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Chéreau-Carré le Clos du Château l'Oiselinière Muscadet Sèvre et Maine 2003

I suspect that it is old news to many, or at least to regular readers, that in April this year I judged in the Loire category of the Decanter World Wine Awards, alongside writers Jim Budd and Sarah Ahmed, and Nigel Wilkinson of the RSJ restaurant. It was an exciting two day trial, totally enjoyable and yet also at times palate-numbing; after all, flight after flight of Sauvignon Blanc is not the most relaxing way to spend an afternoon. Nevertheless I am already looking forward to - hopefully - being invited back next year.

Chéreau-Carré le Clos du Chateau l'Oiselinière Muscadet Sèvre et Maine 2003One feature of the event that was quite new to me was the extensively blind nature of the tasting. Blind tasting is nothing new of course; many of the Bordeaux profiles on this site are accompanied by tasting notes on mature vintages when the wines were tasted single blind (we knew which wines sat before us, just not which was which), usually in small flights of five. After tasting and reflecting on the wines, we could reveal the labels, to confirm or refute our opinions in an immediately satisfying way. Never did we have to leave at the end of the evening not knowing what we had just tasted, but of course the judging of a wine competition requires a much more stringent application of blinding than our social claret-focused evenings. So at the end of each of our two days I walked away having tasted and pronounced on eighty or so wines without any real clue as to what I had tasted (there is information provided on vintage, price band, appellation and so on, but not the all-important names of producer or cuvée). It was quite an unusual feeling which no doubt more seasoned judges are quite used to. So I was glad when I recently received, courtesy of Jim Budd, the key to exactly what we had tasted. I must confess time has been really tight recently and so I haven't had much opportunity to peruse it, but I managed to snatch half an hour this weekend to take a look; I leafed through the sheets in the garden, naturally taking full advantage of the fantastic weather we are enjoying at the moment.

Naturally I shouldn't reveal any specifics, other than the details of our only gold medal winning and trophy wine, the identity of which has already been disclosed at the recent London International Wine Fair. That one wine was the 2007 Quarts de Chaume from Pierre-Bise, a worthy winner I am sure; it was fascinating to look back to my opinion of the same wine when I tasted it at the Salon de Vins de Loire in February, where I also rated it very highly. Looking beyond this lone member of the upper echelons, in total we tasted 147 of 150 submitted wines (three failed to turn up), and deemed only 84 suitable for any recommendation (ranging from commendation up to trophy), so rejecting 43% of all wines tasted. Of those awards the majority were bronze medals, there being 46 (31% of all wines tasted) of these, with just 26 (18%) commended and only 11 (7%) silver. Many wine competitions come in for criticism when it comes to the proportion of medals handed out, but I think in the Loire category at least we have struck the right balance between being fair to the wines submitted and the people behind them, but also keeping the consumer foremost in our minds. A Decanter silver or gold in the Loire category, in this judgement at least, is I think a huge endorsement.

Besides Claude Papin silver medal winners included Joseph Mellot, Langlois-Chateau, Château de Targé, Domaine FL and Domaine Huet, and I hope they are happy with their successes. They should be! And there was just one Muscadet at this level, a sole representative from the 2005 vintage, which was followed by three bronze winners (and five such wines were rejected). I didn't have any 2005 Muscadet to hand yesterday afternoon, but one from the 2003 vintage was ready and waiting to go, and so it was the Clos du Château l'Oiselinière Muscadet Sèvre et Maine from Chéreau-Carré which accompanied my perusal of these notes and statistics. It has a rich hue for Muscadet, and an aromatic nose, with plenty of sherbetty, smoky, rock-dusty character, with some elements of crystalline fruit, crisp lemon and thyme. There follows a lovely weight on entry, lots of stony minerality underneath a wealth of plump fruit on the palate, with a slightly bitter, firm element. The texture is rather broad and bold, rather than well framed, vivacious or vigorous, and I think some of the acidity that can make Muscadet so bracingly delicious is missing here. Nevertheless there is still a huge pile of character, a rich style, fine minerality and more. Overall, this is very good - nudging a silver medal, I think, but certainly a bronze if not! 16.5+/20 (1/6/09)

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