Taking southwest France to the world

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Exclusive interview with Lionel Osmin, founder of Lionel Osmin and Co.

Lionel Osmin & Co is a specialist producer and distributor from the south west of France. We talk to its founder, Lionel Osmin, about what difference he wants to make, but we began by asking how he started out in the field.

The story began at the foot of the Pyrenees, as I was born in a village next to Pau, in the Jurançon appellation. My father was a wine lover who first introduced me to this “universe”. After doing internships at producers in France and Spain I had the taste and wanted to work in this field.

OUR PASSION IS TO GIVE PEOPLE SOMETHING NEW TO DISCOVER.

Why did you start Lionel Osmin & Co?

We wanted to make people more aware of the true value of France’s southwestern wines. The region is not traditionally well known to wine drinkers around the world and we wanted to showcase what the region can do and help promote the excellent wines it is producing.

We also wanted to demonstrate the support and pride our local producers have in working with local grape varieties that stretch back to the 1960’s. We have an incredible diversity of grape varieties in southwest France, but what we don’t have is a long history, or reputation for producing them, unlike Bordeaux.

We can only pinpoint specific quality improvements since the 1980’s, so there is still a lot to do for this work to be recognised. But we see every day that markets are more and more searching for original wines.

These producers have dedicated their professional lives to these indigenous grape varieties in order to make wines that are more than just interesting. These wines retain a great deal of vinexpodaily.com character and identity. These local winegrowers are close to my own roots, which is why I wanted to do what I could to help them.

How have you done that?

I first launched Maison de Vins de Jurançon, with all the winegrowers of the appellation. Then for 12 years, I worked as a kind of pilgrim, travelling the world promoting the qualities of these wines, explaining Tannat, and the fact Malbec originates from Cahors.

In 2010, I wanted to bring my own personality to the wines, and start my own production and founded Lionel Osmin & Co with winemaker, Damiens Sartori. We did this without buying vineyards but grapes, so that we could group together a number of indigenous varietal wines under one roof, and present a more simplified offer to distributors, and importers around the world. We introduced our first wines to the market in 2011.

What differentiates the grapes of the southwest to other varieties and regions?

The southwest is a vast wine producing region, stretching west to east, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Massif Central, and south to north, from the Pyrenees to Bordeaux. This territory has multiple, and very different climatic, geologic and geographic features. This means we don’t have a unity of production that one might find in Burgundy or Bordeaux, where you will find the same geography and climate across most vineyards. This is why each of our appellations have such a diverse range of different grape varieties that have all adapted to the unique climate and geography… like Malbec. Whilst it has become an internationally renowned grape variety, its source and origin is Cahors in the Lot Valley. Traditionally it’s full-bodied, but we now produce two very distinct styles of this native grape, including a fresh, fruity version that no way resembles the historic, traditional, rustic style. Malbec is not only French, but comes from the southwest and is the “original French, fresh Malbec”. The Négrette is also very unique, planted only at Fronton just north of Toulouse, producing excellent rosé wines.

We want to bring these amazing wines to the attention of the world’s wine lovers and not just present them with a 50th Merlot or 35th Syrah. Our passion is to give people something new to discover.

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Photo: Damiens Sartori, Oenologist, Lionel Osmin & Co, with Lionel Osmin, Founder, Lionel Osmin & Co