Le Concours des Vins de Loire

Judging at the Concours des VinsLe Concours  des Vin de Loire is one of the most prestigious wine events in the region mainly because it consists of local wines from Anjou/Saumur and the Touraine being judged by local winemakers and people who work in the wine industry thus, obviously, the judges know the wines very well and look at them with an insiders knowledge.  I therefore felt rather  proud and somewhat humbled when I was asked to be one of the judges and, I must admit, more than a little aprehensive.

A friend, a retired winemaker, who was also going, saw I was a rather worried and reassured me with the words, “Don’t worry about it, you know the wines very well, you drink enough of them”! –  I think that was a compliment. 

Anyway, the day arrived and 140 of us assembled at the Parc des Expositions in Angers.  On the glass door was  a large printed sheet of paper with everyones names alongside which were the wines we  were allocated to taste.  Until this moment no-one has a clue which wine they will be judging.  Now ,I love the wines of Anjou/Saumur from the stickies of The Coteau de Layon/Saumur through all the reds, rosés, whites, sparkling etc.  There is, however, just one wine with which I have always had a problem and that is the rosé, Cabernet d’Anjou, to me it always tastes of sugar and green peppers and, despite the fact that many people love it, I have always struggled with it ever since I was first introduced to it many, many years ago.  So, when I eventually fought my way through the crush and read the Allocation List I found my name, “Mr. Barcroft Brian”, alongside the words, you’ve guessed it, “Cabernet d’Anjou”.  Bloody wonderful I though, another confirmation of the existence of, “Sod’s Law”. 

Each tasting, “Jury”, consists of three people and each group of three has thirty wines to consider, (555 wines were entered from Anjou/Saumur alone).  Wines are given points out of 30, these points, themselves being given for individual characteristics like colour, nose,taste, balance etc.  On completion of each judge’s card the wines given the highest scores go into a sort of play-of and, in the event of wines with the same score, another tasting is done and eventual the winners emerge.  We never know the name of the winemaker who has entered the wine, each bottle simply having a number.  In our tasting panel the winner was No. 28 which was later revealed to be the cuvée, “Iris”, 2007, from Joseph Verdier at Montreuil-Bellay , this wine later received a special award from La Fédération viticole de l’Anjou.  For me one of the most pleasing things was that my tasting notes and points awarded hardly differed at all from the two life-long, local, professionals who were my associates.  And, I must admit that, having been forced into giving the Cabernet d’Anjou my full and undivided concentration, out of respect for the winemakers who had entered their wines, it has gone up greatly in my estimation and, although I don’t think it will never be one of my personal favourites, on a professional level, I have to admit that almost all the thirty wines submitted were very well done indeed with subtle levels of acidity and, in some cases tannin, helping to blend the sugar and fruit into a balanced whole.   

After the morning tasting came, the thank you, in the form of a gargantuan lunch, several tables heaving with sea food, cooked meats, cheese, assorted salads, saussisons, desserts and of course, as much wine as the myriad appellations of the Loire could supply.  Old friends were well met, the merits of individual wines argued over.  (After your particular tasting is over it is customary to go and plonk yourself at any of the tables where decisions have been made and to sample the wines yourself, it is even more customary to then disagree with the final decisions!).  Some of the tables where the most complex wines were being judged took much longer than normal and discussions were becoming quite heated.  However the proximity of lunch had the wonderful effect of concentrating minds and, before long, the winners emerged.  Perhaps this is the answer to resolving all the world trouble spots.  Lock, for example, the Israelis and the Palestinians into a room and tell them there will be no food until they come to an agreement.  It certainly worked in Angers.

à plus Brian

Wine tours in the Loire Valley.