(2015) Sneaking in under £8.00, this wine from one of the Languedoc's top appellations is a typical blend of Syrah, Grenache, Carignan, Cinsault and Mourvèdre. Saturated and dark, the nose has buoyancy and a fine peppery lift, tight black fruit aromas lightened by that pepper and spice. In the mouth it is quite substantial and has an authentic and pleasing rustic grip to the tannins, liquorice and leather meld with sweeter black berries, before a long plummy finish with a rasp of tannin and acid. Very nice.
(2015) An oak-aged blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre, from selected vineyard plots, this has a dramatically dark colour and immediate meatiness, earthiness and savoury density on the nose. On the palate a real juiciness of red berries emerges, coated in a smoothing, vanilla-touched coating of the barrels, but all given lovely tension by a tight, plum-skin tannin roughness, juicy acids and a tobacco and spice note.
(2014) A recent Decanter Regional Trophy Winner, this is a wine I made my "Wine of the Week" back in summer 2012 (see my video review) and it's another Grenache/Syrah blend, this time from the hills of Corbières. Made by the Sichel family of Bordeaux fame, this is quite a different take, and much more cedary and savoury now with five years under its belt. Tobacco and hints of game join the solid blackcurrant and plummy fruit. There is a gravelly depth to the wine on the palate, spices and earthy tones playing against the fruit. Drinking beautifully and finishing with a chunky hit of tannin and lovely balance, it has cellaring potential still too.
(2012) Deep, vinous nose, rustic, leafy qualities, very fresh, liquorice and cherry, touch of polished wood (from staves) a touch floral too. The palate has a fine, creamy texture and a nicely bittersweet depth. Juicy, supple stuff, fairly straightforward on the palate, but delicious and structured with savoury, spicy length.
(2012) A Bordeaux-meets-Rhône blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carignan and Syrah, this wine from the Crès Ricards estate has a weighty 14.5% alcohol. It has a dark, sultry perfume of very deep, ripe black fruits, a blueberry darkness, with little violet and kirsch notes too. On the palate the confiture sweetness of the black berries fills the mouth, edged with a touch of smoke and earthiness, but with a clean, liquorice-tinged and fresh finish. Lovely stuff and well-priced.
(2012) This Minervois La Livinière blends 70% Syrah with 20% Mourvèdre and 10% Grenache. Crunchy, vibrant berry fruits have some real depth and sweet earth and a touch of undergrowth too. Balanced and fresh on the palate, the liquorice grip of the tannins and spicy, firm fruit give this length and big grilled lamb chop appeal.
(2011) 13%. Vin de Pays d'Oc. Typical southerners Syrah and Grenache are joined by Merlot in this cuvée, where the bright raspberry and black cherry jam aromas are backed up by a little coffee and spice-like depth. On the palate the dry, savoury fruit has nice balance and a bit of red-meat-friendly herby depth and richness.
(2011) 13.5%. Vin de Pays de Caux. The Tempranillo vines were planted here in 1980, 'here' being the Languedoc (I had to look the little-known 'Vin de Pays de Caux' up). The wine has a very vibrant purple colour and beautifully clean, graphite-touched nose of juicy blackberries. On the palate there's a creaminess to the texture that is very alluring, the richness of the fruit is concentrated and coats the tongue, and hints of tobacco and subtle spices marry with the ripe tannins in the finish. Really very stylish stuff.