Languedoc Roussillon Adopts Champagne Approach

Following the disastrous frosts of 2021, and increasingly variable crops, producers of IGP Pays d’Oc wines are looking to introduce Champagne-style reserves to enable them to offer regular supplies.

Reading time: 1m 50s

Carcassonne (Photo: Pabkov/AdobeStock)
Carcassonne (Photo: Pabkov/AdobeStock)

 

  • As a result of climate change, harvest yields – especially in Europe -are more variable than in the past
  • European producers compete with New World regions that are often able to provide more regular volumes
  • To regularise production, Champagne first introduced non-vintage wine, then an officially sanctioned system of holding back reserve wine in plentiful harvests.
  • The producers of IGP Pays d’Oc are following that example
  • This seems likely to lead to more non-vintage IGP Pays’Oc wine

 

Champagne has a long experience of living with a variable climate – which explains why that region developed the concept of non-vintage blends that has been so successful.

Other wine regions, including areas like Languedoc Roussillon where torrents of inexpensive, daily-drinking wine are produced every year, have continued to print vintages on their labels – while taking advantage of the legal dispensation that allows up to 15% of the contents of any bottle to be from previous or subsequent harvests.

In Champagne, there is also a tradition of officially sanctioned reserve wine known as ‘blocage’ that is set aside after plentiful crops for use when frost or hail reduces yields.

Now, the members of the association that represents the Pays d'Oc PGI, seems to have recognised the wisdom of this approach.  As the French journal Vitisphere reported, Jacques Gravegal, long-standing président of the ODG Pays d'Oc association, told its General Assembly on April 29th that "After last year's frost, we immediately studied solutions to avoid these production jolts that are detrimental to market balance. We were inspired by the proven Champagne model, adapting it to our region."

The first fruits of this research followed the 2020 creation of the BIC (Besoin Individuel de Commercialisation – individual sales requirement) that takes account of the five-year average production for each enterprise to establish the amount of wine they need to be able to offer their customers.

“The BIC makes it possible to have a production target in line with the market target. Everyone knows what they have to produce.” said Olivier Simonou, president of InterOc.

Now, in addition to the BIC, from the 2022 harvest, it is proposed that growers also be allowed to set aside ‘voluntary individual reserves’ for PGI Oc. These would be up to 15% above the BIC (Individual Operating Requirement).

As in Champagne, this kind of arcane official system – unthinkable in the New World with which the Languedoc Roussillon producers compete – may seem to have little relevance to  anyone outside the region. However, when, as seems inevitable, it is ratified by the French government, it will simplify the relationship between cooperatives in particular and their customers, allowing them to sign long term supply contracts that are currently impossible.

For the moment, there is no discussion of moving to greater volumes of non-vintage IGP Pays d’Oc wines, but as the concept of blending wine from different years becomes more routine, this next step seems increasingly likely. Especially as most consumers buy these wines for near-immediate consumption and have little if any interest in the vintage on their labels.

Latest Articles