Rest of France
Despite having definite regional character, the number of Golds for the South of France continues to decrease, with ‘decent’ rather than ‘amazing’ the order of the day
Made up mostly of Southern French wines, this is, as you might expect, a pretty big category. But its influence on the overall Gold List has declined over the last couple of years, from five Golds in 2009 to two last year and just one this year.
Perhaps, since value for money was always the South’s main USP, the major price rises have hurt it more than other areas? Certainly, Team Leader Natasha Hughes had a point when she commented that, ‘unless they’re stonkingly good value, there is no compelling argument for having them on the list. These wines do tend to come from places that many people don’t especially care about.’
Places, for instance, like Roussillon, Madiran and Cahors. Sommeliers might like these places because they’re different but they’re way off the radar for most customers.
As always, both reds and whites were a real mixed bag, which made life difficult for the sommeliers. But the fact that both tended to be a mix of wallet-friendly, cheaper, simpler wines topped off with a spread of wines of greater complexity, gave our judges something to get their teeth into.
As a category, it took a while to get into its stride – ‘lots of boring wines’, complained Texture’s Xavier Rousset MS – but once the dull examples had been weeded out there was some evident potential, leading to what he called ‘pleasant surprises’.
‘There were some modern, deeply flavoured wines, and some very individual red wines, too,’ said Team Leader Sarah Jane Evans MW. ‘We gave a Gold to the one that had a very commercial style, but all the medal-winning reds had character.’
The whites were less inspiring, with the tasters tending to favour the lighter, fresher versions and distrust those with too much oaky ambition.
‘They were all perfectly nice but there was nothing fantastic,’ said Laura Rhys MS, although Roberto Loppi liked the Silver medal-winning Delas Viognier: ‘A good food wine – a fresh glass and a good price.’
It’s also worth mentioning the performance by the Toques et Clochers Chardonnay, which followed up its 2010 Gold and By the Glass Award with a Silver this year.
“The best white wines for me had texture, and some even showed a little spiciness and good aromatic character. ” Kelvin McCabe, Roka
Chimeres Cotes du Roussillon Villages 2008, Roussillon, France
£8.73 @ Liberty Wines
With plenty of black forest fruit in concert with spicy notes throughout and an overlay of smoky, rubbery, bacon aromas, this is not for the faint hearted. ‘Nicely juicy with a rich mocha aspect. Very commercial,’ said Sarah Jane Evans MW. ‘Superb fragrance! This is elegant and charming with a silky palate,’ said Mikaël Hannequin.
Duc de Morny Picpoul de Pinet 2010, Coteaux du Languedoc, France
£5.34 @ Boutinot
Along with lemon and lime, there’s a refreshing orchard fruit tang, plus a dash of minerals, nuts and a long finish. Kelvin McCabe felt there was a ‘nicely textured back-palate.’ ‘Food friendly,’ said Natasha Hughes.
Delas Viognier 2009, Languedoc, France
£6.28 @ Berkmann Wine Cellars
With peach and orange peel flavours, a gentle apricot character, and good mineral acidity,
this offers a ‘lovely, oily texture’ according to Kelvin McCabe, and a balanced finish.
Le Canon du Marechal Blanc 2010, Roussillon, France
£7.63 @ Liberty Wines
Great balance on the nose between warm, floral aromas and apricot notes before dried apricots take over on a delicate palate. ‘Rich in minerals,’ said Peter Csizmadia-Honigh. ‘Elegant’ was the other word on people’s lips.
Toques et Clochers Haute Vallee 2008, Limoux, France
£8.99 @ Producteurs et Vignerons de France
Well-judged oak adds to this elegant wine on both nose and palate. Stone fruit dominates the nose while a splash of spice adds to the texture and depth. ‘Restrained but persistent,’ said Kelvin McCabe. ‘Soft buttery notes and a nice minerality on the back palate.’
Chateau du Vieux Parc Cuvee Tradition 2009, Languedoc Roussillon, France
£6.50 @ Enotria
Lush and extravagant in an earthy, savoury style. This sports fresh black fruit alongside well-integrated tannins and spice on a lively, medium-bodied palate. ‘Fragrant and long,’ said Team Leader Sarah McCleery.
Chateau de Chambert Cahors Grand Vin 2008, Cahors, France
£18.25 @ Liberty Wines
Smoky blackcurrants and spices throughout, this is rich, concentrated and fleshy, showing the deft use of oak alongside ripe fruit and high acidity. ‘Well-built, this will last for a decade,’ said Angus Macnab.
Chateau l’Hospitalet Reserve La Clape 2009, Languedoc, France
£9.12 @ Bibendum
Powerful red fruit aromas precede plenty of jammy, stewed fruit on a very spicy, complex palate. ‘A fruit-driven palate with well-made tannins,’ said Mikaël Hannequin. ‘A beautiful glass of wine.’
Domaine de Vedilhan Serica Viognier 2009, Languedoc, France
£5.34 @ Boutinot
This starts quietly on the nose, with white flowers and peach, but the flavours expand on a creamy palate to offer nectarine, orange zest, spice and a touch of honey. ‘Good value,’ said Xavier Rousset MS succinctly.
Domaine de Coujan Rolle Vin de Pays des Coteaux de Murviel 2009, Languedoc-Roussillon, France
£6.37 @ Enotria
Apricot and citrus aromas on the nose lead to a complex battery of flavours on the palate – lime, nectarine, orange peel – plus a tang of acidity to balance.
Producteurs Plaimont Madiran Plenitude 2006, South-West France
£14.46 @ Producteurs Plaimont
With a nice concentration of spicy black fruit on the palate, Olivier Marie found ‘a complex, exotic character with hints of sandalwood and a tight, firm structure’.