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DWWA 2014: Languedoc-Roussillon insights

Hear from our Languedoc-Roussillon Regional Chair Rosemary George MW on which wines to buy, which wines to leave on the shelf and what to keep an eye on from this year's Decanter World Wine Awards....

I always have high expectations of my favourite French wine region, and they were pretty much fulfilled at this year’s DWWA. The appeal of Languedoc- Roussillon is its enormous variety, combined with affordable drinkability. You can find every style of wine you might wish to drink here. There are lovely sparkling wines that provide a satisfying alternative to Champagne or Prosecco, and a host of characterful whites which are improving with every vintage. But the region really excels in its wonderful, warming reds with a true sense of place. And if that’s not enough, there are refreshing rosés and some sublime dessert wines, both fresh Muscats and aged fortified wines.

What should we buy from here?

Without a doubt, the best wines are from the principal red wine regions. There were some stunning Faugères – wines that conjure up warm-scented garrigues, as well as more rugged Corbières from wilder countryside and some characterful Minervois, especially from the cru of Minervois La Livinière. The St-Chinian cru of Roquebrun also performed well, thanks to its talented co-op. Côtes du Roussillon-Villages and Côtes Catalanes showed satisfying contrasts from the Languedoc with warmer, richer flavours. And Domaine Modat’s Carignan-based Trophy winner and the Gold for Tesco’s varietal Carignan shows to what extent that once reviled grape variety serves to be taken seriously.

What should we leave on the shelf?

The varietal IGP wines made from international grapes grown on less exciting terrain. Merlot does not perform well in the Midi; it’s simply too hot. Chardonnay (with the noble exception of one Gold) was pretty lacklustre, nor does it blend well with Viognier. As the Trophy and the Gold indicate, pure Viognier is so much better. Varietal IGP Syrah can be tricky too, but some IGP blends of Syrah with Cabernet Sauvignon offered pleasant drinking. The most disappointing appellation was Grès de Montpellier, which lacks a true sense of identity. And Pic-St-Loup was not as exciting as we might have expected, with some good but no great wines.

What should we keep an eye on?

Languedoc-Roussillon may be known for its red wines, but the whites are really coming into their own, with two Trophies and three Golds this year, as opposed to three Silvers last year. Picpoul-de-Pinet improves with every vintage; it will never be a great wine, but as our Silver shows, it offers delicious drinking. And the white blends are increasingly good. These use varieties such as Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne, Vermentino and Macabeo, which offer complexity and depth of flavour. As for the reds, Terrasses du Larzac is building on its reputation with two splendid Golds. And if you haven’t tasted the traditional aged vins doux naturels of Rivesaltes and Banyuls then you are missing out. They are simply underrated, and will eventually disappear unless we encourage their producers by drinking more of them.

Written by Decanter

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