Making a name for the Languedoc, and themselves

Gregory Hecht’s big goal is to fix an identity crisis. The victim: France’s Languedoc-Roussilon region. The crisis: its reputation for producing a lot of cheap (and all too often cheap-tasting) wine.

“Languedoc is a huge region but had no identity,” Hecht (on the left) said during a Twin Cities visit, “no [signature brand such as] Jaboulet, no Bouchard, no Faiveley. The region suffered, and the product was in the control of co-ops. 

So he and Francois Bannier (on the right) decided to do something about it, launching a brand bearing their names and visiting upwards of 350 domaines a year to find the best grapes in the region, then creating delicious blends such as the hearty, spicy, iron-y Hecht & Bannier Languedoc red ($15).

“The fruit exists. The raw material is there,” Hecht said. “But you need our kind of expertise to blend and then age because Languedoc is complex. 

Their expertise comes via different backgrounds. Bannier studied winemaking in Burgundy and apprenticed in Champagne and Bordeaux, while Hecht learned some interesting lessons buying wines for a restaurant chain.

“Buying is different over there,” he said. “Except in Paris, it’s all based on one’s own region. It’s like [Charles] De Gaulle said, “˜How can you imagine governing a country with 365
cheeses?’ “

Regardless, Hecht and Bannier had the making and the selling parts covered when they partnered up a decade ago. It took some time ““ “our first vintage was 10,000, and we drank more than we sold,” Hecht said ““ but after starting with minervois and some blends, they have expanded their line and now make 25,000 cases a year

The ultimate goal in the winery: “to conserve the typical Mediterranean strength in our wines while preserving balance and crispness.”

And in the market: to establish that regional identity, which ironically might start with associating the wines with those of other, more established regions.

“We wanted to make the Beaujolais of the south, the kind wine, the gentle wine,” Hecht said, adding that “we would like to link the region to the Rhône. These wines are Rhône blends. People have benchmarks, and the quality is better than Côtes du Rhône. But we have to acknowledge that we haven’t proved ourselves on the cru level like a Clape. 

Given how impressive their rosé, minervois, Côtes de Rousillon Villages and the fabulous Faugeres ($36) tasted when we gathered, these two guys might just pull that off.

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