What follows should have been published in bbbMidi during the autumn, but as that has not happened, for reasons I know not why, I thought I might as well post the article before Dom George has sold out of all the wines in question.
After ten years or so, Decanter Magazine’s annual World Wine Awards is now a well established competition, attracting over 10,000 entries from all round the world. But why hold a competition? Sarah Kemp, the publisher of the magazine is emphatic. She has her readers at heart, insisting that there is huge demand for recommendations, from a trusted source. And it provides a magnificent snapshot of the wine market at that moment in time, recording each participating country’s successes. Sarah also observed how democratic wine competitions are. Everyone has a chance, provided you can afford the entrance fee in the first place, and it is not always the big names that win. For some of the newer wine producing countries, or simply new producers, a wine competition can provide a useful marker.
And that of course leads to the thorny question: how reliable and consistent is a judging panel? There are many elements that come into play. There is some discussion as to whether wines are affected by the bio-rhythms of the biodynamic calendar, with the suggestion that you should only taste wine on fruit days when it is showing at its best. On a root day it will be much less expressive. This may be a little far-fetched, or maybe not. And certainly taste is affected by what has gone before, so that a blockbuster of a wine that is stuffed with alcohol and oak, will completely overwhelm a more delicate and subtle wine. People do refer to ‘competition wines’, the wines that perform well, with a punch of flavour at the first taste.
And judges are only human; we all have good days and off days, irrespective of personal preferences, so that consistency can be tricky to obtain. A panel of three or more judges, as for Decanter, will help avoid any wildly varying assessments and should achieve an element of consistency. As we all know, tasting is a very inexact science. And objectivity is something to which we can aspire, but may not necessarily obtain. Personal taste and preferences inevitably come into play, but despite that, I firmly believe that in a well-organised competition, outstanding quality will shine out and the right wines will win the gold medals.
So here are some of the best of the Languedoc from this year’s Decanter World Wine Awards, all stocked at Le Wine Shop in Pézenas, or you could buy them directly from the producer.
2014 Château Rives-Blanques, Odyssée, Limoux (Silver medal) - 12.50€
A little colour, from the barrel ageing. A lightly buttery note on the nose and quite a rich palate, with some firm balancing acidity. Nice texture and mouth feel and still quite youthful. Limoux, with its slightly cooler climate, is one of the best places for Chardonnay in the Languedoc, with an appellation that demands ageing in barrel for the still white wines. And this example comes from one of my favourite Limoux producers, an estate owned by an Irish-Dutch couple, Caryl and Jan Panman, who turned to wine for a second career.
2012 La Clape, Château Camplazens, Reserve, (Silver medal) – 12.00€
Quite a deep colour. Ripe spice and black fruit on the nose, and on the palate lots of rich fruit, with a balancing streak of tannin. Full and textured with a dry leathery finish. La Clape, just outside Narbonne, now has its own appellation. And Château Camplazens is well worth a visit for the new tasting area, decorated with Simon Fletcher’s dramatic murals.
2012 Minervois, Château de Gourgazaud, Réserve (Silver Medal). 10.95€
Medium colour. Quite firm dry leather spice on the nose and on the palate more leathery notes, with dry spice. Youthful with good depth of flavour. This wine has a strong sense of place, recalling the wild scenery of the Minervois hills.
2011 Ste Cécile du Parc, Pézenas (Silver Medal) – 25.00€
From a relatively new producer outside Pézenas. The vineyards around Pézenas now form one of the crus of the Languedoc. Good deep colour. A rich sturdy oaky nose and an intense palate, with firm tannins and youthful fruit. Considerable depth and a long finish. How will it age, I wonder?
2012 Plan de l’Homme, Habilis, Terrasses du Larzac (Gold medal) – 12.50€
Deep colour. Firm spice on the nose and quite a rich palate. with stylish dry leather notes. Rounded, ripe and rich with lots of depth and nuances of flavour, and a lovely long ripe finish. Plan de l’Homme belongs to Rémi Duchemin, who first made his reputation in the Pic St. Loup at Domaine Mortiès, and at Plan de l’Homme he has gone on to even better things.
2012 Faugères, Domaine Ollier Taillefer, Grande Réserve (Trophy)- 10.50€
This won the Languedoc red wine trophy, chosen from the gold medals, and quite rightly so. It is an absolute classic example of the appeal of the Languedoc and the character of Faugères, and comes from one of the first estates to put Faugères in bottle. There is some lovely rich spice balanced by a stony note of minerality, with a fresh finish. Beautifully elegant and great value at 10.50€