Valérie Guérin’s wines are all the rage in Paris wine bars, ground zero for the next vinous trends to infiltrate their New York and San Francisco counterparts. While she farms her meager holdings organically and scarcely intervenes in the cellar, the draw to Valérie’s wines does not lie in her philosophy or any radical techniques. Rather, the wines possess a level of purity and finesse that appeals to wine lovers on an elemental level, beyond what fashion may dictate. Atsuko is a regal expression of seventy-five-year-old Grenache, taut with energy and buried layers of complexity that will unfurl onto your palate and over many years in bottle. Mille Vignes is the real deal.
In the late 1970s, Jacques Guérin moved to the tiny village of La Palme, just a stone’s throw from the Mediterranean. Soon after, he began producing wine from nearby Fitou and Rivesaltes. The wines produced in the area at the time were not driven by quality, but Jacques saw potential in the terroir and envisioned revitalizing his vineyards, focusing on low yields and organic principles, convinced that he would soon be able to produce great wine. Today, Jacques’ daughter, Valérie, has carried on his ethic in the vineyard and cellar. The addition of Les Mille Vignes to our portfolio not only geographically fills in the space between Banyuls and Corbières but adds true depth and variety to our wines from the Languedoc-Roussillon.
Ask wine drinkers around the world, and the word “Languedoc” is sure to elicit mixed reactions. On the one hand, the region is still strongly tied to its past as a producer of cheap, insipid bulk wine in the eyes of many consumers. On the other hand, it is the source of countless great values providing affordable everyday pleasure, with an increasing number of higher-end wines capable of rivaling the best from other parts of France.
While there’s no denying the Languedoc’s checkered history, the last two decades have seen a noticeable shift to fine wine, with an emphasis on terroir. Ambitious growers have sought out vineyard sites with poor, well draining soils in hilly zones, curbed back on irrigation and the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, and looked to balance traditional production methods with technological advancements to craft wines with elegance, balance, and a clear sense of place. Today, the overall quality and variety of wines being made in the Languedoc is as high as ever.
Shaped like a crescent hugging the Mediterranean coast, the region boasts an enormous variety of soil types and microclimates depending on elevation, exposition, and relative distance from the coastline and the cooler foothills farther inland. While the warm Mediterranean climate is conducive to the production of reds, there are world-class whites and rosés to be found as well, along with stunning dessert wines revered by connoisseurs for centuries.
I want you to realize once and for all: Even the winemaker does not know what aging is going to do to a new vintage; Robert Parker does not know; I do not know. We all make educated (hopefully) guesses about what the future will bring, but guesses they are. And one of the pleasures of a wine cellar is the opportunity it provides for you to witness the evolution of your various selections. Living wines have ups and downs just as people do, periods of glory and dog days, too. If wine did not remind me of real life, I would not care about it so much.
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