Tag Archives: southern french

“…seldom anything of interest…”



These were the words of Tom Stevenson in The Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopaedia when describing the white wines of the Cote de Ventoux. Fortunately, he used the word ‘seldom’ because Richard had brought back from holiday this wonderful Chateau Pesquie 2010 which he had opened (30 minutes earlier) on Sunday. I tasted it blind and it was certainly impressive.

Made from the fussy Rousanne grape (80%) and Clairette, with a little Viognier, the wine showed a intense deep yellow colour, beautifully clear and bright, with only medium alcohol showing (it was 12.5% ABV). The nose was  particularly memorable – ripe melon fruit with apricots – as it suggested a lusciousness which was certainly noticeable in the heavy mouthfeel on the palate. It was both rich and balanced with acidity with floral honeysuckle flavours – possibly from the Viognier – and, again, apricots. The flavours were complex and very long.

There are lots of wonderful words about Rousanne, especially as to how the grape was revived from a decline and how it is favoured by the Perrins of Beaucastel fame and Jaboulet. This grape (not its more vigorous partner, Marsanne) is allowed in the white southern Rhone blends which, in the past, I have found a bit hollow. That was certainly not the case with this wine. It would make a wonderful accompaniment to stronger flavoured fish, white eat and cheese dishes.

[Richard: our second wine from this classy chateau, to the east of Carpentras. The cave had more red wine than anything else and most of the white was of recent vintage. However I spotted a few bottles of the above and wish I’d bought more, especially as the lady on the till said it was ‘the best’. I think it was around €18. A really delicious, complex, fully mature taste and, yes, the best white wine I’ve tasted in ages.]


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More reds


We tasted, on Sunday that rare thing, for us, at least – a low priced red wine. This is Chateau Capitoul 2012, bought by Geoff from The Co-op in Lichfield. Not a place where I’ve previously found much of interest.

The wine is from La Clape in Languedoc, usually in my experience, a source of well made and interesting wines. This didn’t disappoint despite being opened since Friday, under vacuum. Clear, bright, some grenache strawberry flavour, lean, dry but well balanced and complex. The back label claimed ‘torrefaction’, a word I’ve previously only seen associated with coffee – but there was a slight roasted aroma on the nose. Excellent value at £6.49.

[Geoff This wine is remarkable value; fresh and full of herbal flavours when it was opened on Friday night.

I think I’ve said this before but the Co-op’s larger stores have an eclectic wine selection, as if a keen and knowledgeable amateur has made the selections. There is another 15% discount if you buy 4 botts – it really is worth seeking out and the shelves are not packed with the usual branded labels and thousands of varieties of Prosecco. Quite refreshing]



Also tasted was La Volte 2014 (MWW £18). This is a Merlot, CS, Sangiovese blend, 70/15/15. I didn’t spot the merlot. A very easy to drink, savoury, full bodied wine which I’ve always liked.

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Rose – a brief history thereof.


Our lack of reviews of rose wines prompted me to search Sainsburys’ pink wine section and there’s a fair few wines displayed which must mean there’s a market to be satisfied. The Baron Gassier Cuvee Elegance 2015 cost just under £10 and it looked the most sophisticated wine there. I liked the colour, label and bottle shape – I was no more sophisticated than that! This wine was from an old winery east of Aix on the mount St. Victoire.

In the glass the colour was a pale salmon, onion skin colour and had a greyish tinge with some evidence of alcohol (ABV 13%). Slightly chalky on the nose, there was a pleasing freshness with slightly spicy quality (Geoff – cloves, Richard – cinnamon) but it was certainly attractive. The taste was definitely dry with a long finish, slightly of almonds and a polished, supple mouth feel. It was a well-made wine. After a while the taste started to cloy, however, and lacked any real interest – which prompted a few thoughts.

I wondered why was rose wine ever produced. It doesn’t make sense; wine flavours depend on prolonged skin contact therefore if red grape skins are removed quickly then the flavours are bound to be reduced. Good old Wickipedia came up with a plausible reason in the history section. In times gone by – we’re talking medieval and before – red wine pressings and macerations resulted in high tannins and often unpalatable wines therefore it made sense to have a brief skin contact time. This technique was therefore established. If the climate is hot, red grape skins are thicker and heavy red wine is not ideal on a warm day. What you lose in flavour you gain in drinkability. Fascinating. At least I think so.

Not a bad drop of wine but for £10 I’d rather drink a more flavoursome white.

[Richard: a very prettily presented wine – I should have photographed a full bottle. Pale pink in the gris style, slightly chalky nose which seems to be a characteristic of rosé. Plenty of flavour but there seemed to be a residual sweetness which meant I didn’t fancy more than one glass.]


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Aldi – that’s your Lot series


Although a small range of thirteen wines, Aldi’s Lot series takes on Tesco’s Finest and Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference ranges. The neck tag of Chateau Fauzan proclaims ‘This wine is unique’ and emphasises both topography and the vinification from the 10 hectare of vineyards north-east of Minervois in the Languedoc.

The grapes’ blend was 60% Syrah, 30% Grenache and 10% Carignan.

So, how was the wine? Colour, an intense red with purple rim and significant alcohol indicated. The nose was dominated by fruit, brambles mostly which were quite sweet to smell and low in acidity. There was a structure provided by some tannins which also helped dry the finish which was long. The wine was medium weight and not overly jammy on the finish. In style, this was more like a New World Syrah rather than the lighter Old World style. A good value wine, well-made and with some layers of complexity.

[Richard, I think the latest wines from the Lot series are the best yet and have enjoyed all the reds including the Metairie Du Bois which hasn’t been blogged. Still £9.99.]



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Pigs and priories



The quirky label and handle of this white wine did not detract from its quality. Lard, des Choix les Champs Libre 2013 from Lebosc was a tasty drop, from the first subtle aromatic nose of sweet peaches to its long, dry finish. The peachiness gave away its origins as being a hot climate white yet it still retained a pebbly, mineral twist on the palate. It has an IGP ranking from the Ardeche department, near the Rhone. Tasted blind, this wine had rich, big flavours and a quality that would show up many AC wines of, supposedly, higher ranking. It would match stronger white meat and sauce flavours. Pork, perhaps?

The Languedoc produces the largest volume of wine in France, not surprisingly most of it is red and 63% IGP. However, 19% does have AC appellations though, as can be seen from the white wine above, AC/IGP labels are not necessarily a guarantee of quality distinctions. The Prieure St Jean de Bebian has previously appeared on this site; this was the 2007 vintage. The wine is from Pezanas (now AC Coteaux de Languedoc) and, according to the blurb, is constituted from all thirteen of the permitted grapes. Whilst the Carignan grape is in decline because of its perceived lack of quality, the Languedoc plantings of Syrah and Grenache are on the increase with the resulting increase in finesse over power.

This wine had an intense black/red colour but a brick rim followed by a rich nose. The fact it was the right time to drink this was underlined by its soft tannins leading to licquorice notes and a drying finish. It was a well-made wine, polished, au point, and a beautiful accompaniment to the stronger food flavours of the area.

[Richard: the name of the white is apparently a French pun, based on L’Ardechois or, possibly, L’Art depending on which website you read. Hilarious, non? From Highbury Vintners, at a slightly ambitious £16. Geoff’s notes are spot on and I ought to mention that he identified the grape – Grenache Blanc –  blind. Probably the best natural wine I’ve tasted.

I didn’t think the ’07 Bebian (bought en primeur from the WS in 2008, about £20) was quite as good as the ’08 tasted recently. A shame as I’ve got more of the former. But a good drink with plenty of terroir – it couldn’t really be from anywhere else.]

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Prieure de Saint Jean de Bebian 2008



We have written about this wine before [Richard: actually the 2007] and claimed that it was well-made but too young. It was, therefore, good to revisit the wine probably 30 months later. The wine is an AC Languedoc from a low lying commune north-east of Beziers. It comprises the classic southern Rhone blend of grapes – syrah, grenache and mourvedre. To be frank, I’m not greatly struck by many southern Rhones but, this was a wonderful exception.

Brick red in colour there was a lack of clarity in its looks but the 14.5% ABV was proclaimed by some fairly thick legs. A red fruit nose suggested Pinot but its richness confirmed the Syrah grape element. It was full on and fruity. The palate was powerful – rich and smooth with well-integrated tannins – and pleasure to drink. It had balance and, although not subtle, had good balance and harmony. Those 30 months had made a big difference to the wine – it was a pleasure to drink.

[Richard: this was part of a mixed case of southern French wines from the WS and probably the most expensive at around £20. The was very enjoyable, excellent varietal nose, more complex than many but with lots of fruit, clearly well made, nicely balanced. I have a few of the 2007s left and should revisit them sometime.]

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Birthplace of AOC – with lots of grapes.

closnerthe Chateauneuf-du-Pape is where the first AOC area was delimited in 1923. It also has 18 permitted varieties of grapes that can make up the wines for that AOC and the majority of wine made is red (90%). The wines that we tried on Sunday were a white Clos des Papes 2011 and a red Chateau La Nerthe 2005. They are two kilometres apart, south-east of the town, on slopes dominated by sandy soil. The white was interesting for the fact that six different grape varieties, in roughly equal quantities, are fermented together. All six (Clairette, Picardin, Roussanne, Grenache Blanc, Bourboulenc and Picpoul) contribute to a fine blend, confirmed by our tasting the wine, but how the winemaker can commit to that mix before fermentation is amazing. We’d not heard of that before; the nearest example being a field blend of Alsace (blogged before). The colour of light lemon yellow with a very slight green hue showed the wine’s  comparative youth. There was a slight viscosity which belied its massive 15% ABV. The nose was citrus fresh but quite dumb and suggested a richness; I thought I could detect a slight almond note. The palate was definitely rich and had a big mouth feel; dry, with some acidity, this was a powerful, fruity wine which needed strong flavoured food. The red La Nerthe had only five grape varieties dominated by Grenache (55%) with Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault and Counoise. These produced a very deeply-coloured wine with plenty of viscosity and a brown rim. The nose indicated power, fruit and alcohol – all tinged with a slight sweetness. The palate was well-balanced with the red fruit sweetness finishing with a mineral edge. The tannins were present but softened and held in by a weighty mouth feel. This was an attractive wine, all the better for not ending on the jammy note that wines of this magnitude can have. We thought the ten year ageing helped us with this red. The art of blending in this area is well-developed and possibly quite unique in this age of drinking mono-varietal wines. Their continued – and increasing – popularity is a credit to those wine-makers who know the attributes and drawbacks of their grapes. Both wines were very enjoyable.

[Richard: both these wines came from the WS and both are no longer available. CdP is not an area I know much about, despite having stayed in the region a few times. Too big, too many growers, no obvious quality structure like the Rhone villages and, of course, too alcoholic. The Nerthe came from a mixed half dozen of CdP reds which I must have bought in a spirit of adventure. This is the last one, at about £29. Very fruity, well integrated, expressive nose. An excellent vintage, now ready to drink. Must better than the last CdP ‘big name’ we tried.

The white was equally good. I bought 6 of these plus 6 Vieux Telegraph whites. Around £36 a bottle all in. A lot of money – it would buy a decent white burgundy but if you like the style these are among the best, possibly the best, white CdP. Only about 1,000 cases of the Clos made each year. I wondered if the wine was too young – they age very well – but it wasn’t. Powerful, good mouth feel, plenty of nuance in the flavour.]

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