As part of our partnership with the new Online Occitanie Wine School, we caught up with the host Matthew Stubbs MW.
Stubbs is an expert in the region and presents 11 free videos created by the Bureau de la Région Occitanie, as part of the new Online Occitanie Wine School to help you learn more about the region and its wines.
Four of the videos have been released so far and you can see them right here on Imbibe.com, and be in with a chance to win a bottle of wine after completing a short questionnaire. The rest will be added one a week, every week until mid-January next year.
Obviously, we couldn’t meet up with Stubbs in person due to the Covid-19 restrictions, so we caught up virtually instead to ask him all about Occitanie.
Imbibe (I): Where exactly is Occitanie?
Matthew Stubbs (MS): Occitanie is an administrative 'super region' that was created by the merger of two previous regions, Languedoc/Roussillon and Midi-Pyrenées, in 2016. It is the Mediterranean combined with the South West and stretches from the Rhone Valley down to the Spanish border and then most of the way west along the Pyrenees.
I: What makes the region special?
MS: The topography and climate. You have everything here from hills, mountains, lakes and plains to coastal, continental climates and altitude all in one region. It is not only a great place to spend a memorable holiday or to live but also to make wine. The name Occitanie is still quite new to many in the UK and the on-trade but the wine regions contained within it are better known: Languedoc, Roussillon, Pays d'OC etc. On a map, you will find Occitanie between Provence/Côte d’Azur and Bordeaux/Biarritz.
I: What do you love most about wines from Occitanie?
MS: I love the sheer range and variety of wines from the region. I love the deep connection there is between the terroir and the people that make the wines, and I love the fact that it is constantly evolving and that you always discover new and exciting things.
I also love that this is the land of opportunity, a proverbial viticultural 'American Dream' in the South of France. Land is available, old vines abound and the opportunities for winemakers are attractive compared to other more famous regions. Anyone can have a go and therefore it attracts a very wide range of entrepreneurial people. This makes it one of the most dynamic and progressive wine regions in the world, all within an impressive historical context.
I: What do you wish everyone knew about wines from the region?
MS: There is a wine here for every consumer. Whichever style of wine you like, it can be found here. White, red, rosé, sparkling, sweet, fortified, all found in one region from over 150 different grape varieties.
I: As you run a wine school in the region, are there any common misconceptions about the area that you often have to dispel for students?
MS: That this is not just a region for bulk, inexpensive wine. This is less of a misconception than 15 years ago when I first set up in the region, as higher quality wines that are more artisanal have become more available. Another common misconception is that this is only a region for red wine. Many are very surprised at how good and varied the white wines are, not to mention many excellent rosés and world class Vins Doux Naturels.
I: Are wines from the Occitanie underrepresented in the UK on-trade in your opinion?
MS: Considering the size of the region, the answer is probably yes. However, worldwide competition has never been greater and the wines of the region have to earn their place. There have been many recent successes, most notably Picpoul de Pinet which has risen from relative obscurity 10 years ago to a favourite on many lists. Other regions are now gaining traction notably Terrasses du Larzac, Pic St Loup , La Livinière and La Clape. Corbières seems to have disappeared off many wine lists and is definitely worth another look as the progress in style and quality there has been extraordinary over the last decade.
Some other areas which spring to mind are Pézenas, Boutenac, Faugères, St Chinian, Limoux, Côtes du Roussillon Villages, Collioure/Banyuls and Maury. Some great IGP’s too.
I: Do you think bars and restaurants in the UK could do more with wines from Occitanie?
MS: Probably. I think they just need to just communicate the variety, interest, authenticity and sheer value for money at all quality levels that this region represents. Whatever style a consumer likes there is a wine from Occitanie that fits the bill; it’s just that the consumer may not be aware of it.