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Pinot Noir from the Domaine d'Antugnac in the "Haute Vallée de l'Aude" (Languedoc)% which is awarded with one star in the Hachette Guide.

While in the wine regions in the south of France there is still winter peace, a fierce war is raging in the vintners' circles of the "Midi". The regional daily newspaper headlines: "Suspicion. These Pinot Noirs are making the wine world of the south tremble." What happened? What is the "Pinot noir" grape variety doing in a region where it was never native? Doesn't Pinot prefer a cooler climate than the sun-drenched Mediterranean region? Correct. But Pinot is supposed to help overcome the wine crisis in the south.

Carignan (over 50%), Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Cinsault are the traditional grape varieties for quality wines in the Languedoc. But - are wines made from these typically Mediterranean grapes still in demand worldwide? Aren't Cabernet and Merlot the most successful grape varieties internationally today, which can be found as an assemblage in almost all wine countries of the world? So it is not surprising that Cabernet as well as Merlot are increasingly planted in France's largest growing rregion Languedoc-Roussillon, even though the two grape varieties are not allowed for AOC wines. They are trying to conquer the market by all means. By all means? All too often, unfortunately, also with illegal means. Since the road movie "Sideways" helped the Pinot Noir to gain cult status in the United States, even in the Languedoc, people are sensing the "big business" with the Pinot. In fact, Pinot "en vrac" (cask wine) fetches about 130 euro per hectoliter, whereas Merlot and Cabernet stagnate at 50 to 70 euro. So it's a good deal! But: there are only 978 hectares planted with Pinot Noir in the Languedoc, which corresponds to a production of about 50,000 hectoliters. (Total vineyard area in the Languedoc: just under 300,000 hectares)

Headline in the regional newspaper of South France - Suspicion of wine fraud

So much for the facts. And now the suspected scandal: Between 2006 and 2008, far more "alleged" Pinot from the Languedoc was sold to the USA by one single trader than can be produced here, even if every drop is added up. Now, Pinot is not an AOC wine in Languedoc. It is marketed under the term "Vins de Pays d'Oc". So there are no strict controls on what grape varieties are in it. But the Americans (Ernest & Julio Gallo Winery) bought (and paid for) Pinot Noir, not just any wine from the French south. A legal dispute, then, nothing more?

But much more: perhaps another decisive blow to the burgeoning hope of finally finding a way out of the Languedoc sales crisis. Since 2005, the American wine trader Gallo has been marketing under the name "Red Bicyclette", Vin de Pays d'Oc, a wine at about 10 dollars (sale). With 6 million pallets and an advertising expenditure of 5 million dollars, this is the largest sales campaign for a French wine in the USA. If the suspicion of fraud is substantiated, this business is in danger, too, because the company has already announced to cut off business relations at best.

Trigger of the Pinot Noir boom in the USA: the "Sideways" movie

What sounds like a thriller is threatening the existence of the affected wine regions (above all for good, so far successful cooperatives). "We already have enough economic damage to deal with. We don't need this as well", a responsible person of the cooperatives laments in the newspaper. All this "only" because a movie made a cult wine out of a wine. If you enter the two terms "Sideways" and "Pinot" on Google, you will get about 80,000 answers in 23 seconds. That's how much the grail quest of the two friends Jack and Miles has hit America. Pinot Noir is the name of the Grail here, and one of the results is that Willamette Valley Vineyards, for instance, was able to increase the sales of Pinot by about 100 percent in 2005 and 2006 (the movie was released in 2005!), and in the USA, the area under Pinot cultivation grew from 8,000 to 11,000 hectares. Thus, the USA has become the second largest production country for Pinot after France

New plantings of huge vineyards in California

Moral of the story: Wine is just as much a fashion item, especially when it comes to marketing. And so, despite all the cries of horror from wine purists, Pinot continues to move south from Burgundy. It has just arrived in Languedoc. It alleviates - at least as long as the fashion lasts - the sales suffering of a region. But I dare to doubt if this is a long-term solution for the global wine market problems. Once the fashion is over, other grail seekers will go wandering and find another grail; then the market construct will collapse. Many regions from the old wine world have made their painful experiences.

Vineyard in the Languedoc: Saint Chinian

Vines are "living beings", even if only vegetable ones. However, they cannot be easily planted in every climate, they do not produce the same good fruit in every soil, nor can they simply be retrained, from Cabernet, to Merlots, to Pinot Noir, to ..... The centuries-old assignment of grape varieties to certain regions, to certain climates, to certain soils may have a purpose after all. Even if we don't want to admit it.

Peter (Züllig)

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