Rosé Wine Session
7 to 9 March 2023
Montpellier, Pays d’Oc
The home of varietal wines
For 30 years, the winegrowers producing Pays d’Oc wines have been the driving force behind the success of varietal wines and the reputation of this Protected Geographical Indication. To express their creative spirit, they can draw on a vast array of 58 grape varieties and 120,000 hectares of vineyards set between the sea and the mountains, soaking up the multiple influences of a temperate Mediterranean climate. A significant 30% of Pays d’Oc production is now rosé, making it one of the most significant producer regions of the colour in the world. The choice of Montpellier to host the Rosé Session of the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles from 7 to 9 March 2023 is therefore no accident.
From the Camargue to the Pyrenees, the sun-drenched wine routes that were once trodden by the Greeks and the Romans 26 centuries ago, are now home to 13,000 Pays d’Oc winegrowers spread across four departments – Hérault, Aude, Gard and Pyrénées-Orientales, along with six localities in Lozère. Since 1 August 2009, Pays d’Oc wines have been entitled to display an official quality trust mark – PGI/IGP or Protected Geographical Indication. It guarantees that 100% of the wines sporting the designation come from the wine region. For Pays d’Oc winegrowers, this official recognition crowns thirty years of hard work within the Pays d’Oc production area. Specifications for the endorsement incorporate the-then innovative concept of varietal wine which has become the linchpin of the designation’s identity. Also, 100% of IGP Pays d’Oc wines are tasted and certified.
92% of the IGP Pays d’Oc range of wines are single varietals, which means they come from just one grape variety. Varietal wine is the cornerstone of the designation and production specifications feature a whopping 58 different grapes to choose from. The range embraces both world famous ‘star’ grapes like Merlot, Cabernet-Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon and Viognier, but also lesser known varieties, some of which have a distinct Mediterranean accent, like Grenache, Rolle, Syrah and Carignan. This extensive array of varieties promotes an endless range of aromatic characters. In terms of output, IGP Pays d’Oc production volumes are consistent from year to year, with each vintage producing approximately 6 million hectolitres across all three colours. Red wines lead the way, with 45% of total volumes, followed by rosés with 30% and whites with 25%.
A tradition of winegrowing spanning 26 centuries
Pays d’Oc is home to one of the richest histories of winegrowing, both in terms of vineyards and human input. For 26 centuries, the tempo here has been set by trade and cultural exchanges around the Mediterranean rim.
The Greeks, then the Romans, were quick to leverage the fabulous potential of the land and introduced vineyards which were acclaimed by Pliny the Elder and Strabo as early as the 1st century AD. The ancient ‘Via Domitia’ borders the vineyards of Pays d’Oc for over 200 km and is a testament to the presence of vineyards and distribution of wine throughout the Roman Empire. Under the ‘Ancien Régime’, wines from Pays d’Oc were served at the tables of the kings of France. Markets developed in Northern Europe, paving the way for new trade exchanges. During the reign of the Sun King Louis XIV, Pierre-Paul Riquet built the Canal du Midi, connecting the Mediterranean to the Atlantic. The structure, now a Unesco World Heritage site, opened up a significant window of opportunity for Languedoc and Roussillon wines in Northern Europe. Demand rapidly grew and vines went from being planted on the hillsides down towards the plains. In the 1970s and 1980s, greater internationalisation of the market for wine and higher standards led winegrowers to restructure their vineyards. The focus on varietal wines in Languedoc-Roussillon, promoted by winegrower Jacques Gravegeal and the dynamic Robert Skalli at the helm of the namesake company, illustrates the extent to which the production and marketing sides of the industry could successfully work together. The Languedoc wine industry thus tapped into an innovative, global market segment by creating a new category in 1987 – Vin de Pays d’Oc, which in 2009 became Pays d’Oc Protected Geographical Indication.
The Pays d’Oc region
The Pays d’Oc wine region embraces four departments in Languedoc-Roussillon which is part of the broader Occitanie region: Pyrénées-Orientales, Aude, Hérault, Gard and six localities in southern Lozère. Forming an arch along the Mediterranean, it stretches from the Spanish border to the Rhone delta. Its 120,000 hectares of vineyards are home to myriad landscapes and contrasting weather patterns. The land is shaped in terraces facing the Mediterranean and combines mountains, high-level plateaux, mountain foothills, mid-level plateaux and the coastline. The climate in Pays d’Oc is Mediterranean, with Atlantic influences to the West and continental influences to the East. Four prevailing winds sweep across the region – the Mistral, Tramontane, Marin and Autan. These weather conditions ensure the vines stay healthy and the fruit ripens naturally. A mosaic of soils – clay-limestone, limestone, gneiss, schist and gravel at the foot of the hills – instils Pays d’Oc wines with their inimitable character.
A producers’ organisation with a mission
With production of 6 million hectolitres, IGP Pays d’Oc accounts for over 50% of total wine output in Languedoc-Roussillon. The IGP Pays d’Oc producers’ organisation – which is tasked with safeguarding and promoting the designation – conducts administrative and sensory inspections at 100% of companies and on 100% of wines that apply for IGP Pays d’Oc certification. Every year, 18,000 tanks are checked by agents from the organisation who take samples. In 2009, IGP Pays d’Oc took steps to protect its wine region and the people who work there, introducing a sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme, ‘Pays d’Oc Vineyard in Progress®’. Every year, the wines are tasted anonymously by an inspection board comprising 350 professional wine tasters.