Q&A with Susie Barrie MW & Peter Richards MW

Take an insight into the 2024 Sud de France Top 100 with Susie Barrie MW and Peter Richards MW.

1.The 2024 Sud de France Top 100 competition welcomes you both as new co-chairmen.  Susie you were a judge in past, what changes have made for this year’s competition?

We wanted to overhaul the judging process to make it as fair, accountable and rigorous as possible. Ultimately, we wanted give all the wines the very best chance to shine!

We have an exceptional judging panel so we wanted to maximise their input in the judging process. So we extended the judging to two days, with the first day allocated to these expert panels tasting through and discussing all the wines in a measured and detailed way.

On Day Two, Peter and I returned to re-taste the top-scoring wines to whittle them down to 100, as well as choosing our top awards. This extra oversight and accountability gives the wines every chance to show their best – and our discussions (sometimes heated!) means the top awards are both credible and hard-won.

This year we introduced computers, making it easier to assemble and collate scores and, just as importantly, tasting notes. This gives us rich data on every wine entered, so we can look back at all the entries if needs be, or indeed feed back to producers where it’s useful. This makes the best use of our judges and resources, and sets the competition up well for the future.

 2.What did you think overall of the wines you’ve tasted this year? Were there any styles of wines you were impressed with and what styles/appellations were they?

Many judges commented on the generally high standard across the board. One even asked if we’d pre-selected the wines, the base quality was so good. This reflects really well on the region and the producers who entered.

There were highlights all over the show. Our two top reds encapsulate this nicely – in the end we just couldn’t separate two beautiful wines, one an elegant yet complex Minervois la Liviniere, and another an intense but super refined Cotes Catalanes. So we gave them the top red award jointly.

We’re big fans of drinkability and elegance in wines. So those wines that combine refreshment value with complexity and individuality were the ones that impressed us the most. And there are plenty of those wines in the Top 100 this year.


 3.Why is it important for producers to enter the Sud de France Top 100?

If producers want to sell their wine and be successful in the marketplace, this competition represents an outstanding opportunity to do just that.

This is perhaps the finest, most expert judging panel for southern French wine assembled for any competition.

But that’s not all! Not only do they know their stuff, these are often some of the most influential gatekeepers in the UK market. We’re talking key buyers for the UK, the kind of people who have the real influence in terms of putting wines on list and selling them through. No other competition assembles this kind of panel.

Producers have a fantastic opportunity to put their wines in front of receptive gatekeepers. So doing well in this competition isn’t just about the publicity. It can have a real impact on producers’ businesses and future prospects.


4.You have just been on a Languedoc tour with selected producers that reflects the diversity of the region.  What were the notable observations and insights you gained from talking to producers and seeing their wineries?

One major impression was how big an impact the wind can have in the Languedoc! We went in late April but the wind was biting – a reminder of how powerful nature can be here, and that this isn’t simply a land of warm sunny beneficent conditions. We definitely used every item of clothing we brought with us..!

From a wine perspective, we were impressed by how producers are focused on crafting individual, characterful wines that speak of their terroirs and which fit in with their overall aims, including the major one of sustainability.

It’s great to see local and often historic grape varieties being revived and championed too. Things like Piquepoul Noir, Rivairenc, Clairette. Also to see the innovation with things like PIWI varieties being explored.

And then you’ve got exciting innovations like the new Patience category of Picpoul, where there are some outstanding wines – complex, age worthy and very food friendly.

We tried some delicious older vintages too. Really underlining the capacity of this region for making complex, balanced wines that work brilliantly with food and also offer amazing value for money.


5.Achieving sustainability is the priority of many producers right now.  The diversity of the ecosystem in the region means there is no single way to do this.  What did you observe?

That’s exactly right – there’s no single way to be sustainable. It’s such a broad field, and every producer needs to address it in their own way. We found people taking it seriously and taking measures both big and small to address what is a critical issue. There seems to be a very keen awareness of sustainability in Occitanie. Producers recognise not only is it the right thing to do for the planet and their people, but also for a sustainable commercial future.


  1. After your Languedoc trip, what other parts of the Occitanie Region would you like to visit next?

That’s a tough one to answer! This is such a large and diverse region, almost everywhere you look there’s something exciting happening.

That said, we’d love to get stuck into Limoux – there’s so much history and diversity there, from fizz to fine Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Roussillon is always intriguing (as well as beautiful), from its rugged whites and reds to the brilliant fortifieds. South West France has so many intriguing grape varieties and personalities. Terrasses du Larzac is also intriguing from a quality perspective….


We’d better start clearing our diary!