France is home to some of the great wine regions of the world. Places such as Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne produce some of the world’s finest wines.
Less well known, and much less understood, are the vineyards of the south of France.
Occitanie is an administrative region only created in 2016, which may explain why it is not as particularly well known.
But with nearly 280,000 hectares of vineyard covering Languedoc, Roussillon, along with a part of the Rhône and the south west of France, it is the largest and the most varied wine region in the world. In some respects, it could be viewed as the New World of France.
Sud de France Languedoc Roussillon/South West Top 100 was established to help wine trade and consumers see what this region has to offer.
Chaired by highly respected wine writer Tim Atkin MW the 2018 results can be seen here – suddefrancetop100.co.uk.
I have tasted a number of the winners and what struck me was,firstly, the quality of some of these wines and their value, and also the amazing diversity of the range of wines.
Sadly, not all the winning wines are as yet available in the UK but here are three worth seeking out.
Cote Des Roses Rosé 2017, Languedoc, Gerard Bertrand (Majestic £12.99 but £10.99 if part of a mixed six) is a blend of grenache, cinsault and syrah and comes in an interesting bottle.
I’m not usually struck by overly-engineered bottles, given the wine inside rarely lives up to the presentation, but this was difficult not to enjoy. Very pale in colour, this has red summer fruits, including some crunchy redcurrant, and a touch of peach and citrus on the nose, followed by crisp acidity, more red fruits on the palate and a nice lively, refreshing finish.
Paul Mas Reserve White 2017, Languedoc (Waitrose £9.39) is a lovely blend of grenache blanc, marsanne and vermentino from a single vineyard and has been briefly aged in oak, which adds some nice weight.
The nose is very inviting with citrus, green herbs and some peach and apricot. The palate is quite textured with a surprisingly long, dry finish for a wine at this level. Try this with some simply grilled fresh fish or creamy pasta.
La Grange des Combes 2016 St-Chinian-Roquebrun (Majestic £12.99 but £10.99 if part of a mixed six – please note Majestic currently stock the 2015 vintage) is made by the local co-operative, Cave de Roquerbrun and is a gentle introduction to reds of the region.
A blend of syrah, grenache and mourvèdre, it’s very dark in colour with a bouquet of dried herbs, black fruits and just a touch of smokiness, followed by a supple palate with more black fruits, some spice and ripe tannins.
Not overly complex but that’s fine with some Toulouse sausages or a bowl of tomato-based pasta.
You can almost taste the warmth of the south of France.