At the beginning of February a friend of mine asked me if I was going to Vinisud in Montpellier, France this year. I told him that I hadn’t honestly thought about it. After seeing that I could take a TGV/AVE train up there in two hours and get around on the tram, I thought why not? Any chance to dig in more to French wines is always a good thing to take advantage of as you can never really know enough about French wine.
Despite having pored over their very extensive and well set up website prior to arriving, when I stepped through the doors and put on my press badge, my immediate thought was, “Crap, what have I gotten myself in to?” To visit an event like this is to truly see how the wine markets of the world function. Sure, you can visit a fair local to where you live (if you live in a wine region that is) and maybe you’ll see 40 or 50 wineries. There were over 1,300 wineries at this year’s event. It is simply impossible to visit even 10% of them within the three days of the fair. So, you make a plan, which of course then gets shot in the foot when you bump in to friends from back home.
But, joking around with those you know only goes so far and after getting sidetracked a bit with the massive and utterly stunning wines being poured from the top top Rhône producers, I finally found my way to Crete. Why on earth would I drink Cretan wines when at a French fair? Simply because they were there and they were attainable with about 10-12 cellars present. Plus the crowds weren’t nearly as thick as in some of the other areas. I’ll talk more about that in a future article, but after spending most of a day there, it was time to hit some of the French wines.
And so I found myself at Châteauneuf-du-Pape. They came out in force with their own region stand and over 100 cellars showing off what makes them awesome. But it was an impressive showing of wines I hardly ever find myself able to taste. From classics like Vieux Télégraphe and Domaine Bosquet des Papes to whites like those of Domaine Nalys to countless new finds it was indeed solid proof that Châteauneuf is making some impressive wines these days albeit at prices that don’t allow me to casually sample them outside of fairs such as this. As a side note, while in the midst of this I stumbled across a Comté and Châteauneuf pairing that was decadent.
There were countless other regions I popped in and out of and the experience was overwhelming. I’m not thoroughly sure how the winemakers manage to attract importers in all of this, but they somehow do given that the main attendees are importers from all around the world. One thing that’s of important and most striking note was how much more egalitarian the wine world is in France than in Spain or even the US for that matter. While there were stands that some of the women winemakers had set up to feature their wines, there were plenty of women winemakers all around. Sure, there were probably more men winemakers (I didn’t really bother to count), but it shows that times have greatly changed. Also, on the tasting side of thing, there were plenty of women there as buyers, importers, and sommeliers. It was all a welcome change to the staid, cigar smoking boy’s club of some regions that is doing little for them to advance as winemakers.
Overall, a highly recommended visit if you’ve never been. Just come prepared to be serious, taste, write notes, talk real wine talk and not be full of shit, because if you are, you will be smelled long before you arrive.