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Southern comfort

Published:  23 July, 2008

The good news about this year's ViniSud was that it passed off without conflict. A protest (albeit peaceful) held by winemakers in Narbonne the week before may have raised fears, but the atmosphere in Montpellier was overwhelmingly positive.
And it was fitting that the organisation with the biggest stand by far made the biggest launch of the week. As reported in Harpers in November, the Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins du Languedoc (CIVL) has teamed up with its Roussillon, Vins de Pays d'Oc and Vins de Pays de Languedoc-Roussillon counterparts and decided to market all wines from the four regions as Sud de France'. While the names of the appellations will still be used in marketing campaigns, Sud de France is the umbrella term and, it is hoped, will feature on every bottle of wine. A sum of e12 million will also be given by the French government to promote agricultural products' of Languedoc-Roussillon, including wine.

Christine Behey-Molines, CIVL export manager, told Harpers: We've been working on this for a few years now, with the idea that we're stronger together. We have the climate [and] the lifestyle, and the world of wine is dominated by marketing now - it's all about having a clear message.'

Katie Jones, export director for Mont Tauch, said: I think it's fantastic that they've finally tried to simplify the whole of the Languedoc for consumers. "South of France" is really giving an identity that is understandable for consumers to know where the wines are coming from.'

Tim Smith, of Vignobles Lorgeril, was more direct, saying that the region badly needs redirection: I'm entirely in favour. It's difficult to find one image, but the phrase "South of France" is aspirational, a second home, a holiday home, that sort of thing. But the feeling in the Languedoc from someone who lives here is absolutely awful.

I go out and walk my dog, and [winemakers] jump out and

say "Help us, help us".

I feel desperately sorry for them. What other land use is there in the Languedoc? It's all very well paying a guy to dig

up his vines, but what's he supposed to put in their place? Kiwi fruits and peaches?'

But not everyone backed the campaign. Michel Berta-Maillol of Banyuls producer Domaine Berta-Maillol said that the campaign destroys the philosophy of terroir' and would only benefit these big companies selling shit products'.

The previous two campaigns have met with mixed success for the CIVL. Putting an embossed Languedoc cross on wine bottles was a popular move supported by many winemakers; the ill-fated (some would say loopy) plan by Georges Frches to rename the region as Septimanie - a name that Behey-Molines claimed that less than 10% of French people understood - less so.