by Fred McMillin
for June 5, 1997

Greeks, Romans and Vichon

Prologue: The LANGUEDOC (lahn-guh-doc) region of southwestern France has more acres of vineyards than the entire United States. It has been the home of France's worst wines...but now is being transformed into one of the world's most exciting viticultural regions. From the "Larousse Encyclopedia of Wine" and "The Oxford Companion of Wine"

The Rest of the Story: The Vichon Winery is adding to that excitement. They've moved operations to the French Mediterranean. However they aren't the region's first invading vintners. Greek ships (Herodotus said "their topsides were painted scarlet") brought vines in 600 B.C., and made the region's first wine. A few centuries later the Romans arrived and upgraded operations.

Strabo long ago noted "how well the vine flourished all over the hills." Such productivity led ultimately to overproduction and those "worst wines." This turned around just recently. In 1979 the French authorities gave the area permission to make and label wines with the name of the grape. Sales took off, new money came in, and modern technology was introduced. Vichon, owned by Robert Mondavi, is leading the charge; their Languedoc Chardonnay is here.

1995 Chardonnay, Mediterranean (from France's Languedoc)
Vichon Mediterranean (importer)
Napa, CA
Contact—Nancy Light, (707)226-1395, ext.3259

Category: Recommended in its price range

Postscript: The Wine Spectator's Per-Henrik Mansson led a blind tasting of over 400 French Mediterranean wines and concluded the varietal showing the most promise was the Chardonnay. So, here's your chance to try one.

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

Read more articles by Fred McMillin in the eGGsf

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