Seductive wine lists reveal rustic tales

Liz Sagues explains why reading about wines can be almost as joyous as tasting them.

I have a friend whose hobby is reading the scores of modern classical music. He doesn’t do it to hear in his head the sound of the music (he doesn’t particularly like it). Instead, his pleasure comes from the complexity of the notation and the effort he has to make to understand what was in the mind of the composer.

There’s a clear analogy with wine. I love reading the generous descriptions in the best wine lists and experiencing the subjective, individual views of the people who write them - even if the wines may not always be to my own taste.

One of the lists I enjoy best explores France’s sunniest regions, Languedoc-Roussillon and Provence: “The Beautiful South” selection from Stone, Vine and Sun, a merchant small enough for personality (usually that of founder Simon Taylor) to shine through. A bonus is that I respect Taylor’s palate and business ethics, so most of the wines are ones I want to buy as well as read about.

One vigneron featured there is Bruno Schenk, whose vines grow on “the wild hills between Cucugnan and Padern, overlooked by the amazing hill-top Cathar castles of Queribus and Peyrepertuse”.

Even more tempting is the introduction to Mas des Brousses (“the farm in the bush”), set in the “rolling scrub-covered hills... and pebble-strewn terraces” of the increasingly well-regarded Terrasses de Larzac appellation. “Tall Géraldine Combes (from a family who have inhabited [this area] since 1525) juggles looking after three small boys with tending the vines...”. List-readers also meet her winemaker husband, of distinguished vinous ancestry.

And how about this explanation for estate and wine names: “It’s named after the huge crater of a meteor which punctures the vineyards; and most of the wines are named after meteor showers.” Domaine du Météore’s schist soil “gives the wines a particular high-toned scent and exciting minerality” - certainly true.

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Or there is the “charming” Pierre Fontaneil (no room here to explain why his name is spelled that way while the domaine is Fontanel) plus ten more Beautiful Southerners to encounter before you venture to the rest of the SVS world - find out more at