A pleasant turnaround say exhibitors at this year's 8th Mediterranean wine trade fair, Vinisud, given that this part of France only five or six years ago was one of the hardest hit by competition from so called "New World" producers – Australia, America, Chile, Argentina, to name a few.
In the last two or three years it has earned itself the title of most innovative and is now volume the leading regional exporter of French wines with seven million hectolitres shipped abroad in 2007.
"Last year 1.3 million bottles of Arrogant Frog were exported to Australia, a 20 percent increase on 2006," said Jean Claude Mas, the wine's Languedoc-based producer. Mas says those figures make it the most imported French wine in Australia.
Asked why, he points to the label showing a jaunty frog in a red jacket and beret, swinging a walking stick. "It is constructive self derision. We have always been told we are second rate, by Bordeaux, by Burgundy, so we have to go at things another route."
The producing region of southern France broadly includes Languedoc-Roussillon, Rhone, Provence, Midi-Pyrenees and Corsica – but the Languedoc and the Rhone are probably the best known outside of France.
Eye-catching names such as Arrogant Frog, Fat Bastard, the Rhoning Stones and Bois-Moi (Drink Me), are certainly part of the story, as is the willingness to try ever newer, ever slicker packaging.
More than just a pretty face
Apart from the names and the packaging however, there is the wine itself, which tastes better than many mid-range wines from Bordeaux or Burgundy. The reasons for this, say both local and outside producers, are the ideal weather and soil conditions for wine growing.
There are also a far wider range of wine-making techniques for those who choose to make wines in the lesser ranking, but more innovative, Vins de Pays d'Oc category. "It is a more liberal system here, with the vin de pays appellation," said Ruth Simpson, producer of Le Coq D'Oc wine. Simpson, who owns Domaine Sainte Rose with her husband, moved to the region to produce wine five and a half years ago and says they chose the region for that reason.
Indicating further progress in the region, Vinisud 2008 is also boasting increased exhibitor figures of 1 600 stands, increased visitor numbers, expected to reach 35 000 people and a 200 percent increase in foreign buyers.