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CIVL buyers' trip: Simon Broad

Published:  01 November, 2012

In the first of a new series, Harpers hears from buyer Simon Broad, owner of Brighton-based Ten Green Bottles, about his experiences on the CIVL buyer's study tour to the Languedoc.

Organised in conjunction with Harpers and supported by AOC Corbières, AOC Saint-Chinian and AOC Languedoc, the trip aimed to demonstrate to some of the UK's top buyers the variety found in the Languedoc and extend the region's listings in the UK. Tomorrow we'll hear from Stone, Vine & Sun buyer Gordon Coates about how the study tour opened his eyes to some hidden gems.

Simon Broad, Ten Green Bottles: "Before this trip, I was aware of the Languedoc as an area with a handful of standout producers on the one hand, and for leading the charge for value, varietally labelled wines on the other. The truth, I imagined, would be somewhere in the middle. We had previously imported a superb Faugères from a tiny estate that quickly became a customer favourite (despite a relatively high price point) and I loved its soft, chocolatey, velvety notes, as well as its approachability, despite packing quite a punch. I'm not someone who would choose a big red wine most of the time for my own drinking, and it was this sort of balance I was hoping to find more of in this region known mostly for its big reds.

"As we tasted through the wines and got to grips with the region, the diversity of even just the small selection we tried from each appellation was what shone through the most for me - alongside just how friendly and welcoming many of the producers were, even through the difficulties of overcoming the language barrier. There was a theme underlying though - the reds were all spices, pepper, blackcurrant, and often also chocolate; the whites soft and full, with rich, nutty, tropical fruits; the rosés almost uniformly super-pale pink and delightful.

"I started to appreciate the nuances that made all these elements sit well together, or sometimes not, and the best held all the nostalgia of the numerous Black Forest gateaux of my childhood: sweet black fruit, warm chocolatey notes, dark edges, with a soft, creamy texture holding it all together and keeping you reaching for another slice/glass.

"A handful of producers certainly stood out and - as we as importers have found numerous times before, in many parts of Europe - some of the most interesting wines for me were being made by people originally from outside the region. Perhaps it is fresh eyes on the terroir, or maybe a different understanding of what appeals to a wider range of palates, or offering a new twist through techniques and philosophies forged elsewhere. Either way, the wines from Domaine Pradines d'Amont and Domaine Sainte Croix, run by a German and an English couple respectively, have certainly remained in my memory. Both of these emphasised an organic approach to winemaking, and this is another thing that stood out in general - that due to the winds and proximity to the sea, this region makes it easier than most to adopt this approach, and the sheer number of producers at all price points that were working organically was impressive. Other producers that I found particularly interesting inlcuded Les Domaines de La Solane and Domaine de Cambis.

"I think that the sheer diversity of the region, coupled with the quality of land and position, and possibly the lack of a dominant tradition in the eyes of foreign markets (when compared with other major French wine regions, at least) encourages exciting and open-minded winemaking. In fact, I found the offering so diverse I'm not interested so much in just shipping one or two winemakers, but organising a collection of small amounts from a number of different producers. The other thing that struck me was how good the Lucques olives offered in all the bars and restaurants were - which have already made their way onto my menu!"