However, the winemaker, who is counted among the top producers in the Languedoc, considers his success bittersweet. After all, his vineyards surround the Pic Saint Loup, an AOC (Appellation d'Origine Controle) that is still not recognized and thus he has to do without the money that he would otherwise get from his beautiful wines.
"We are recognized internationally and we have long reached the quality that justifies recognizing Pic Saint Loup as An AOC", says Christophe Peyrus. "I am not just talking for myself, but also for 30 other producers from this region, and some of them have had the best vineyard and cellar work conditions for the past 20 years".
Influential wine critics like Robert Parker and his "Adjutant" in charge of the Languedoc, David Schildknecht, consider this region one of the most interesting wine-growing regions of the 21st century. Thus, they agree with French criticcs, as well as with experienced wine traders from all around the world.
"It is frustrating for me and colleagues, when producer from the Rhone-valley can sell their same vine types for two or three times the amount", says Peyrus. The quality of his colleagues' wines and particularly that of his own, based on the Grenache and Syrah-grapes, which have been awarded with 97 Parker points, have long justified a call for the Institut National de l'Origine et de la Qualité (INAO), to change their rules for the AOC certification. "It might take 5 more years until we are granted an AOC Pic Saint Loup", says Gilles Flutet, manager at the INAO. "In some cases, like with Saint Pourcain along the Loire, it took 25 years until they were granted a AOC".
What makes an AOC so desirable? AOC is simply a quality symbol and besides champagne, Chablis or Chateauneuf-du-Pape very renowned among wine lovers. Wines from AOC-areas are justified to be sold for much higher prices than wines from other regions which do not have a protected proof of origin. The AOC system, which was initiated in the 30s of the 20th century, was supposed to protect only wines from the region Burgundy and Bordeaux from counterfeit and fraud. Today, even the term "terroir" is mixed into the AOC, at least for wine friends. AOC stands for a unique ensemble of natural conditions up to the signature of a wine-growing region combined with a positive taste.
"The relationship between vine, soil, site, microclimate and the following cellar work is not enough - that is not what makes terroir", explains Gilles Flutet. "It takes decades of collective work in order to make exceptional wines from certain regions". "And that is exactly what we have", says Jean Orliac. As a young agronomist, Orlic started working with part of the vineyards around the Pic Saint Loup in the early 70s. Today he cultivates around 70 hectares. "It was a wonderful challenge and it wasn't about making the big bucks; rather the opposite. I, like many other producers here, wanted to bring new impulses to this appellation, we wanted to create a collective brand that personifies an AOC".
"I have to admit that there had been tons of impressive and intense work around the vineyards in the Pic Saint Loup for decades. That is why we already proved back then that an AOC would be possible" explains Gilles Flutet. "However, there is another problem. A group of producers from a region nearby has asked to also be accepted to the group of AOC Pic Saint Loup. Of course this discussion slows the whole process down even more".
In order to escape from this fight, the INAO has created a think tank including scientists, among them geologists, ethnographers, historians to study this issue. After they completed their analysis, the INAO came to the conclusion that the AOC will be prohibited as long as all producers around the area of Pic Saint Loup are accepting their colleagues into their AOC. This ultimatum was a big hit in the summer of 2010 and it still is for Peyrus, Orliac and their colleagues. It seems as though they have no choice but to give in.
It only seems that way though, since winemakers in Pic Saint Loup are already thinking about how they could get their own identity from the AOC. "We are working on this plan to only accept colleagues that work organically", says Pierre Jeguier, owner of Mas Foulaquier. "I'm sure that not everyone will approve of this, but in the end it is about our own identity, reputation and our being unique". .....Drame à la France (a.wirtzfeld)