Great potential beneath a troubled history
Imbued with history from the 13th century and Catharism, renowned for dissidence and civil disorder, swept by wind and beaten by sun, the Minervois does not have a historical reputation of peace and quiet, nor one of historical splendour and richesse that we associate with Bordeaux or Burgundy. It's more like an illegitimate, badly-behaved provincial child, yet to calm down, yet to be accepted by the upper echelons, yet to realise its potential - and notably for its wine.
While one of the larger appellations of the Languedoc, it ranks amongst the poorest in economic indicators, held back by historical forces, and inhibited by uncoordinated energy and independence of effort. Its wine industry mirrors all this. Not here, the grand palaces of the Bordelais, not here the internationally sought-after names of the Côte d'Or or an Alsace.
Yet, in spite of historical restraints, of lack of recognition and of collective energies, something is stirring in the Minervois which heralds good news for the local wine industry and for consumers. The waning of the co-operative system, limited by its "one size fits all" approach, the disappearance of marginal producers, the application of higher quality protocols, a more regional marketing strategy and an influx of non-regional vineyard buyers and capital have re-energised the area.
The result? The world is beginning to wake up to, not just the long-expected potential, but the actual offerings that the Minervois - and the Languedoc in general - have to offer. The covers are off but the Emperor does have clothes. Wines, notably reds for which the Minervois is better known, have gone from being rough, harsh, tannic and unfriendly, to being warm, welcoming and soft. Rosé, usually associated with Provence, is rearing its competitive head. White wine, given the rich tapestry of varietals available, is changing the perception of the Minervois being a one wine town. Instead, offering a wide palette of colours, tastes - and for different wallets.
With this qualitative uplift, Minervois wines is a seductive value-for-money proposition from the Old World, more akin to a New World offering. The reality of their quality though is not yet matched by what the consumer is willing to pay. Time will change this but, in the interim, climb on board and take advantage of the disequilibrium of price/quality to your advantage.
Fantastic conditions and some great wines emerging, both from private vineyards and some of the cave cooperatives.
The locals are warm hearted, hard working and passionate about what they do.