WineWriting.com & French Mediterranean Wine
Richard Mark James' wine and travel blog

06 February 2013

World Grenache Competition part 1: Spain, Sardinia, Australia, South Africa.

The first of its kind, I/they believe (? and set to become a regular event I hope), an international wine competition in celebration of one of my fav varieties, Grenache / Garnacha / Garnatxa / Cannonau: red, white, rosé and fortified wines. And absolutely why not, I hear you say. Ah, yes, Cannonau: it took me a while too to remember that Sardinia's Cannonau di Sardegna red is made from what they call Grenache!
I was on one of the tasting panels in Perpignan on 24th January; my table of tasters (two Spanish winemakers - erm, one Valencian, one Catalan - three French and yours truly) sampled and marked about 30 wines: one flight of Spanish rosés, one of Cannonau and one of Roussillon 'table' reds (my pick of the latter appear in part 2 of this report on my French Med Wine blog). Being held in Perpignan, there were naturally a lot of local entries, which is probably reflected in the amount of medal winners from this region (and some good wines of course). Then again, most of the world's Grenache is planted in France - split between the Rhone valley, Roussillon and Languedoc - and Spain, Garnacha's spiritual home (I have/found contradictory info disagreeing over whether Spain or France has the most!). There were also some entries from Australia (probably not as many as there could/should have been?) and South Africa (again, medal winners and my favs are below), accompanied by surprise samples from Brasil and Republic of Macedonia! But what about California? I believe the main criterion applied for the contest was for large-majority Grenache (red, white, grey or 'furry'...) wines, which perhaps also explains the dominance of the Roussillon and lack of Chateauneuf-du-Pape or Languedoc in the 'French category' and wines from Aus and SA (tends to be a lower % of the blend), although you'd still have expected more Rhone wines in the medal line-up.
Talking of which, this is where I might make myself unpopular. I counted 163 Gold and Silver medals including nine Trophy winners: out of only 364 wines tasted, that's nearly 45% of them, which is too high a proportion compared to other international competitions; and in fact OIV regulations, the organisation that dreamed up the frankly stupid 'official' system used, apparently state that "awards are limited to 30% of samples entered..." I've come across this system before, where you have to allocate a set amount of marks to all aspects of each wine, including e.g. colour and clarity as if that really matters when making a quality judgement. Especially since Grenache isn't naturally known as a variety with lots of rich colour (you can if you really extract it), compared to say Syrah or Cabernet. Anyway, this very long-winded methodology does at least add up to 100, but it's more generous - or the opposite - than the 100 point system used by some wine critics. Scoring works as follows: 84 to 87 Silver medal, Gold 87 to 92 and Trophy 92 to 100 (see what I mean). It's too easy to award too many or too few marks to a wine by adding them all up for each 'category' (visual, olfactory, mouth-feel, overall impression and totally subjective 'typicity'), as you're supposed to. So I judged them applying the 'traditional' 100-pointer in my mind while asking myself: "is this really a silver or gold wine?" Then did the silly math afterwards.
Rant over: you have to use some scoring system or other obviously. And I'm certainly not knocking any attempt to promote great wines made from Grenache from around the world. The nine 'trophy' winners were as follows, which include a fair few Vins Doux Naturels fortified reds and 'whites' from the Roussillon (red highlight = link to profile on my other blog):
Château de Péna Hors d'âge AOP Rivesaltes Tuilé, Roussillon.
Dom Brial 2010 AOP Rivesaltes Grenat, Roussillon.
Domaine Rossignol 2008 AOP Rivesaltes Ambré, Roussillon.
Albera En croisade Hors d'âge AOP Rivesaltes Ambré, Roussillon.
GT-G 2010 LePlan-Vermeersch AOP Côtes du Rhône Villages.
Lafou Els Amelers 2011 Roqueta DO Terra Alta white, Catalonia.
Saint Roch Kerbuccio 2011 Maison Lafage AOP Maury Sec, Roussillon.
Sartiglia 2011 Azienda Vinicola Attilio Contini DOC Cannonau di Sardegna (actually my top wine in our flight from Sardinia).
Sur Grains 2011 Domaine Boudau AOP Rivesaltes Grenat, Roussillon.

The full results are viewable here: www.grenachesdumonde.com.

My pick of the Spanish rosados and Cannonau di Sardegna reds (tasted in the competition blind) (will) feature in separate posts (click on highlighted links), along with a few succinct points plucked from the presentations given in the afternoon on Grenache and pen names in Sardinia, Aragon, Catalonia and Australia. Plus more wines worth mentioning sampled / quaffed that evening at a food & wine tasting bash or the previous night over dinner. Any medals awarded appear in brackets and/or my 100-point style score afterwards...
AND "WGC Part 2" including my favs from the Roussillon and Rhone Valley IS HERE, with the first outing, for me at least, of some exciting Maury Sec dry red wines (the appellation rules were amended from vintage 2011 to embrace 'dry' and fortified sweet reds from the same area based on Grenache)...

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