TO celebrate the British Open last weekend I opened some wine. That is the closest affinity I have to golf. I didn’t even have a British “open” it was a French “open” with wines from Languedoc-Roussillon.
It is the most prolific wine-making region in the world. Yes, there are some mass-produced so-what wines, but there are lots which are good value sun-in-a-bottle delights.
I was interested when the good people of Sud de France Top 100 contacted me and told me about their competition which is now in its second year. The Top 100 team do exactly what it says on the tin … find 100 of the finest wines from the region.
Over 650 wines were narrowed down to 100 during a rigorous blind tasting by a UK panel of industry experts, chaired by Tim Atkin.
White wines led the way: 40% of the Top 100 were white, even though they only account for 13% of the region’s production.
Says Isabelle Kanaan from Sud de France Développement: “Languedoc- Roussillon is an extremely diverse region, with talented winemakers producing every variety of wine; but is best known for its reds.
“It is fantastic to see that the Top 100 has helped highlight the overwhelming quality of Languedoc-Roussillon white wines, which are deserving of as much praise and attention as the region’s outstanding red wines.”
So there you go. One third of the Top 100 wines are available in the UK. I tasted two of them.
Paul Mas Estate Marsanne 2013 Top 100 Awarded (Majestic wines for £8-10). These grapes are grown in rolling hills just a few miles from the Mediterranean.
I love marsanne. Some of this wine was aged in oak barrels, so what you get is lots of stone fruits on the nose, apricots, pears and some vanilla from the oak. To taste, firm, juicy and creamy stone fruits.
In a higher price range is Château L’Hospitalet, Grand Vin, 2012 Top 100 Awarded (available from Majestic wine for £20-25) from Coteaux du Languedoc la Clape. La Clape was once an island and grapes grown on the limestone here have a distinctive character.
So much care has gone into this ruby red delight; syrah, grenache and mourvedre grapes are hand-picked, fermented separately and then aged in new barrels for up to 16 months. Only the best are then blended into this wine. There are spices and dried and fresh red fruit, hints of muskiness and brittle wood. A rounded burst of spicy fruit on the palate.
Look out for the Top 100 sticker on bottles in stores near you. You can also check out more details at www.suddefrance top100.co.uk
Also in my glass … Cor blimey, we’ve had some warm weather. So I opened bubbles. First up, the most beautiful bottle I’ve seen in a long time … if you like the Catalan architect Gaudi.
You can admire lovely Gaudi-style blue and pastel swirls on the sleeve of Vilarnau Brut NV Cava (£11.49, stockists include Ocado, The Oxford Wine Company, Cambridge Wine Merchants and TheDrinkShop.com) while enjoying its all-round prettiness.
It has apples, pears and some lemons with a steady stream of delicate bubble and is from the very reliable stable of Gonzalez Byass.
Codorníu Brut NV (RRP £9.49 at Tesco and Sainsbury’s) has its own limited edition, a gold-wrapped bottle sleeve featuring a print of Barcelona’s key landmarks. Codorníu has won several awards over the years for its cava. For under a tenner you get a fizz popping with citrus and flowers.
This column first appeared in the saturday extra magazine July 26 2014