A tasting of assorted French wines, all made by independent French producers.
Vignerons de St Hilaire (France) Côtes du Rhône Blanc ‘Théliné’ 2004
A very typical southern Rhône blend of Marsanne, Roussanne and Clairette, this has a very attractive, fresh nose, with some floral notes, and plenty of pear and downy, peach-skin aromas. On the palate it is really quite powerful, striking the palate with firm-edged, grippy character coming from skin contact, with a cool, precise, apple and melon fruit following on backed up with plenty of lemony acidity. This is a dry style and very classic, that will show its best with white fish, chicken or salad dishes. Very good. £5.99
Pierre Janny (France) St Véran ‘Merloix’ 2005
Moving into Burgundy, and the first of a series of impressive wines from Pierre and Véronique Janny, who also own Domaine Les Légères. The nose here is very fine, with a sense of minerality and a salty note. Tight, firm, apple and melon fruit character comes through. On the palate this is bright and fresh, with no oak influence to detract from pristine stone fruit flavours and a broad, generous core of lemony acidity that runs through the wine and freshens the finish, with out being at all tart. Juicy and mouth-watering, this is a very nice example of classic St Véran from southern Burgundy. Very good indeed. £7.49
Domaine Les Légères (France) Bourgogne Blanc 2005
This 100% Chardonnay Bourgogne has a rich, limpid fruitiness, with orchard fruits and citrus, and a touch of leafy, vegetal character. On the palate it is filled with sweet-edged apple and lemon fruit, and has a lovely balance with good acidity and quite a full, mealy texture. Very good. £7.69
Domaine Les Légères (France) Mâcon Péronne 2005
Mâcon Péronne is one of the Mâcon Villages, and this wine has a nuttier nose than the Bourgogne with Cox’s Pippin and quite earthy, herbal nuances. On the palate it has lovely style, with ripe, sweet, apple fruit that hints at peach and apricot, and a fine core of mineral and lemon acidity that shimmers through to the finish. I think this must see a little time in older oak barrels, as it just has a suggestion of creamy, mellow smokiness, but very delicately handled. Terrific stuff and very good indeed/excellent. £7.69
Mas du Soleilla (France) Sphinx 2004
Back into the Rhône and a 100% Roussanne Vin de Pays des Coteaux de Narbonne. The nose has a big, nutty, mealy depth of aroma, with vanillin notes of new oak and powerful herbal and almost minty, ripe fruit notes. On the palate it is medium-bodied (only 12.5% alcohol) and has a very dry, savoury quality, with a nutty chewiness to the fruit, a slightly raw edge of oak, but really nice orange and firm, apply qualities coming through. There is good balance, in a fairly big, powerful style of wine that is crying out for food. Very good indeed. £8.39
Pierre Janny (France) Rully ‘Mogliots’ 2004
From a special parcel of 20-year-old vines, vinified with wild yeasts, this is a wine the producer is confidant will cellar until 2015. The nose is very classic and very classy, with a nutty character, some honeysuckle and pear and apple fruit. There is some mealy, rich and leesy character too, but it stays fresh. The fruit is terrific on the palate: a real blast of fruit ripeness, with plenty of orchard fruits and an orange and grapefruit tang. It is quite full-bodied, and there is a multi-layered character to this wine, with a hint of toffee and good acidity into quite a long finish. Very good indeed/excellent. £9.69
Vignerons de St Hilaire (France) Domaine la Pierre Plantée 2003
This is a Vin de Pays des Coteaux du Pont du Gard, and a blend of 70% Grenache with 30% Merlot. It has a pale ruby colour and a pleasing soft nose with hints of chocolate and red berry fruit. On the palate this is medium-bodied and has a big, rustic attack of red fruit and a bittersweet cherry skin bite, with grippy, drying tannins and a fine background of acidity even in this very hot year. This is a food wine, and its rusticity is charming, and so different from many of the more bland, big brand wines in its price bracket. Very good. £5.39.
Vignerons de St Hilaire (France) Côtes du Rhône Cuvée Prestige 2003
The Rhône produced some dazzling wines in the hot 2003 vintage. This 60% Syrah and 40% Grenache wine from the co-operative of St Hilaire d’Ozilhan has a discreet, subdued nose of black fruit and liquorice. On the palate it has a raciness and a lean, sinewy streak of acidity and dry, cranberry and raspberry fruit, with a background of quite chunky, robust tannins. There’s a nice savoury, keen-edged juiciness about this wine, and it does leave a lingering, vinous impression on the palate. Very good indeed. £6.99.
Mas du Soleilla (France) Petit Mars 2003
This wine comes from a small Mediterranean estate close to Narbonne. It is made from Syrah, with 10% of Grenache. It has a lovely nose, redolent of summer-pudding fruits, raspberry coulis and with a delicate floral and cracked black pepper perfume. On the palate this wine has lovely fruit: plenty of bold, ripe, creamy raspberry and cherry flavours nicely backed up with smoky, vanillin oak notes and ripe, supple tannins. The acidity for this very hot vintage is just fine in a really lovely wine, and one of the stars of this selection. Excellent. £6.99
Vignerons de St Hilaire (France) Vacqueyras 2001
Aged in oak for 10 months, this is a blend of 65% Grenache. 30% Syrah and 5% Mourvèdre from one of the best of the Côtes du Rhône Villages, Vacqueyras. This maturing wine has aromas of schist and raspberry fruit, with a lovely touch of wild herbs and a very, very faint medical aroma that is classic for this region. On the palate this is a big, strapping wine, with robust, chunky fruit, and plenty of bite and power. The fruit is ripe and sweet, but there’s such a clamping grip of tannins and terrific acidity that it becomes very chewy and savoury through the mid palate into a spicy, even liquoricy finish. A big, take no prisoners style, but very good indeed. £7.99
Mas du Soleilla (France) Les Bartelles 2004
This Coteaux du Languedoc wine is 85% Syrah, with 15% Grenache in the blend, this cuvée spends a year in oak barrels, and was a winner in the Decanter Awards. It has a deep, vibrant colour and a beguiling nose, with deep-set blueberry and cassis aromas, and some very dark, cocoa and espresso nuances. On the palate this has a smooth, mouthfilling texture, and a rich, blackcurrant and plum fruit floods across the tongue. Tannins are fairly massive, with a chocolaty texture that, along with a smoky, dark and velvety oak character, gives a sumptuous depth through the mid-palate. Spice and pepper really kicks in on a long, harmonious finish. excellent. £10.79.