June 2013
56 permitted grapes they do little to
help pin down the wines in the minds
of consumers.
About half of Pays d’Oc wines pro-
duced are exported. The U.S. currently
ranks seventh as an importer of Pays
d’Oc wines, with sales on the rise—up
29% over the previous year for the pe-
riod of January-September 2012. Much
of the growth owes to the region’s ea-
gerness and ability to adapt to consum-
er trends: Pays d’Oc wines are a go-to
source to fill innovative packages as
well as year-round rosé and affordable
renditions of varietal wines.
Since its debut in 2005, Jean-Claude
Mas has sold over 8.5 million bottles of
Arrogant Frog, his line of Pays d’Oc
varietal wines and blends featuring a
beret-wearing frog on the label. “We did
not have a reputation for quality in the
Languedoc,” recalls Mas. “We were just
a raw material producer until 20 years
ago. So, when I brought this wine to
market it was an opportunity to think
outside the box, to proclaim that I am a
French producer and know about good
wine, but I am different from Bordeaux.”
Varietal naming remains a key in-
novation, making the affordable Pays
d’Oc wines—including fanciful ones
like Arrogant Frog and Boisset’s French
Rabbit wines in Tetra Prisma pack-
ages—even more consumer-friendly.
“This new consumer goes first by vari-
etal. We show them the grape, then the
style of the wines, and then Langued-
oc,” says Mas. However, Arrogant Frog
does embrace the full diversity of Pays
d’Oc, with wines like Tutti Frutti Blanc,
a blend of seven white grapes, and Lily
Pad Pink, a dry, sparkling rosé. Mas be-
stows his Arrogant Frog with the same
attention and pride he applies to his
higher-end wines under Château Paul
Mas label. It’s an effort that he hopes
will help the region avoid some of the
fate that befell Australia with the suc-
cess of high-volume brands.
The Rise of AOC
Mas, like most producers, is also pur-
suing ever-higher quality wines in the
burgeoning AOC areas of Languedoc-
Roussillon, which now number 36 and
represent about 10% of total produc-
tion. Recent changes to the appellation
designations in Languedoc-Roussillon
have instituted a clearer hierarchy. Pays
d’Oc wines are now officially appended
with IGP (Protected Geographical Indi-
cation) in synch with overarching EU
laws. Meanwhile, more classical AOC
wines (now technically AOP, indicating
protected status) populate three tiers.
With the 2007 vintage, AOC
Languedoc became the base tier, replac-
ingCôteaux du Languedoc, which is being
phased out entirely by 2017. Of the other
appellations, the majority are designated
Grands Vins du Languedoc, represent-
ing about 60% of AOC production. The
top designation—Cru du Languedoc—is
limited to the most elite sub-regions, in-
cluding Minervois la Livinière, Corbières
Boutenac, Saint Chinian Roquebrun
and Saint Chinian Berlou, with more
under consideration.
In contrast to the Pays d’Oc wines,
these three levels of appellation wines
generally appeal to savvier consumers
intrigued by the old-vines and ancient
history of Languedoc-Roussillon, and
perhaps more appreciative of traditional
blends. “With under $20 wines, a vari-
etal wine is affordable, accessible and
easy. But above that price, consumers
prefer to have an experience, to look for
the terroir. When we pursue a blend, we
are including a taste of the terroir,” says
Gérard Bertrand, who owns seven es-
tates across the Languedoc and has been
crafting super-premium wines there for
more than two decades.
For Bertrand, the greatest treasure
of the region remains its old vines of
Grenache and Carignan. “The taste
of the south emanates from the Rhône
Valley. Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre
and Carignan, we can take and blend
differently into wines of great charac-
ter. [For example,] Corbières with the
GSM [Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre]
Jean Claude Mas
Geographic Advantage
The vast majority of Americans
are unaware of recent changes in
Languedoc-Roussillon’s Pays d’Oc
and AOC regulations—because
they were mostly unaware of them
to begin with. In turn, geographical
specifics are not great selling points
for the wines in the U.S. On the other
hand, the area’s general geography
is both positive and easy to grasp:
Languedoc-Roussillon is in the sunny
south of France. While other regions
are compelled to limit their varieties,
and grapes often struggle to ripen,
Languedoc producers enjoy the
ability to work with many grapes (56!),
resulting in generally riper wines and
a wide range of creative blends.
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