The whole experience was professionally organized, with the 250+ of us getting bussed around the clearly-not-made-for-buses streets of Montpellier for 4 days straight. Breakfast, wine, lunch with wine, wine, dinner with wine. Beer. I got an amazing opportunity to explore the wines of the south, namely Languedoc, Rousillon, Province, and the southern tip of Cotes du Rhone. I greatly appreciated the ability to taste wine without producers ahead of one-on-one meetings.
One thing I got a chance to understand is the Languedoc region. In Ontario, it is all represented as one large region, with a fairly limited selection. Granted, the region itself had some trouble 20 years ago, but has today made great strides in regaining the quality through cutting down vines, reducing yields, and focusing more on terroir and cepages. I was chatting a bit with the organizers and the French trade people, and suggested that to make the region more accessible in export markets (at least in Ontario), the specific appellations need to be better explained to consumes. Wines from Faugeres and Corbieres are two different wines, and labeling both as generic Languedoc makes it difficult for consumers to understand.
I did get a day and a half to walk around the Millesime Bio show, happening at the same time in the pavilion next door. (We also had our lunches served there, which were amazing. The region definitely went out of its way to present itself in the best manner possible.) The Ontario market is still just playing around with the notion of organic wine, but the bio approach is in full swing in Europe, with many markets looking specifically for organic wines. I met some amazing producers from all over France, Spain, Italy and Austria. Specifically, I was greatly impressed with several Bordeaux producers I had a chance to chat with. (All details coming up.)
I'm excited about the wineries I tasted and people I met, and we are excited to work with them in Ontario. Look forward to upcoming updates detailing the new domains we have added to our portfolio.