This text is part of the special Pleasures notebook
Languedoc-Roussillon is a fascinating region, between sea and mountains. Its wines are today a guarantee of quality and authenticity. A Languedoc family has contributed to promoting its region for 150 years now. A feat whose legacy is today perpetuated by the sixth generation. Guided tour during these harvest times.
From Languedoc to Quebec
Considered today as one of the ambassadors of Languedoc, Brigitte Jeanjean travels the world to promote the wines of the family vineyard. She represents, with her cousins Frédéric and Philippe, the sixth generation of vineyards, which include nine estates in different appellations, from the heights of Larzac to the shores of the Mediterranean.
In Quebec, the name of Brigitte Jeanjean is associated with Pive gris, a wine classified IGP (protected geographical indication) Sable de Camargue and which is a resounding commercial success, since it is not only the rosé, but also the most organic wine sold at the SAQ.
This commercial tour de force would not have been possible if the winemaker had not forged close ties with Quebecers. Many remember this little woman with a lilting accent and strong intonations speaking with passion about Pive rosé, its vines growing in the sand, the neighboring ponds populated with pink flamingos and the preservation of such a precious territory. .
Promoting your terroir is in the winegrower’s DNA, since her ancestors already did it with pride. Today, the Jeanjean vineyards participate in the promotion of Languedoc wines, still largely underestimated just 20 years ago.
The winemaker also has a history of attachment to Quebec, since she chose it to study at university and even worked in the snowmobile sector there. Today, she has returned to her native Languedoc to take up the torch of the family business, even if she often comes to Quebec to promote her wines.
“Each of our wines is an invitation to discover the richness and diversity of Languedoc, to experience moments of sharing and conviviality. These are the values transmitted by my family,” the director of wines and vineyards likes to say.
A family story
“Less than 1% of French companies are still family owned today after 150 years,” underlines Brigitte Jeanjean.
It all started in 1872, when an innkeeper named Étienne-Maurice Jeanjean (nicknamed “Père la Minute”) founded his business in Languedoc. To develop his business, he bought his first 23 hectares of vines in Saint-Félix-de-Lodez, a vat room and tuns. He did not suspect then that he was thus laying the first milestones in a family history which would, 150 years later, extend its activity beyond the country’s borders while promoting its original terroir. His story, also that of his son and the four generations that followed, is that of a family which adapted to the challenges of the times it passed through, through phylloxera, the great wars, the economic crises, to then bounce back with innovative solutions which have made it possible to acquire other market shares.
Towards the valorization of the terroir
However, we had to wait for the fourth generation and the arrival of Paul Jeanjean to produce quality wines with a notion of terroir. Significant investments were made for the purchase of a property of 1000 hectares of scrubland, in 1936, including two estates, the Mas de Lunès and the Château Valoussière Duties of the Lambs. “He had bought these virgin lands to plant vines, because he already saw exceptional terroirs there,” underlines Brigitte Jeanjean. A year earlier, in 1935, appellations of controlled origin were born in France. Even if they had not yet reached Languedoc, it is this idea of promoting the terroir that Paul Jeanjean already had in mind.
After Paul Jeanjean, his two sons, Hugues and Bernard, Brigitte’s uncle and father, took over the work started by their father. We owe them the first wine bottling site in the region, when Languedoc was still focused on the bulk market. They are the precursors of the “Bottled at the estate” labels. In 1985, they replanted the historic Mas de Lunès vineyard at a time when appellations contrôlées were emerging in the region. Five years later, they acquired Domaine Le Pive, then other vineyards followed, when they had already exceeded half a million hectoliters of wine sold per year. The notion of Languedoc terroir thus takes on its full meaning, since the family now owns vineyards on different terroirs, reflecting the various expressions of the appellation.
Conquering the world
From the 1990s, the sixth generation, represented by Brigitte, Frédéric and Philippe Jeanjean, acquired numerous houses and different vineyards throughout France, from Châteauneuf-du-Pape to Roussillon via Provence, Côtes-du- Rhône, Saint-Émilion, Chablis, Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits. The acquisitions will extend to South Africa. To clearly distinguish the Languedoc vineyards from others, they founded the company AdVini in 2010. This will include the rest of the 22 vineyards acquired until then.
As the company rises to the rank of French leader in the wine world, the group begins to reflect on sustainable development, preservation of the environment and its responsibility as a company. Today, all Languedoc vineyards are certified organic, some also biodynamic, and others are in the process of conversion. All vineyards are HVE (high environmental value) certified.
Pride in its land has always driven the Jeanjean family. She is happy to welcome visitors to most of her vineyards to let them taste her wines with the hospitality that characterizes the people of the south of France.
This content was produced by the Special Publications team at Duty, relating to marketing. The writing of the Duty did not take part.