An International Challenge: Languedoc vs. South Africa

World Service Restaurant, Nottingham
Tasted Friday, June 9, 2006 by andrewstevenson.com with 981 views

Introduction

The challenge was set. Protagonist and deuteragonist had blinded their wines, ISOs were at the ready.
The first 24 wines were served (blind) upstairs in the members' lounge at World Service and a vote was taken on each pair. Unfortunately, I lost track of the final votes for each pair after a while.

Flight 1 - Sparkling flight (2 Notes)

  • NV Domaine Rosier Blanquette de Limoux Brut 88 Points

    France, Languedoc Roussillon, Languedoc, Blanquette de Limoux

    11.5% abv. Pale straw. Crisp nose somewhat (though in a nice way) reminiscent of stale custard with floral scents. Very fresh, slightly sweet with some apples. The bubbles fade rather quickly. My guess would be that it's a blanquette de limoux. Very Good/Very Good Indeed.
    This received 8 votes out of 14

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  • 1993 Twee Jonge Gezellen Methode Cap Classique Cuvée Brut Mount Disa 89 Points

    South Africa, Coastal Region

    A deep, rich gold. Big nose - sweet, slightly oxidised, biscuity. Clearly this has more age than the first: if that was a blanquette de Limoux, this must be a cap classique. Full and attractive on the palate. Very Good Indeed.
    This got my vote, but that wasn't a majority view, as it only got 6 out of 14 votes.

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Flight 2 (2 Notes)

  • 2005 The Foundry Viognier 91 Points

    South Africa, Coastal Region, Stellenbosch

    14.5%
    A pale to mid gold. Rich marzipanny nose with pears and peaches. Rich and very full on the palate: quite bold and striking. Very long. Feels very much like viognier to me. Very Good Indeed.
    This got my vote and was a clear winner with a total of 11 out of 14 votes.

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  • NV Domaine de la Colombette Vin de Pays des Côteaux du Libron Cuvée du 11 Novembre 1918 88 Points

    France, Languedoc Roussillon, Languedoc, Vin de Pays des Côteaux du Libron

    A rather austere, minerally nose with green fruits. Very crisp palate. This might be quite good, though it's being really bullied by the Foundry Viognier until it's cowering in the corner; it feels a bit thin and watery in comparison. Difficult to rate this one in comparison.

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Flight 3 (2 Notes)

  • 2005 Celliers des Neuf Fiefs Sauvignon Blanc Vin de Pays d'Oc Les Côteaux de Neffiès 85 Points

    France, Languedoc Roussillon, Vin de Pays d'Oc

    12% abv
    Pale straw. A very straightforward nose that quickly opens up. A touch buttery and floral. Possibly a sauvignon blanc-chardonnay blend? Seems very straightforward, very warm climate sauvignon. Very Good
    This got 10 out of 14 votes, but mine was not one of them: I didn't really get it, and if I want sauvignon blanc, then the Fryers Cove gave it me in spades.

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  • 2005 Fryer's Cove Sauvignon Blanc 90 Points

    South Africa, Olifants River, Bamboes Bay

    13.5% abv.
    This is a lovely, pure, very classic sauvignon blanc with green peas and asparagus on the nose. Crisp and very full on the palate, but with a nice minerality and very good acidity. Marred a tad by a touch of sulphur on the nose, though in normal circumstances I'd expect that to blow off quickly. This seems to me much more a better expression of the sauvignon grape than the Neuf-Fiefs. Very Good Indeed.
    Few agreed with me, though, and this only got 4 out of 14 votes.

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Flight 4 (2 Notes)

Flight 5 (2 Notes)

  • 2004 Domaine de la Colombette Pinot Noir Vin de Pays des Côteaux du Libron Demi Muid 81 Points

    France, Languedoc Roussillon, Languedoc, Vin de Pays des Côteaux du Libron

    12.5% abv.
    A fairly youthful, rich ruby colour. Plummy ripe young nose with a green edge. I'd guess that this was a pleasant, fairly young syrah from the Languedoc. Quite sweet fruit on the palate. Simple, but enjoyable. Goodish.
    This got 8 out of 15 votes.

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  • 2001 Hamilton Russell Vineyards Pinot Noir 78 Points

    South Africa, Cape South Coast, Walker Bay, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley

    14%.
    A darkish, murky garnet. Smoky, tarry, medicinal nose that's not entirely pleasant. Big, full palate. Quite hot and a touch metallic. Big and very full and really rather unsatisfying. I don't think I'd every have guessed this was pinot noir in a thousand years. Not much to recommend it. OK.
    Surprisingly, this got 7 out of 15 votes, but the Colombette Pinot Noir it was up against was equally rubbish.

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Flight 6 (2 Notes)

  • 2001 Domaine D'Archimbaud Coteaux du Languedoc La robe de pourpre 84 Points

    France, Languedoc Roussillon, Languedoc, Coteaux du Languedoc

    13% abv. A blend of 50% Syrah, 40% Grenache, 5% Mourvedre, 5% Carignan
    A very attractive nose - sweet and perfumed with hints of chocolate. Fresh and very young. And very tannic. Quite hot. Good+
    I preferred this to the Thelema Cab Sauv (though there wasn't much in it), and it received only 4/14 votes.

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  • 1999 Thelema Cabernet Sauvignon 83 Points

    South Africa, Coastal Region, Stellenbosch

    An undistinguished murky garnet appearance. Very fragrant, oddly bubblegummy, floral blackcurrant nose. Ripe and a bit sweet on the palate. Rather tight. Good.
    This garnered 10/14 votes, but not mine.

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Flight 7 (2 Notes)

Flight 8 (2 Notes)

  • 2003 Mas L'Avail Côtes du Roussillon Villages Tradition Flawed

    France, Languedoc Roussillon, Roussillon, Côtes du Roussillon Villages

    14% abv. 40% Syrah, 20% Grenache, 40% Carignan, all from vines over 50 years old.
    A young fresh, grenachey-syrah nose. Very weird palate. Quite fresh, unripe plum flavours. I suspect there must be something wrong with this, as it's very odd. Perhaps still worth 83/4 points though.
    It still managed to get 5 out of 14 votes too.

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  • 2000 Rust en Vrede Estate Red Wine Stellenbosch 86 Points

    South Africa, Coastal Region, Stellenbosch

    14.3% abv. 58% cabernet sauvignon; 33% shiraz; 9% merlot.
    A young, very black purple. Sweet jammy nose with big black fruits and cassis. Sweet and full on the attack. Big black fruits again. Not a wine to meet down a dark alley. Reasonable stuff.
    This got 9 out of 14 votes.

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Flight 9 (2 Notes)

Flight 10 (2 Notes)

  • 2003 Sequillo Cellars Sequillo Red 92 Points

    South Africa, Coastal Region, Swartland

    63% syrah; 30% mourvedre; 7% grenache; 14% abv
    A decent nose, though seeming fairly simple initially. Sweet, almost malic attack. Good forward clean fruit. Some complexity with a nice fresh acidity to balance the ripe fruit. Very Good Indeed+
    This got 7 out of 14 votes.

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  • 2001 Domaine Sol-Payré Côtes du Roussillon Ater Noir 92 Points

    France, Languedoc Roussillon, Roussillon, Côtes du Roussillon

    14% abv. A blend of 75% Syrah, 20% old Carignan, 5% Grenache
    A curious nose: full, with sweet blackcurrants and plums, but also medicine cabinets and menthol. A sweet, yet very elegant attack. Big and bold on the palate, and a bit hot on the finish. A very pleasant wine. Very Good Indeed+
    This got 7 out of 14 votes.

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Flight 11 (2 Notes)

Flight 12 (2 Notes)

  • 2002 Domaine Alain Chabanon Coteaux du Languedoc Montpeyroux L'Esprit de Font Caude 87 Points

    France, Languedoc Roussillon, Languedoc, Coteaux du Languedoc Montpeyroux

    14%; 45% Syrah, 42% Mourvedre, 13% Grenache. 30 months élévage, 24 of which in barrique. Bottled unfiltered.
    An elegant, perfumed nose - really quite scented. A big wine, though it seems a bit harsh on the palate at the moment with fullish tannins. Screams of Languedoc terroir. Good/Very Good.

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  • 2003 Gilga Syrah 89 Points

    South Africa, Coastal Region, Stellenbosch

    14% abv
    A very strange nose, with rubbery, burnt nose which sort of suggests pinotage. Quite an artificial nose. The palate's in contrast to the nose, and it's obviously not pinotage. Soft ripe fruits in the mouth. Very good balance. Very Good Indeed and being generous 89 points, though that's ignoring the nose which isn't nice and should probalby knock a couple of points off the total.

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Flight 13 - Wines over dinner (7 Notes)

Flight 14 - The Sweet Flight (2 Notes)

Flight 15 - A sipper to contemplate and finish. (1 Note)

Closing

Languedoc was the clear winner on votes on the pairings, but all in all, I think it was closer than that, and with a bit of electoral reform in the Nottingham procedures (e.g. allowing abstentions from the outset rather than from half way through!), I don't think the winner would have been as clear. There were some very good wines, but overall the standard was a little lower than I'd expected, perhaps because of an agreement to keep all bottle prices below £15. My wine of the night was one of the ringers: the Musar 1991.

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