This year's Decanter World Wine Awards International Trophy for the Best in Show Red Rhône Varietals over £15 went to Château Cesseras, Minervois La Livinière, Languedoc-Roussillon, France 2011 (14.5%)

Tasted against:

  • Cederberg, Shiraz, Cederberg, South Africa 2011
  • Crossroads, Winemakers Collection Syrah, Gimblett Gravels, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand 2010
  • Domaine Brusset, Les Hauts de Montmirail, Gigondas, Rhône, France 2012
  • Glaetzer, Bishop Shiraz, Barossa Valley, South Australia, 2012
  • Laughing Stock Vineyards, Syrah, Okanagan Valley, Canada 2011
  • San Pedro, 1865 Limited Edition Syrah, Elqui Valley, Chile 2010

Profile:

For the Past few years, this International Trophy has been the exclusive preserve of southern hemisphere properties, yet this year sees France wrest it back on behalf of the Old World. Our experts felt this wine delivered everything you could want from a Rhône-style red blend, with spice, vigour and garrigue notes and ‘charming delicacy’, as one judge wrote.

Winemaking has been in the blood of the Ournac family since the mid-19th century, and today its estate covers 65 hectares, though only 15ha of those are in Minervois La Livinière. The region earned appellation status in 1999 and Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvèdre and Carignan are the main varieties planted.

The terraced vineyards that define Minervois La Livinière cover a multitude of soil types including limestone, flint, schist and sandstone, although potentially even more important is the altitude at which they are planted. The vines sit at between 400m and 500m altitude, and so the fruit enjoys a longer and gentler ripening than grapes in lower-lying areas. The resulting wines are often blessed with an appealing freshness as a result of the slower ripening.

Château Cesseras’s Trophy-winning wine is a blend of 70% Syrah, 15% Grenache and 15% Mourvèdre, with 65% of the final blend being aged in French oak for 14 months.

The estate is run by Pierre André Ournac (who trained as a lawyer before joining the family firm in 1985) and his son Guillaume. Pierre André’s brother had been in charge of the property in the mid-1970s until his passing in 2007, but it was Pierre André who was one of the first to realise the potential of La Livinière.

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Written by Decanter