Vive la Révolucion!

By Mary Mihaly


Maybe you know your French wines, maybe you don’t, but at some point in our lives we’ve all stood there in the supermarket, staring at the wall of French, wondering what the heck is in those bottles.


Americans’ anxiety over French wine labels may soon end, thanks to Fortant wines and their owner, Boisset Family Estates, Burgundy’s biggest wine producer with acquisitions in Languedoc and other regions. Boisset isn’t exactly an upstart—they’ve been around since 1961—but they’re innovators on the French wine scene.


TheWineBuzz met with Fortant’s winemaker, Laurent Sauvage, when he visited Cleveland in January. Sauvage presented his winery’s latest vision: “We’re producing terroir-driven varietals, produced in the Mediterranean region of Languedoc, under the Fortant label,” he explained enthusiastically. “In effect, we created three new wine districts! Each is defined by the soil, climate and other natural traits of the region—and, of course, by the grapes that thrive there.”


The French wine industry is highly regulated in terms of who can grow which grapes, where, and how many vines per hectare they can plant, so Fortant’s independent move is raising more than a few eyebrows across the pond. Their new designations:


Coast Select: this is the sliver hugging the shoreline,

sea level to 50 meters altitude, where the Cabernet,

Chardonnay and Muscat get plump

in the Mediterranean sun.

* * *

Hills Reserve: sloping up from the coast, 50 to 250 meters

above sea level, the Malbec and Viognier that grow here

are spicier, herbal, more aromatic.

* * *

Mountains Grand Reserve: yields are smallest here in

volcanic rock, 250 to 600 meters up; Carignan and

Pinot Noirflourish in the high country.


This isn’t the first time Fortant has ruffled feathers. In the past, France had only two wine classifications: AOC (top-quality wines) and Vin de Table, or table wine. Fortant’s vintner, inspired by a trip to Napa, helped organize other Languedoc growers and persuaded them to produce lower yields, emphasizing quality over quantity. The effort elevated all of them.


Fortant exports eight wines to the US: Chardonnay, Viognier, Grenache Rosé, Pinot Noir, Carignan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Muscat Petit Grain. Look for tasting notes in our May/June issue.

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