I have just completed the first of three days at Millésime Bio, which has become the largest organic wine fair in the world. Even though MB now takes up three large halls at the Montpellier exhibition centre, there is still a waiting list for exhibitors wanting a table at the fair.
The success of Millésime Bio reflects the growth of organic wine. Although the big majority of the exhibitors are French, especially from the Rhône valley and the Midi, the fair now attracts producers from around the wine world. This year there are exhibitors from Austria, Bulgaria, Chile, Germany, Hungary, Slovenia, Switzerland, a considerable number from Spain and strong representation from Italy.
Another factor in the success of the fair is the simple format: all the exhibitors have the same sized table irrespective of the size of the organisation. There is no bling – no fancy stands with VIP areas and no corporate minders to keep the riff-raff in their place. Instead the emphasis is where it should be – on the wines and the producers – plus a relaxed but professional atmosphere and generally good tasting conditions.
Two of my fellow Fives are here – Marc and Michel, who are long time regulars, while this is now my fourth visit. The first one being around ten years ago, when the fair was based in Narbonne and was then very much smaller. This is my third successive visit, so Millésime Bio is becoming one of my annual fixtures.
Although there is an annual press trip, it features a different country or region every year, so most journalists or press organisations have to pay their own way. The organisers do offer one night in the Hotel Mercure in the Antigone, which is relatively close to the centre and is served by the navettes to the exhibition centre in the southern suburbs of Montpellier. However, staying four nights – paying for three at the Mercure – would be quite expensive and it is in the soulless, Stalinist part of the city.
Instead I found a much cheaper deal at the Oceania right in the lively centre of Montpellier, close to the station and the stop for the tram that serves the Montpellier exhibition centre.
Unfortunately there are few UK journalists attracted to Milly Bio just as there are few that make it out to the Salon des Vins de Loire, which starts next week. Rosemary George MW, a specialist in Languedoc-Roussillon, and Monty Waldin, justly reputed for his work on organic and biodynamic viticulture and wines.
I arrived in Montpellier on Sunday afternoon on an EasyJet flight, operated by Veuve Clicquot, in time to go to the Outsiders tasting (languedoc-outsiders.com/) in the old part of Montpellier. The tasting was a good preparation for Milly Bio. I tasted some very good, well balanced whites including a Chenin Blanc from Limoux made by Caryl and Jan ?? at Chateau des Rives Blanques. Among the other producers that impressed me were the Domaine Le Clos du Serres, especially La Blanca 2012, Graham Nutter’s range from Château Saint Jacques d’Albas and the range from Château d’Angles.
At Milly Bio I intend initially to concentrate on the Loire and then if I have time before the end to taste wines from other places. Today I have been tasting mainly 2013 Loires and mainly whites. Although it looks unlikely that there will be few, if any, exceptional wines in 2013 the vintage in terms of the wines actually made is not a disaster. So far the whites are clean and fresh without great weight. However, one shouldn’t forget that these wines are not finished and because of the late vintage they are even younger than we are used to tasting at this stage. Wines from the 2011 vintage that started at the end of August, for instance, would have had four or five weeks more time to develop than the equivalent 2013. So it is still very early days!
Not too early days to appreciate the fine 2013s from Domaine de la Madone (Gilles Bonnefoy) in the Côtes de Forez. Although they were badly hit by hail in early August suffering hails stones the size of tennis balls, they were spared the October rain that were part of the difficulties of the Loire 2013 vintage. Reinforces my impression that there are interesting things happened in the Loire’s ‘Deep South’!