Here we are, back in Montpellier to attend the 23rd edition of Millesime Bio which is probably still holding the title for best organised event in Europe concerning natural wines. First hosted in 1993, the fair has since grown to over 800 exhibitors from 14 countries. A must visit for any self-respecting sommelier.
Made by professionals for professionals, everything is precise and clear. There are no queues and the well-lit halls are perfect for tastings. I’ve noticed the attendance of a more than decent amount of serious-minded quality producers from all over the world, despite my attention being almost exclusively focused on French wines.
There are few representatives of Burgundy and Champagne, where allocating the production is of bigger concern than selling it. Most of the field to dig into consisted of Rhone, Provence and of course Languedoc and Roussillon. Some top notch Loire was present too, but not in big numbers given how the Salon des Vins de Loire is kicking off in four days and 700 kilometers away.
The amount of faulty wines tasted was negligible; we are now all aware, at least in France, that organic farming is about respect and consciousness at all stages. Yes, it’s more complicated than conventional farming, but there are so many good, or at least non-faulty, organic wines that those growers who cannot achieve good results within a few years will vanish from the radar.
“Each exhibitor has exactly the same equipment to present their wines: a table, two chairs, a white tablecloth, a spittoon, tasting glasses, ice and a display. This is a competition to judge and compare wines, not a competition on the exhibition techniques of wines! Here, all exhibitors are on an equal footing to present their products. So there is a strong philosophical emphasis on democracy and sharing.” – Millesime Bio
I am adamant about how the best organic (and, better yet, biodynamic) wines are better than the best conventional wines; often having more depth and complexity whilst being healthier for both the environment and the consumer.
I have mostly found reassuring quality from the producers I already knew, with quite a few doing better and better, hopefully raising their ceiling up enough to require new power rankings for their appellations. Elsewhere it is hit and miss, with lots of good will while the style models were not always clear.
Another critical point was that quite a few producers offered very, very young wines, often tank or barrel samples, which in many other cases had only been bottled for a few weeks if not days. In my opinion this is one of the worst things you can do if you want someone to get a clear view of what your wine will taste like.
Several regions still suffer from widespread abuse of technique and of course everybody who can is going organic these days. However, the gems are there to be found and extensive tasting is the only sensible way to find them. Speaking of which, I am now heading to visit a few new and old discoveries from the Languedoc region to strengthen my vision and expand my knowledge of the area.
On a final note: around the Millesime Bio fair an extremely lively scene of “off” events take place hosted mostly by small, dissident or famous producers. I have attended no less than three with pleasure, finding an average quality higher than the main event even if most of the producers in the off events were already known if not well known to me.
The next report will be from La Dive, born itself as an “off” event to the aforementioned Salon des Vins du Loire, but it probably gets more attention than the main event these days. See you in Saumur!