Competitions like this are only as good as the entrants. The 100 wines that were selected came from 69 producers. At times the selection seems to be dominated by the big players, the likes of Jean-Claude Mas and Gérard Bertrand, not to mention various cooperatives. Sometimes I wish the smaller, less well known wine growers would see it for the opportunity that it is. A trophy here could get your wines very much better known on the difficult export market. Anyway what follows is a snapshot of some of the highlights.
NV Domaine Rosier, Blanquette de Limoux
I’ve not encountered this estate before, and their website was remarkably uninformative, so I can’t tell you more. The palate was light and lemony with some fresh fruit and acidity. But a week later I got to taste a whole range of delicious Blanquette and Crémant at a Sud de France tasting at the French Ambassador’s Residence. There was a particularly delicious Cuvée Heritage 2010 with some rich leesy fruit. I am promising myself another visit to Limoux to investigate further. The old family firm of Antech also performed well, with both a Blanquette and a Crémant.
As the statistics showed, white wines did particularly well, with white wines accounting for 40% of the Top 100, against a regional production of only 13%. I am skipping notes on a host of Chardonnay as I do find Chardonnay from the Midi singularly uninspiring – there’s nothing wrong with them, but just not much to really enthuse about. More exciting were wines with more southern characteristics. Viognier can produce good results in the Midi. I particularly like 2013 Domaine de Castelnau, L’Ile, Pays d’Oc with some lovely peachy fruit. It was fresh and rounded and very appealing. This estate also won a trophy for its L’Epicerie de Castelnau, a blend of Colombard and Muscat à petits grains, which was pithy with dry honey. And the Best White trophy went to Laurent Miquel, another large producer, but he does seem to have a very special knack with Viognier, as shown in his 2012 Verité Viognier, with some peachy fruit and depth, with a touch of oak. Domaine de la Rencontre has a lovely Muscat Sec, Pays l’Hérault, with fresh pithy grapey fruit. They are a great example of a new and up and coming small producer, with great energy and emerging talent.
I have a soft spot for Domaine Félines Jourdan’s Picpoul, although this time it was their Roussanne 95% and Picpoul 5% blend that featured in the line up, while les Costières de Pomerols Picpoul de Pinet from Naked Wine won the Picpoul trophy for fresh salty fruit.
There were some other lovely examples of white wine, with intriguing blends of grape varieties. 2012 Château Bas d’Aumelas, is a blend of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne and Viognier, which was round and fragrant. 2013 Château Puech Haut, Prestige, a blend of Roussanne, Marsanne and Carignan Gris was rich and leesy with some white blossom on the palate. Château des Estanilles Inverso, is a blend of Marsanne and Roussanne, with some fragrant fruit. There was an intriguing Minervois from Château de Paraza, a blend of Roussanne and Grenache Blanc which was delicate and floral. And another Minervois from Château Tourril, a more or less pure Roussanne, with some rich leesy fruit and some oak.. This is another estate that is new to me, that I also encountered a week later at the Sud de France tasting. Limoux also featured, mostly with wines from the Coop, Sieur d’Arques, but also Domaine Cathare, Melhorier, yet another new name, and a pure Chardonnay with rounded characterful leesy fruit. On the strength of this one wine which won a trophy, this estate is another reason to visit Limoux. And the final white was a textured and characterful Côtes du Roussillon De Ci De La from Domaine Modat, a blend of Grenache Blanc and Gris with some Macabeu and a mouthful of rich leesy fruit.
Rosés were poorly represented. For some reason they did not shine at the tasting, but the trophy winner, Château de Lascaux, a blend of Cinsaut, Grenache Blanc and Syrah was delicate and fresh. This Pic St. Loup estate was supported by a couple of rosés from the coop at St. Mathieu de Tréviers, Les Coteaux du Pic.
And now on to reds: Highlights came from the Cave de Roquebrun, which came up with four very convincing wines, of which my favourite was Chemin des Olivettes with lovely spicy tapenade fruit. 2012 Domaine de Cébène Felgaria was showing deliciously with elegant spicy fruit. There were a pair of wines from Mas Gabinèle, in Faugères, Rarissime and Inaccessible, which were finely crafted with stylish flavours, Faugères was on a winning run, with yet another wine Château des Estanilles, Raison d’Etre.
Corbières showed well. I also liked 2011 Château du Vieux Parc, Sélection Rouge, a blend of Grenache Noir, Syrah with some rugged fruit and rich flavours. Château Ollieux Romanis Atal Sia was another serious Corbières, with rich gutsy flavours. And the winner of the Best Red of was Mas Amiel, Vers le Nord. The decision is a democratic vote; I was actually a dissenter here and I do not know which wine was the runner up. This Maury Sec, a blend of Grenache with a dollop of Syrah, was rich and redolent of ripe liqueur cherries.
As for dessert wines, I also enjoyed two further offerings from Mas Amiel, their Muscat de Rivesaltes, which was fresh and honeyed with a grapey finish, and their 2011 Maury which was redolent of ripe black fruit and spice. The trophy for the best fortified wine went to Le Manoir des Schistes, 2009 Maury with intense fruit from 80 year old Grenache vines. So all in all, lots of delicious wines in the Top 100.