Le Top 100 and other Languedoc beauties


The Wine Gang recently joined forces with Sud de France and 50 wine lovers who’d snapped up all available tickets to spend an evening tasting wines from ‘Le Top 100’

The Top 100 is the annual blind-tasting competition to select, no prizes for guessing, 100 top wines from the South of France. This year, as the newly constituted Occitanie region, it took in the South West as well as the huge arc of Languedoc-Roussillon from the Spanish border round to the Rhône Valley. As it was the South West's debut year, they submitted a limited number of wines, but we expect to see a bigger representation in years to come.


The tasting was held in the smart, centrally located headquarters of Sud de France UK in Cavendish Square, London, and The Wine Gang – Jane, David, Anthony (looking at the camera above) and I (squeezing in far left) each had a table of six wines showcasing the quality and diversity of Occitanie's wines.

There was no question that it was both the quality and the sheer variety of styles, regions, grape varieties and blends that were a revelation to the tasters. They were free to taste what and where they liked, but most worked through table by table and then returned to their favourites for a recap. The four of us were there to pour and talk about the wines. There's nothing we like better. And we were so busy the whole evening that I barely really caught up with the other three, but I can at least tell you about the six wines I showed – a pink fizz, a dry white and four reds – together with some of the others that I tasted and then, finally, some gems from Domaines Paul Mas.

Scores out of 100, as usual, with 93 constituting a gold.

Sieur d’Arques Crémant de Limoux Première Bulle Rosé

Graceful, supple sparkling wine with mouthwatering, fresh raspberry and strawberry fruit. A Chardonnay-dominated blend with 10% Chenin Blanc and 10% Pinot Noir.

89

This has been available from Tesco, but is not currently stocked.

Château Coujan Saint-Chinian Cuvée Bois Joli 2016

A rare white Saint-Chinian, made from Roussanne, Rolle (aka Vermentino) and Grenache, oak fermented and matured. A perfume of mirabelles, with quince and minerals subtly framed by oak on the palate. Absolutely lovely.

93

£13.95, Vino Vero

Château Saint-Martin de la Garrigue Picpoul 2016, Picpoul de Pinet

Not your usual crisp, light/medium Picpoul, but a wine matured on its lees to add creamy succulence to the herby, green pear and mineral intensity. It’s designed to be drunk with food – more than just the Picpoul staple of seafood, but also makes a very satisfying aperitif.

92

Older vintages are available: see wine-searcher


Château Canet Minervois Blanc 2016

A 50:50 blend of Bourboulenc and Roussanne from an appellation known overwhelmingly for its red wines. Taste this and you wonder why more producers don’t make white. You might also wonder if ageing in oak for a mere three weeks (after eight months in stainless steel) can contribute anything, but it’s enough to give a rich, almost buttery texture to the intense lemon and grapefruit, hints of peach and spice and long, fresh, salty, citrusy finish. (I can also recommend Château Canet’s red Minervois Vieilles Vignes 2015, £11.99, Laithwaites.)

92

£11.15, Gerrard Seel

Château Haut Gléon Corbières Blanc 2015

Yet another white from an appellation where white wines barely register. This one, from the giant Foncalieu co-operative – all credit to them – is oak fermented, or rather, the Roussanne three-quarters of the blend is, while the 25% Vermentino is fermented in stainless steel. The oak gives a creamy richness and subtle vanilla note to the fresh peach fruit.

91

Older vintages are available: see wine-searcher

Château Ventenac Cabardès Les Années Folles La Délicate 2015

A 50% Cabernet Franc, 30% Syrah, 10% Merlot, 10% Grenache blend from Languedoc’s most westerly appellation, Cabardès, in the limestone foothills of the Massif Central. The combination of cooler climate and Cabernet Franc gives a green capsicum freshness to the raspberry, black fruit and graphite flavours. Drier, lighter and more linear than reds from warmer Languedoc areas.

92

Bergerie du Capucin Languedoc Pic Saint Loup Dame Jeanne 2015

A Syrah-dominated blend with 20% Grenache and a smidgen of Mourvèdre. There’s no oak to get in the way of Syrah’s enticing floral, cherry and raspberry perfume and purity of flavour. My joint favourite red with the Saint-Chinian below.

93

Christopher Piper Wines have the 2014 vintage at £14.54

Domaine Belot Saint-Chinian Mouleyres 2015

An oak-aged Saint-Chinian made from 60% Syrah, 30% Mourvèdre and 10% Grenache. Fragrant, ripe red fruit, especially raspberry, notes of garrigue, spice and smoky almond. Generous and satisfying. Joint favourite red.

93

Domaine Hegarty Chamans N.3 La Piboule Minervois 2015

A dark, full, garrigue-scented, Mourvèdre-dominant red with 20% Syrah and 10% Carignan. The biodynamic grapes are fermented and aged in (once again fashionable) concrete tanks, so there’s no oak influence on the spicy, nutty, perfumed layers.

92

Older vintages are available: see wine-searcher

Château de Villemajou Corbières Boutenac Grand Vin 2015

A dark and powerful red made from Carignan, Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre aged in French oak barrels for almost a year. Succulent black fruit, with liquorice, herbs and spices and a rich, oaky wrap. This was a firm favourite of many at the tasting. It's not in the UK, but many other wines made by Gérard Bertrand in his signature ripe, oak-aged style are.

91

Les Domaines Paul Mas

No fewer than six wines* from the indefatigable and innovative Jean-Claude Mas and his 12 Languedoc estates were selected by the judges for this year’s Le Top 100 – way more than any other producer – so it may seem perverse to highlight two of his other wines here, but it’s a way of emphasising how outstanding Jean-Claude’s contribution to the Languedoc quality wine scene is. It’s also an opportunity for me to recommend wines that I wanted to make Wines of the Week, but couldn’t because these vintages are not yet available in retail outlets. For older vintages, see wine-searcher

Mas de Tannes Réserve Blanc 2016, Pays d’Oc

A Grenache-based blend from the 30-hectare organic Mas de Tannes vineyard across the road from the Paul Mas HQ in Montagnac, Hérault. A delicate fragrance of citrus, quince, ginger, vanilla and nuts leading into a vibrant, smooth-textured palate, with white peach flowing into the quince and citrus fruit, and a fresh almond and lemon-peel twist to the finish. Delicious.

93

Mas de Tannes Réserve Rouge 2015, Pays d’Oc

A rich yet fresh, velvety blend of organic Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache and Mourvèdre (55:35:10) with ripe, juicy black cherry and plum fruit spiked with black pepper, coffee, graphite, charcoal and earthy sweetness.

92

*The six Paul Mas wines selected for Le Top 100

Paul Mas Estate Viognier 2016, Pays d’Oc

Irresistible Picpoul de Pinet 2016 (under the Co-op UK’s own-label)

Château Paul Mas Belluguette 2016 Coteaux du Languedoc

Paul Mas Vinus Malbec 2016, Pays d’Oc

Jean-Claude Mas Malbec Réserve 2016, Pays d’Oc

Tableau de Vie Lot 22 Terrasses du Larzac 2015 (an Aldi exclusivity)


Me with Sébastien du Boulay, Food & Wine Promotions Manager of Sud de France at The Wine Gang Summer '17 Wine Festival

#wine #France #Languedoc

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Website © 2019 Joanna Simon

Header photo © Waitrose & Partners Drinks / Cat Garcia