Pays d'Oc's future, he's created yet another new label and a hospitality venue built around it. The stylish Côté Mas brand consists of three wines (red, white and rosé) and a year-old restaurant. Mas, no stranger to smart marketing, created sophisticated graphics for both based on Art Deco travel posters to impart sophistication and joie de vivre. "We are still in a region where we have a lot to do for the name, so presentation is important," he said. Côté Mas launched in the U.S. this spring. Mas, one of the top three private producers in the region, says he hopes to replicate the success of the Arrogant Frog brand by emphasizing heritage wines for the new generation of drinkers. "A lot of people come here and look for something authentic without going crazy," he said. "My dream is to have Languedoc wines that are modern and traditional but sill IGP." "This is a region where you can do what- ever you want and it is your call to do it right," he said. FRANCE'S PAYS D'OC GETS AN IGP . . . AND NEW RESPECT by Lana Bortolot Out from Under the Radar Côté Mas cel- ebrates the lifestyle of the Pays d'Oc. Jean-Claude Mas is one of the Pays d'Oc region's unofficial ambassadors. PHOTO © INTER OC Pays d'Oc vineyards at Château de Cassan.

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