How do you market Languedoc wine to a global audience when the region is larger, more diverse and complex than many entire countries? This was the task set for Marion Oury whose solution was Languedoc Wine Camp, a series of immersive two-day experiences which allowed wine professionals to experience the region like it has never done before. Oury, the marketing digital and communications director for the Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins du Languedoc (CIVL) also had to ensure the events delivered Languedoc’s newly-created brand positioning. Peter Dean got the story.
“It’s important for us to get wine professionals to understand us technically but also what we are really all about,” says Oury about Languedoc Wine Camp.
The main challenges of promoting the wines of the Languedoc stem from the region’s scale and diversity. With 2300 winemakers, 23 different appellations, 19 IGPs and a colossal variety of terroirs, grape varieties and wine styles, communicating what the essence of France’s largest wine region is to a global marketplace is no walk in the park. In addition, even though the region has 2500 years of winemaking history, there is a swift pace of change here with a desire to innovate and be ahead of the times which is manifested by initiatives in organic and sustainable viticulture, and a fast-changing regulatory process – 9 of its AOPs are under 20 years old.
But the scale of the region and its diversity are also some of the region’s key strengths – winemakers have a great deal of freedom, and wine lovers have a lot to discover, almost too much.
“Every single winemaker is free to imprint their own style on the terroir here – it is why we are the ‘new wave French wine scene’ both in my opinion and that of the wine professionals who visit us,” says Marion Oury, CIVL’s marketing director, “We are the region where all the new winemakers come to settle because they know they will be free to be more creative here on account of the wide array of grape varieties, soils and climates.”
Languedoc Wine Camp – part of a bigger picture
Oury has just completed the last of six Languedoc Wine Camps, an initiative to try and harness this energy and communicate it to the outside world. The Camps are a new hybrid, immersive educational programme for journalists and wine professionals that are spread across two or three days and provide a deep dive into the Languedoc wine region with a mix of seminars, tastings, appellation visits and producer dinners. The first four camps featured a mix of English and American journalists, the latter two largely French wine professionals with a smattering of influencers and writers.
Languedoc Wine Camp is a natural extension of a much bigger project – a complete overhaul of Languedoc’s brand positioning, as Oury explains.
“The Camps were born out of a bigger project – the whole rebirth of the Languedoc brand. After many months working with our 2000-plus AOP winemakers we’ve come up with a new positioning for the Languedoc, which is really the first time we have put it into words and that is ‘“Instinct. Shared.”– basically the shared instinct of the Languedoc winemakers – that is our spirit. Languedoc is such a great huge region it can be difficult to understand, so for the appellation wines in particular we had to be clear and simple, so that people ‘get’ who we are and can connect with us. We think “Instinct. Shared.” encapsulates our spirit and our character and that is a message we want to share in as many ways as possible.”
Although there are a number of communication channels earmarked for delivering the new brand positioning, the team’s priority is to get wine professionals and media to the region to allow them to experience it firsthand.
“One of the first objectives was to work closer with wine professionals, wine journalists and opinion leaders around the world and to do that the best way is to get people to come to the Languedoc to experience it first; then secondly to get them to learn about and better understand the region.”
Following the success of the first six Wine Camps, there are more planned in the New Year, each one taking on a theme – White Wines, Green Languedoc, Languedoc’s New Wave, and so on.
“It’s important for us to get wine professionals to understand us technically but also what we are really all about,” says Oury, “So we built this hybrid programme mixing education and emotion and we wanted to do it in an instinctive, simple way with a modern sensibility, participative, and not didactic – so not talking down to people and not with masterclasses – we wanted it to be much more fun, much more human, about meeting new people and sharing different points of view.”
“So in terms of format we wanted to mix the people we got there – not just journalists with other journalists or wine merchants with other wine merchants, we wanted to mix everyone together – so it is an enriching experience and not just about what you learn there but also about the people you meet. So that’s why we want ‘campers’ to stay at least two or three days to really breathe it in and also why we wanted to have small groups (10-12 people) to have a quality time with people so we can all really get to know each other.”
Although wine knowledge is a prerequisite for attending, Oury’s team are looking for people who don’t know enough about the Languedoc.
“Our top target on the French side, for example, are people who are opinion leaders but not that knowledgeable about Languedoc in that they don’t have many Languedoc wines in their shop, their restaurant, on their wine list, that’s the kind of person we want to invite to help them discover what they don’t know about the region.”
Made for sharing
Going forwards next year’s Camps will be more thematic than the first six and the number of appellations visited being limited to two in order to spend the proper amount of time in each one of them during each group’s stay. There are also plans to have a digital roll-out of some of the content, especially if travel restrictions prevail.
Part of Oury’s remit has been to focus on Languedoc’s top 10 export markets in addition to France which accounts for 65% of the region’s production.
“Investment-wise the CIVL has had to make some brave choices and, although historically we have invested in many different markets, now with the budget we have and with representing 2300 winemakers there was no point spreading ourselves too thin so we have focused on our top export markets which, in terms of value are the US, UK and then China (which is the top market volume-wise) we are also prioritizing Canada and Belgium,” Oury says.
Quality-wise the Languedoc has been in the ascent for the past 20 years, something which is clear to Camp attendees who are tasting the wines and which is also a key marketing message.
“We are done talking about Value for Money for our wines,” Oury says, “we prefer to concentrate on the AOP wines being a fantastic tasting experience at any price range. That is the magic of Languedoc wines: they are all about indulging instinctively and sharing.”
“Wine lovers can afford legendary cuvées that aren’t inaccessible in the Languedoc, and in terms of more affordable wines I think the level of quality compared to many wine regions is just so much higher especially with the appellation wines. For our Languedoc producers, the real, way to consider the quality of their wines, either humble or extraordinary is the tasting pleasure it provides. Anything you look for you will find here – you will always be surprised by the Languedoc which is one reason it is such an exciting wine region.”