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Home Winners > Winners 2013 > FRANCE: South & South West

Winner Details

France: South & South-West

A horror show from the whites but positive feedback (if only one Gold) for the reds in an increasingly pricey region

While many French regions were static, the South saw a big lift in entries this year – up 25% on 2012 – probably because it represents one of the few areas in France still able to provide decent wine for a price.

That’s the theory anyway. Sadly, while entry numbers were up, overall quality – for the whites at least –  took a tumble and the tasters weren’t exactly knocked out by the value for money side of things either.

‘I had hoped to find one wine under the £5 mark, but these whites started at £7.50,’ said a disappointed Mark Deamer of The Marylebone Hotel.

‘The least inspiring flight of wines we will ever taste,’ grimaced another taster, while Hakkasan Group’s Christine Parkinson went on the warpath. ‘Confected, musky, artificial, no real fruit... they were thoroughly nasty. And they weren’t cheap either,’ she growled.

The Silver medal winners showed the kind of spread of styles possible from the deep South – Picpoul, Viognier, Chardonnay – but our tasters simply felt that this year they were seeing better wines from elsewhere, so nothing made the Gold List.

When it came to the reds, our tasters were expecting big fruit, maybe a bit too much alcohol, and plenty of exuberance. And that’s more or less what they got. Of course, this being the Deep South, where the sublime and the ridiculous rub shoulders on a regular basis, quality was varied. But there were flashes of brilliance throughout the price points.

‘There’s a great variety of good wines here, with a lot of different styles. This is an exciting area,’ said Erica Lalér of Benares.

‘There was something for everyone, from cheaper pub lists to upmarket Michelin restaurants,’ added Galvin Restaurants’ Andrea Briccarello.

Although there was only one Gold (and a cheap one at that), the South’s reds can count themselves unlucky not to have another couple of places on the Gold List. Château Thénac and the Bouscassé Vieilles Vignes in particular were very close.

At £15 and £22 respectively, these two might seem pricey for a region usually associated with cheap ‘n’ cheerful. But actually, the good news for the vignerons of the South is that attitudes – among sommeliers and restaurant customers – seem to be changing.

While the Mont Rocher Carignan was praised by Vinopolis’s Tom Forrest for ‘showing lots of personality and style, you could really impress your customers at a great price’, all our tasters were confident that they would be able to sell the more expensive wines as well.

‘Customer confidence in the south of France has really gone up,’ said Bread Street Kitchen’s Ram Chhetri. ‘There is no problem going up to the mid-premium-priced range where these wines can offer really attractive and well-priced alternatives to mid-range Bordeaux.’

Coq d’Argent’s Olivier Marie was even more confident. ‘At the higher end, sommeliers can sell these wines, especially from more obscure appellations, at up to £150-£200 on the list. When you look at what Bordeaux is, pricewise, for a 2nd or even 3rd Growth now, then [the South of France] can represent some really good value for some really great wine.’

‘The reds showed that the South of France can produce not just good value wines, but also wines of higher quality, and if you put these on the list, with the sommelier behind them, then these wines will sell.’
Jeremie Guiraud
, Lords of the Manor