When the vineyards of Languedoc-Roussillon began to gain international recognition in the 1990s, big cooperative cellars and merchant houses made large quantities of temptingly priced vin de pays d’Oc, while only a handful of private estates crafted impressive boutique wines for devoted amateurs.
Local entrepreneurs like Jean-Claude Mas and Gérard Bertrand then set about building impressive winemaking empires, buying up under valued vineyards to make everything from reliable supermarket plonk to top-end blends.
Meanwhile, a stream of foreign ex-financiers invested in dilapidated wine estates, ploughing the fruits of their first careers into new lives amid the southern vines.
More recently, a new phenomenon has emerged: that of the micro-négociant. A négociant is a merchant wine producer that buys grapes, juice or even finished wine, to bottle and sell under its own labels. The biggest players, like Bordeaux’s Philippine de Rothschild and Beaujolais’ Georges Duboeuf, dominate large-scale wine production in their respective regions.
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