The Top 100 in 2023


I help judge the Top 100 competition each year, but that means that I only see a small part of the entries.  For an overview, the tasting showing all the winning wines is essential.   And there was the usual eclectic selection, with a wine or two from most of the appellations of the region.  Although Occitanie has been extended to include some appellations of the southwest, they did not really feature, with just eight wines, while sixteen came from Roussillon and two from Côtes du Rhone Villages, Laudun, which is technically part of the competition, as it is situated in the department of the Gard.  The lion’s share belonged to the Languedoc.   


The tasting began with a lone Crémant de Limoux, Blason Rouge from Sieur d’Arques.  I couldn’t help feeling that the dosage was a little on the high side and that I have tasted more distinguished Crémants, even if Sieur d’Arques is a coop that works well for its appellation.   


Next came a couple of Picpoul de Pinet from the cooperative in the village of Pomerols, which performs very well for its appellation, as well as one from the cooperative in another village, Florensac.  All three had the firm salinity that is typical of good Picpoul, accounting for the success of the appellation.    And the 2020 Selection from les Vignerons de Florensac won Best in Show White.  However, I would say it was close run thing between the three Picpouls.  


As for other white appellations, there were a couple of plain AOP Languedoc.  I liked 2021 Château de Caseneuve, a blend of Roussanne, Grenache Blanc and Rolle, with a little oak ageing.  The oak was well integrated and the palate round and floral.  In contrast 2021 Château Puech Haut, Tête de Belier was firmly oaky, but with leesy texture and good length.   There was a discreet St Chinian, 2022 Les Secrets from the coop in St Chinian, an unoaked blend of Grenache Blanc and Roussanne with some fresh acidity and rounded fruit.   Laurent Miquel’s 2022 Albariño IGP Aude was lightly peachy, with good varietal character.   His 2022 Solas Viognier Pays d’Oc also displayed good varietal character, a more subtle Viognier than the usual Viogniers from the Languedoc.     2022 Clos Aguilhem, IGP Saint Guilhem-le-Désert, was awarded the accolade of Wine of Distinction.  It was a blend of Grenache Blanc, Chenin Blanc and Vermentino, with some oak ageing, which you could detect on the palate, combined with some floral fruit and good mouthfeel.  I was also very pleased to taste 2022 La Chapelle Saint-Mathieu, Pays de l’Hérault, a blend of Grenache Blanc , Roussanne and Chenin Blanc, a new estate close to Aniane, developed by Domaine de la Rectorie in Roussillon.  The oak is nicely integrated, with balancing fruit and a textured palate.  


There were just four Rosés.  2022 Fontarèche Piquepoul Noir IGP Aude was deemed best rosé in show.  It had some delicate fresh raspberry fruit, with a little weight on the palate.  I also like 2022 Domaine Coste-Moynier AOP Languedoc, from Cinsault and Grenache Noir, with delicate raspberry fruit and balancing acidity.  


The best red of show went to Mas Conscience, 2020 Terrasses du Larzac, a blend of Syrah Grenache and Cinsault, with ripe supple fruit and a balancing streak of tannin.  It conjured up Languedoc sunshine in the glass with some depth and elegance, demonstrating the style of wine that the Languedoc does so well.   Altogether there were five wines from the Terrasses du Larzac of which I also liked le Clos Rouge, 2020 Babel, a blend of Syrah Grenache and Cinsault, which was more structured that the Mas Conscience, with some spice on both nose and palate, and some ageing potential.


Faugères performed well this year with eight wines.  The cooperative had two wines under their Mas Olivier label.  2022 Grande Reserve lacked depth for my taste buds, while 2022 Le Parfum du Mas displayed much more depth with ripe fruit and spice.   Abbaye Silva Plana also had two wines in the line up of which 2021 La Closeraie was awarded Wine of Distinction.  It was quite firm and structured with black fruit, but I would criticise the heavy bottle.  And Château Estanilles achieved a hat trick with three wines, 2019 Sous les Rocs, 2019 Clos du Fou and 2019 Fontanilles. I liked Clos du Fou best, which is the vineyard for which the estate is best known.  Made from Syrah and Grenache, with firm oak, tannin and fruit, and displaying masses of potential.  But again another heavy bottle.    2021 Château de Ciffre, Terroirs d’Altitude, displayed oak and black fruit on the palate, making for a characterful mouthful of flavour.  


There were four St Chinian, with the 2020 S’il Vous Plait from the St Chinian coop providing supple fruit and easy drinking.   Laurent Miquel’s 2019 lieu dit Bardou was more serious with structure and youthful potential.  A lone la Clape came from Château les Bugadelles and there was a lone Pic St Loup from Doimaine les Grandes Coste.  Two of the three Grès de Montpellier came from Mas du Novi, of which I much preferred the unoaked O de Novi from Syrah and Grenache with supple ripe fruit.


Moving further west, there were four Minervois as well as a Minervois la Livinière 2021 from Domaine de la Borie Blanche which gained Wine of Distinction.  It is a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre, with some obvious oak but good underlying fruit.   There were five Corbières of which my favourite was Domaine la Cendrillon, 2017 Inédite, a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre, with a firm structured palate balanced with appealing spicy fruit.   I also enjoyed the lone Fitou, Domaine du Vent, 2021 Autan en Emporte, a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan, with no oak, but plenty of warm, spicy fruit.


The final appellation was a Malepère from Domaine la Louviere, la Séductrice, a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec, and a change of register after the traditional Languedoc flavours.  It was fresh and elegant with good cassis fruit.


Some IGP followed, from Pays d’Oc, Cevennes, Coteaux d’Ensérune, Saint Guilhem-le-Désert, Aude, Côtes du Brian and Côtes de Thau.   Domaine Gayda’s Altre Cami Grenache Noir was awarded Wine of Distinction. With no oak it exuded ripe liqueur cherry fruit and was subtle and supple.   I also liked Domaine les Yeuses 2020 Syrah les Epices, with supple varietal character and well-integrated oak.   La Chappelle St Mathieu Les Arbres de Judée from Mourvèdre and Cabernet Sauvignon combined cassis and spice with a firm streak of tannin, and youthful potential.  


Lou Belvestit is a young estate in the Côtes de Thongue and 2022 Lembre, from Syrah, Carignan and Grenache Noir was spicy and youthful, and refreshingly unoaked.   Both the IGP Saint Guilhem-le-Désert came from Domaine Saint-Jean d’Aumières.  I preferred the unoaked 2022 Tria to the partially oaked 2021 Prima, with its elegant fruit and a refreshing finish.  Calmel & Joseph’s Les Terroirs la Fabrique 2021 Côtes de Brian was an unoaked pure Carignan, with red fruit and the fresh finish of Carignan, showing clearly why that once despised grape variety deserves its new reputation.


In the Roussillon line up, Mas Bécha claimed the lion’s share, with four wines. I particularly liked 2020 Hipgnosis 269, a blend of Vermentino, Grenache Blanc and Macabeo, with satisfying weight and texture and floral notes.  The 2021 vintage was also in the line-up, proving that the wine benefitted from an extra year in bottle.   The two red wines, 2020 Barrique and 2021 Excellence, were both quite solid, intense and ripe.   Domaine des Trois Orris 2018 Euphorie,  a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan, had rounded dry spice balanced with tannin, and some intriguing flavours on the finish.   A 2020 Maury Sec from Mas de la Devèze was supple and ripe, while a Côtes Catalanes from a new estate, le Clos d’Elpis, a pure unoaked Syrah, was appealingly fresh and elegant.  There were two wines from Domaine de la Rectorie, a pair of Collioure, 2021 L’Oriental with fresh elegant fruit, which contrasted with 2021 Col de Perdigué with more concentrated, denser flavours.  And finally Château Nadal Hainaut 3 Sources No added sulphites 2022 Côtes Catalanes made a refreshing finale to the tasting, but was slightly overwhelmed by previous flavours.   


And sadly, there was no a dessert wine in sight, no Muscat,  Rivesaltes, Maury or Banyuls.  Where were they?


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