Last week I attended the 4th edition of the Concours Mondial du Sauvignon, which was held in the imposing classical section of the Chateau de Blois. This is the first time the Sauvignon Concours has been held in the Loire Valley as the first three editions were held in Bordeaux. Next year the Concours will be back in Bordeaux, although one could argue that as the Loire is now the probable birthplace of Sauvignon Blanc, here is the Concours natural home.
It is also the first edition of the Concours that I have attended, although I was invited last year but was unable make it. I was asked to chair the three presentations the evening before the start of the competition. This included a fascinating presentation by Bertrand Daulny of the technical department (SICAV) of the Bureau Interprofession des Vins du Centre Loire. Bertand’s study takes three parcels of vines in Sancerre with the object of establishing whether it is the three different terroirs that have a greater influence of the characteristics of the wines or the climate of each vintage. They rapidly concluded that the climatic differences have a much greater effect than the different terroirs.
Much of Bertand’s talk was pretty technical but everyone was very interested by his conclusion when he grouped vintages together according to the climatic characteristics (rainfall and temperature) of each year – hot and cold vintages at both extremes of the graph, then, in the middle, the years when the climate was not extreme. Bertrand showed that the wines’ flavour profile accords to the vintages’ climate. Bertrand’s research will be published at the end of this year or at the beginning of the next.
For the 4th edition there were more than 800 samples from 200 different countries. The Concours uses the OIV tick box sheet for assessing the wines. I have to say that this is not my favourite method for assessing wines. Marking intensity of aroma, for example, really depends upon whether the aroma is pleasant or not. A Sauvignon Blanc that smell of an over-active spraying tomcat is far from pleasant but is, for sure undoubtedly very intense.
Loire wines took two of the four trophies: the 2011 Domaine André Vatan Saint François, Sancerre won the trophy for the best oaked Sauvignon, while Domaine Gibault, 2012 Touraine Sauvignon won the trophy for the unoaked Sauvignon at less than 10€.
A helicopter trip from Blois to Sancerre and back was the undoubted highlight of the trip. Not only to see the vineyards of Sancerre and Pouilly but also to appreciate quite how extensive are the forests of the Sologne.
Sadly the low point was the drive from Contres to Oisly and then on through to Pontlevoy through the vineyards that our programme boasted were classified as ‘World Heritage by UNESCO’. Well over 80% of the vineyards that we passed by had been treated to ‘shock and awe’ – totally blitzed by weedkiller. A dead patrimoine and surely not what UNESCO had in mind when they classified the Loire as World Heritage site!
At the presentation of Touraine Chenonceaux Laurent Benoist (Domaine du Viel Orme, Saint Julien de Chédon) told me that the Touraine Chenonceaux producers would be working towards limiting and then banning the use of weed killer in the vineyards. This is good news and not before time as the recent décrets for Touraine Chenonceaux and Touraine Oisly should have included restrictions on the use of weed killer in the vineyards – very regrettably a missed opportunity.
The 5th edition of the Concours Mondial du Sauvignon will be held next year in Bordeaux.