Each year, our wine students take a trip to Europe’s major vine and wine exhibition, either Sitevi in Montpellier or ViniTech in Bordeaux, which alternates each year. This year, it was Sitevi, and the students had the opportunity to explore the Languedoc region.

The first visit was to Supagro. The historic university of Montpellier runs an undergraduate programme, the Vinifera Master and a PhD programme with extensive research facilities in viticulture and oenology. The Vinifera programme manager Patrice Lallemand gave a tour of the facilities (lecture halls, laboratories, test vineyards) – where Louis Pasteur, Lois Ravaz, Piere Galet, and Alain Deloire all lectured. This was followed by an overview of the Occitanie region (87 AOCs covering Languedoc, Roussillon and the South West) and a tasting which showed the breadth and diversity of the region.

The second day we visited Terre des2Sources, a domaine run by Glen and Kirsten Creasy (previously of Lincoln University, New Zealand) since 2018. Glen and Kirsten are working to change the domaine from a previously solely bag-in-box producer to premium Terrasses du Larzac wines. There was much humorous debate on their New World approach, both in vineyards and cellar, in what remains a traditional old-world region.

The afternoon visit was to La Gravette de Corconne, a cooperative founded in 1939 to support approximately 100 vinegrowers in the region. La Gravette produces 30,000 hl a year with wines across the Languedoc appellation, Pic-Saint-Loup appellation, and IGP Pays D’Oc. It was fascinating to hear how they make the wines and manage the logistics at that scale.

The third day, we visited Domaine du Météore, a unique Faugères estate located above a 200m wide crater created when a meteorite crashed into the area 10,000 years ago. It is a beautiful site, surrounded by garrigue, with views of the Mediterranean and Pyrenees in the distance. We had a generous tasting through their range of 10 wines – white wine blends of Roussanne, Vermentino, Viognier; reds of Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault, Carignan, Mourvèdre; and even a traditional method sparkling Syrah from their cater “a wine from another dimension”.

Cooperatives are an essential feature of the region, and so another visit to another cooperative, L’Estabel in AOC de Cabrières (the home of Gerard Bertand’s 200€ rose). L’Estabel this year won winery of the region in the best-selling wine guide in France, Guide Hachette des Vins, supplies Laithwaites under the label Le Roi Soleil and also won praise from Jancis Robinson after her visit this summer. Luc Flache, the director and winemaker, acknowledged the aged and low-tech winery, but he makes good wines to support the region’s growers.

The last day of the trip was to Sitevi, an exhibition with over 1,000 exhibitors across vine, fruit, arboriculture and winemaking. The students were left to explore the equipment and services, from amphoras and wooden eggs to cross-flow filters, destemmed to the latest grape varieties, frost protection, electric tractors, pruning demos, masterclasses, and more… there were 54,700 visitors, including international visitors from 73 countries, including us!

The students were great fun, enjoyed the local wines and hospitality, and were engaged and respectful to our hosts. An excellent voyage!