I had a fascinating day yesterday, busy and intense, tasting for what is now an annual competition, The Top 100 wines from Languedoc-Roussillon. The competition covers the whole spectrum of Languedoc Roussillon, so a broad spread of flavours ranging from sparkling wine to dessert wines, via all three colours of vins de pays and appellations. Altogether there were about 650 entries and our job was to choose the Top 100. We were divided into six teams, three tasters per team. I was with Ana Sapungi from Oddbins and Christine Parkinson from Hakkasan and we operated on the thoroughly democratic principle, deciding yes, no or maybe by a majority vote. The chairman of the tasting panel, Tim Atkin, re-tasted all the maybes and added them back into the competition, or eliminated them, as he saw fit. By the end of the morning we had about 200 contenders for the Top 100. And in the afternoon, each team tasted a different set of wines to eliminate some, and to propose the best for trophies. More tasting; more discussion; a choice of trophies, rosé, Faugères, St. Chinian, dessert wine, and several others, and a democratic vote on best red and best white of the competition from the trophies.
I cannot of course say anything about the winners – that is firmly embargoed until the results are announced at the London Wine Trade Fair in early June. But general impressions from what I tasted would include an appreciation of the quality and diversity of the white appellation wines. One of our best flights was white, from St. Chinian, Minervois and Faugères, offering some lovely complex flavours with plenty of depth and fruit. It makes me think that the whites of the Languedoc are too often overlooked and under-appreciated, and really should be taken much more seriously. They stand very happily alongside the reds.
The most striking thing about our rosé flight was the colour. All were very delicate and pale, keenly following the fashion set by the Côtes de Provence. And amongst the reds, our best reds came from a flight of characterful St. Chinian and some gutsy Corbières, with the best amply demonstrating the quality and character of those two appellations. More will be revealed in June when the complete Top 100 wines will be available for tasting and I will have the opportunity to see what my follow tasters chose from their flights.
And my days next week will be devoted to chairing the Languedoc-Roussillon panel for Decanter’s World Wine awards, so apologies in advance for my silence.