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Published:  23 July, 2008

Gemma Crangle, a WSET-accredited tutor, worked briefly at consumer magazine Wine International and then for two years in the buying department of Corney & Barrow before setting up Terroir in 2003. The company supplies restaurants and private customers, focusing on wines from the Languedoc, but has recently expanded to include wines from the neighbouring region of Roussillon. Terroir is the sole agent in the UK for the majority of the producers it represents.

Why did you decide to set up as a Languedoc specialist?

I could see there was a gap in the market for top-end, quality wines from the Languedoc-Roussillon region, rather than just the bulk production wines that have dominated the market until recently. For many years the region had a bad reputation as the great wine lake', dominated by co-operatives and producing poor-quality bulk wines, but there is now a new generation of wine growers, focused on quality and terroir, which has made the region's wines a lot more popular and accessible for UK consumers.

Did you already have a connection with the Languedoc?

The only link I had was that I had been on lots of family holidays to the region over the years. My family was always interested in visiting wine estates while we were there and going to the region's top restaurants, where we tasted the wines.

Was it difficult to find the right producers for your list?

I already had a few in mind when I first started, including producers I had got to know well over the years, and the restaurants in the region gave a good indication of which producers to look at for my core list. After that it was word of mouth - a lot of wine growers I already knew mentioned other growers who were worth looking at.

What is the price range of your list?

It goes from about 5 up to around 40, but the bulk of the sales are in the 10-20 range because our customers know they will get really top-end wines from Languedoc-Roussillon at that price.

How did you go about finding a market for the wines?

As soon as I had launched the wine list I started talking to restaurants, especially around London, to see if they would be interested in stocking top-quality wines from the Languedoc. A lot of them have actually set up Languedoc sections in their wine lists, which is brilliant. Orrery (part of The Conran Group) was our first, and is still our best, customer. It was a case of being in the right place at the right time with Orrery, because the buyer had just been to the Languedoc looking for some wines for the list and had visited one of our producers. We now supply most of the Languedoc wines on the list. The Devonshire Arms at Bolton Abbey also has a whole new Languedoc section on its list featuring our wines, and we often hold wine dinners at Edinburgh restaurant La Garrigue, which specialises in food from the Languedoc.

Who are your customers?

They are mainly the top-end restaurants, but also more and more private customers who know a bit about the Languedoc and are willing to experiment further. The split is about 60/40 between the on-trade and private customers. The general reaction has been brilliant across the board. I try to taste the wines with as many people as I can, because they sell themselves and people are usually very surprised by the quality of the wines if they don't already know what the region has to offer. I have been holding tastings for various wine societies across the country recently, and they have all been blown away by the quality of the wines.

You won the International Wine Challenge (IWC) Most Aesthetic Wine List award in 2004. How important is the design of the list to your business?

I felt our wine list had to be really striking to set us apart from the hundreds of other start-up wine companies. It's also important because it is generally the first taste of the company for our customers. Photographer Mick Rock (of Cephas) did the pictures (commissioned by the list's designers Elmwood), and I looked through Paul Strang's book Languedoc-Roussillon: The Wines and Winemakers for information and inspiration. The wine list is all about educating consumers in the UK about what is going on in the Languedoc. The geographical features of the region have to be seen in order to understand the region. The landscape is really beautiful and diverse, so showing that, as well as quirky pictures of our winegrowers, is very important.

Will you be making any changes to your list this year?

We are in the process of producing our next list at the moment, and it includes some very exciting new wines from Roussillon, including a selection of Vins Doux Naturels. Just as in the Languedoc, there is a new generation of wine growers in Roussillon who have broken away from co-operatives and are producing quality wines from low-yielding vines, which are not aimed at supermarkets or large retail outlets, but rather smaller independent merchants. Roussillon has always been lumped together with the Languedoc, but it is a fascinating region in its own right.

What are your plans for the business?

It's still growing, so I'll continue sourcing new wines, but once I've got the next list out I'll concentrate on increasing the private customer list as well as restaurant customers, particularly in the north. We might end up opening a retail outlet at some stage, but at the moment I really have no idea what will happen.

Terroir Ltd, Treetops, Grassington Road, Skipton, North Yorkshire BD23 1LL, Tel: 01756 700 512,