Ten wines to try from southern France
- Credit: Archant
Recommendations from the Pays d’Oc include a Northern Rhone viognier a classic corbieres and a ripe fruity minervois
Why, lovely as it is, should grenache have all the attention? Let’s also celebrate variety – unusual grapes, for example, or familiar names from unexpected places.
Pays d’Oc in southern France is one of those latter locations, for grapes such as albarino, hailing from damp, cool northern Spain, or chenin blanc, a favourite of Loire Valley and South African growers. Try these (most 2019 vintage, many organic or sustainable):
Sillages Albarino (£11.90, lebonvin.co.uk, drinksandco.co.uk) is a happy surprise, with the expected flowers-and-apricots character, crisp and clean. Posher is Maison Ventenac Candide chenin blanc (£19.50-£21.50, jnwine.com, oxfordwine.co.uk), seriously smart and elegant, retaining the grape’s textbook acidity.
Viognier, Northern Rhône’s white star, flourishes here too. Abbotts & Delaunay (£8, mix-six, Majestic) and Domaine Gayda (£7.85-£10.50, vinatis.co.uk. oxfordwine.co.uk) are both classically scented and flavoured, fresh and very enjoyable. Gayda’s finishing minerality is specially tempting.
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Interesting varieties make succesful white blends: Ventenac Coup de Chance (£14.45, winebuyers.com) mixes chenin, colombard and gros manseng to pretty effect, while in Gayda Figure Libre Freestyle 2018 (£13, mix-six, Majestic) grenache blanc, maccabeu, marsanne and roussanne combine mouthwateringly, with layers of fruit and a saline finish – delicious (and not oaky, despite Majestic’s description).
Pinot noir is increasingly well-handled in the region. Don’t expect burgundy, but La Belle Angèle (£9, mix-six, Majestic), for example, has crunchy red fruit and is a pretty summery drink, best served lightly cooled.
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Looking ahead to chillier days and warmer reds, traditional blends also shine in southern France. A prime example is Château Ste Eulalie La Cantilène 2017, from minervois cru La Livinière (£13.50, thewinesociety.com). Scents of garrigue herbs and syrah savouriness are followed by a lingering, lovely, seamless palate perfectly balancing ripe fruit, discreet oak and alcohol.
A simpler but smooth bargain to complete a Wine Society order is Domaine l’Arjolle merlot-cabernet (£8.50). Or splash out on another very smart garrigue classic, corbières cru Boutenac Château Fabre Gasparets 2016 (£17.70-£21, cellarselected.com. noblegreenwines.co.uk).