TOP TEN AFFORDABLE FRENCH CLASSICS UNDER £20
by Rose Murray Brown MW Pubished in The Scotsman 11 July 2015
This week we look at the classic regions of France to give you our top favourite ten wines for summer drinking – all just around the £20 mark or well under:
Loire: VOUVRAY PETILLANT L’ANCESTRALE 2010 Vincent Careme (£20.50 Berry Bros & Rudd)
The most delightful Petillant (slighty fizz) Chenin Blanc that I have tasted from the Loire, with a wonderfully elegant palate, apple flavours, touch of yeast and a fabulous racy minerality. Vincent Careme is a dynamic young winemaker who runs a small 15 hectare domaine in Vouvray, with his South African wife Tania. He established his own domain from scratch in 1999 – his parents were cereal farmers. He believes that good sun exposure and well drained soils – as well as successive passages through the vineyards at picking – are the key to success with Chenin Blanc in the Loire. He also grows Chenin Blanc in Swartland in South Africa.
Alsace: RIESLING, CLOS ST JACQUES 2011 Domaine Viticole de la Ville de Colmar (£14 Majestic Wine)
A dry mature Alsace Riesling from a single vineyard, just over ten hectares in size, near the town of Colmar. Colmar is the second driest town in France (after Perpignan), protected by the high Vosges mountains to the west (pictured above). The warm dry conditions and stony soils create very focused Riesling with floral and lime notes, crisp dry palate with honeyed notes from its extended time in bottle.
Bordeaux: CHATEAU DU SEUIL GRAVES BLANC 2012 (£13.99 Virgin Wines www.virginwines.co.uk)
A very well priced example of dry white Bordeaux. With 70% Semillon and 30% Sauvignon Blanc in the blend, the result has a citric and honey flavour from Semillon and a vibrant acidity from the Sauvignon. With that weight of Semillon, it does age well with a deep yellow gold colour and maturing honeysuckle undertones. A very slightly smokiness to the palate from part-fermentation in French oak, but with a bone dry finish –making it an ideal match with smoked chicken or fish. This chateau is Welsh-owned and is a worth Decanter Magazine award winner.
Loire: POUILLY FUME ‘RENAISSANCE’ 2012 Domaine de la Loge (£16.99 Raeburn Wines, Edinburgh)
Pouilly Fume is a hugely popular appellation, but many of its wines are now getting over-priced. This 2012 from a small grower is both affordable and extremely well made. It has a lovely creamy weight to the palate, beautifully balanced with a minerally edge and bone dry finish. It is made by David Millet at Domaine de la Loge, who owns 19 hectares of vineyards near Soumard. He focuses on getting the best out of his different plots and blends the parcels of different soil types – making five different Pouilly Fumes in total – and Renaissance is one of his best. Like its neighbour Sancerre, the appellation of Pouilly Fume has a large mix of soils which allows producers great blending scope.
Burgundy: ST VERAN EN FAUX 2012 Domaine Cordier (£17 The Wine Society www.thewinesociety.com)
From one of my favourite Maconnais producers, Christophe Cordier, who makes some of the best Pouilly Fuisse and their look-alikes from his immaculately-kept cellars in Fuisse. He owns 100 different parcels of vines across 8 different villages. This is a fabulous rich vibrant St Veran, so an ideal wine for those who usually buy Pouilly Fuisse. This wine hails from Christophe’s 1.8 hectare vineyard in Chasselas, close to Pouilly Fuisse, where he keeps yields incredibly low to achieve concentration and picks grapes as late as he dares to achieve a very ripe opulent broad textural depth in this Chardonnay. It is oaked, but beautifully balanced. Check out Cordier’s other St Verans – he makes ten different St Verans in total – and they are all very good.
Chablis: CHABLIS PREMIER CRU VAILLONS 2012 William Fevre (£20.99 Waitrose)
It is hard to find a premier cru Chablis at a decent price, particularly from a top notch domaine like William Fevre. This vintage is apparently exclusive to Waitrose – and can sometimes be found on offer at 6 or 12 bts if you wanted to buy more than one bottle. A step up from standard Chablis, this wine hails from the sunny early ripening Vaillons vineyard (organic since 2006). This Chablis is dry, clean, well-structured, with a touch of oak and lovely natural acid core – made by Fevre’s talented winemaker Didier Seguier – a perfect accompaniment for richer textured seafood like monkfish or scallops.
Bordeaux: CHATEAU PUY CASTERA 2007 (£18 – £20 The Haslemere Cellar, www.haslemerecellar.co.uk ; Noble Green Wines, www.noblegreenwines.co.uk; The Wine Library, www.winelibrary.co.uk)
Look out for 2007 Bordeaux right now as some as now soft supple and beautifully matured like this Haut Medoc Cru Bourgeois. Made in a classic left bank style predominately made with Cabernet Sauvignon which ripens well on the gravelly soils here righ on the border with St Estephe. Owner Alix Mares took over from her father and uncle ten years ago. Forward lush attractive and mature – drink now.
Northern Rhone: ST JOSEPH ‘OFFERUS’ 2001 Chave (£17.99 Raeburn Wines, Edinburgh)
For those who like a good old meaty peppery Syrah with undertones of black olives, licquorice and a good grippy finish. This is fantastic value considering its age and pedigree. Made by top winemaker Jean Louis Chave – this is a true traditional northern Rhone Syrah. St Joseph is a huge appellation of 1,000 hectares, so there are a lot of mediocre wines on the market from this AC. The best Syrah wines come from the steeper granite slopes, like Chave’s wine, rather than the cooler plateau. A great price for a mature wine. You will also find other vintages of this wine at higher prices in other winemerchants: 2008 with The Wine Society and 2011 with Berry Bros & Rudd – but this older 2001 is a steal.
Beaujolais: FLEURIE VIEILLES VIGNES LE VIVIER 2012 Domaine Lardy (£13.65 L’Art du Vin, Dunfermline www.aduv.co.uk 01383 873 510)
I discovered this enchanting Fleurie in a restaurant and was delighted to find it available with a Scottish winemerchant L’Art du Vin (who incidentally are a great source of classic French wines). This is made by the creator of Terroirs Originels, winemaker Lucien Lardy who farms his tiny 2 hectares organically in two Crus of Beaujolais: Fleurie and Moulin a Vent. This is from his older Fleurie vines; a lovely classic juicy red fruited Fleurie, light for a red, but just perfect for serving with a summer platter of charcuterie and pate
Languedoc: LES COCALIERES ROUGE 2010 Domaine D’Aupilhac (£19.75 Berry Bros & Rudd www.bbr.com)
Renowned organic producer Sylvain Fadat with his wife Desiree makes some of the most stylish Languedoc reds near Montpeyroux, north of Montpellier. This Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre blend hails from north west facing slopes 350 metres altitude on the site of a prehistoric lake. Soils here are volcanic and limestone giving the Syrah a fabulous freshness and pepper undertone. If you like your reds with cassis, liquorice and supple tannins try this with roasted duck or pigeon.
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