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Depardieu succeeds where Mondavi failed

The Languedoc community that bitterly – and successfully – opposed Robert Mondavi has opened its arms to Gérard Depardieu.

The veteran French actor, an established wine producer with land in Anjou and the Médoc, wants to buy land in Aniane, north of Montpellier, home to the Languedoc’s most famous wine, Mas de Daumas Gassac. Last year the Aniane commune members opposed a bid by Napa wine producer Robert Mondavi Winery to lease two hectares of vineyard in Aniane.

Depardieu, however, is being welcomed. ‘I think producers feel happy, I don’t see any possible problem,’ Aimé Guibert of Mas de Daumas Gassac told decanter.com. ‘Depardieu is totally different to Mondavi. He wants to pay for land – he doesn’t want to destroy forest.

‘Mondavi was not willing to buy, not willing to pay and wanted to destroy a large forest. He wanted to rent land with a three or four year delay in payment – it was a very unpleasant fight’.

Many small abandoned vineyards are being offered for sale in Aniane. Depardieu will be able to visit them and choose from several sites close to Mas de Daumas Gassac. ‘Aniane has exceptional terroir and there is a lot of uncultivated land,’ said Guibert. ‘He has a choice of a few good vineyards’.

But some Aniane wine producers did support Mondavi’s attempt to move into the area and were disappointed by the commune’s decision to reject his application. ‘That Mondavi didn’t get his land is a tragedy,’ said Jean-Paul Berthoumieu, export director for Gerard Bertrand. ‘He’s a genius at getting the message across and that’s what we really need here in the Languedoc’.

Feelings still run high in the region – many producers were keen to comment but most refused to be named for fear of rekindling an acrimonious debate. One said, ‘Mondavi would have put the Languedoc on the international winemaking map’.

There is hope that Depardieu will now focus world attention on the region. ‘Magrez, one of the biggest Bordeaux négociants, is coming to Aniane. That proves that Bordeaux understands that Aniane is up to the level of Medoc,’ said Guibert. ‘It will make the name of Aniane.’

Mondavi’s bid to grow grapes in the region collapsed in May 2001 after two years of bitter dispute.

‘There comes a time when you have to say it is not reasonable to continue,’ the company’s representative David Pearson said at the time. He added that 87-year-old Robert Mondavi himself was ‘upset’ by the way his company was received.

Written by Josie Butchart

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