A New, New World of Wine

POSTED ON 13/06/2015

As a source of variety and quality at a fair price, few regions in the world can hold a candle to the South of France. Sea, sunshine and picturesque countryside dotted with shimmering vineyards and sleepy villages add up to a wine-seeker’s paradise. If you’re driving to the Languedoc-Roussillon this summer and bringing it all back home, not only is visiting a select winery or two an enjoyable adventure, but fretting over whether the wine will travel or not is thankfully a thing of the past.

I recently mentioned the ‘not-so-arrogant-frog’ Jean-Claude Mas as an example of the new forward-looking mentality of producers determined not to be outflanked by the New World. It was no surprise that a number of his wines performed well in the recent Languedoc-Roussillon Top 100 competition I was involved in. From a total of 600 wines entered from 178 producers, Jean-Claude’s wines featured prominently and included the crisply refreshing, seafood, friendly 2014 Côte Mas Vermentino, £8.48, Waitrose, and delicately floral, peachy 2014 Paul Mas Nicole Viognier, £9.99, Majestic.

The renaissance of negociants and co-ops includes Gérard Bertrand, Laurent Miquel, François Lurton, Jeanjean, Cave de Roquebrun and Abbotts and Delaunay. Gérard Bertrand’s 2013 Terroir Minervois, £9.99, Waitrose, scored highly for its rich, sweet blackberry succulence, while his luxuriously rich and nutty dry white 2014 L’Indomptable de Cigalus, £25, Majestic, is a model of southern French star quality. Laurent Miquel’s 2013 Vérité Viognier, £14.99, Majestic, is one of the south of France’s best, all smoky honeysuckle, and vanilla scented peachiness. Make a diary date with Majestic for Cave de Roquebrun’s superb 2014 Terrasses de Mayline when it arrives on shelf in September.

This improvement in the bigger brands is important but the smaller estates bring kaleidoscopic diversity to the region. Picpoul de pinet has become the latest supermarket fashion accessory but it also needs standard bearers such as the Domaine des Lauriers’ 2014 Picpoul de Pinet Classique, £7.95 - £9.10, fromvineyardsdirect.com, Tanners, L’Art du Vin, which brings appley bite and a grapefruity, saline-crisp zing to seafood. Calmel & Joseph’s Villa Blanche Syrah , £9.99, Avery's, Vagabond Wines, Red and White Wines, won the syrah trophy for its incmparable spicy, chocolatey dark berry fruit richness and savoury edge.

At the annual London Wine Fair in May, I came across first an excellent white grenache-based white in the opulently honeyed yet delightfully refreshing 2014 Domaine Py Corbières Blanc ‘3ème Cuvée’, £10.75, Yapp Bros, and caught up in person with the talented English vigneronne, Katie Jones. Katie makes a superbly full, rich apple and pear dry white with old vine mineral dry finish in the 2013 Domaine Jones Blanc Grenache Gris, £14.95, the Wine Society, and a satisfyingly ,full-bodied garrigue herby and spice-infused 2013 Fitou by Mademoiselle Jones, £13.99, Majestic.

Something for the WeekendSomething for the Weekend

Night In

NV Molera Prosecco Spumante

At last a Prosecco I love thanks to a drier style than the mawkish off-dry stuff and a crisply refreshing apple and pear mousse that finishes with a sherberty flourish. £7.49, down from £9.99, until 22 June, Bargain Booze, Wine Rack.

Dinner Party

2012 Cave Saint Désirat Saint Joseph

This is a vivid, well-crafted, youthfully fresh, pure Northern Rhône syrah with beguiling pepper and violets fragrance and a finesse of smooth-textured tannins behind the pepper-spice-infused black fruits flavours which are beautifully crisp, balanced and precise. £13.99, Waitrose.

Splash Out

2012 Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir

From the ‘iconic’ Cloudy Bay, a sensually perfumed Kiwi pinot with sweet mulberry and oak-spiced loganberry flavours and a seductive smoothness that first glides then grips, tapering to a cranberryish aftertaste. £22.99 - £27.60, Ocado, 31Dover.com, The Drink Shop, Tanners.

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