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Published:  23 July, 2008

Ben Riggs, the current Bushing King and winner of the Great Australian Shiraz Challenge, has left Wirra Wirra after 13 vintages to branch out on his own. Samantha Connew takes over as senior winemaker at Wirra Wirra, having worked with Riggs for two vintages. Riggs will first link up with Western Wines, which recently split with Wirra Wirra, initially to work post-harvest with Laurent Miquel of Les Domaines de Fontcaude on Western's new Languedoc brand, Cte Sauvage. Miquel, whose family estate is the largest private producer in the St Chinian AOC, told Harpers that he was looking forward to working with Riggs on the levage. He said that the region was facing major problems, as consumption of traditional vins de table and vins de pays was falling. "The government is helping, but many small producers were not adapting to what people want. Producers are going to have to take some serious decisions." Miquel also said that while the region was good for growing varieties such as Syrah, Carignan, Grenache, Viognier and Marsanne, Sauvignon Blanc was "sensitive to the vintage" and Cabernet Sauvignon would require careful handling to be successful in the region. Miquel's 100% Syrah 1999 Chteau Cazal Viel Larmes des Fes is listed by Sainsbury's in selected stores at 18.99.