Where do you go if you want the most exciting, authentic, handcrafted wines
for under £10 a bottle in France!
Head south. To the area the locals call the Midi and maps call Languedoc-Roussillon.
Follow that 2CV …
The thing is you need to know where to look. Which is why, this summer, I, southern French buyer Beth Willard, was in a car with Tom Laithwaite, following local winemakers Hervé Sabardiel and Laurent Torres as they drove their classic 2CV off the beaten track – and up into the rugged, remote hills.
In Bordeaux and Burgundy you know you are in fine wine country. Neat, manicured vineyards sit cheek by jowl with fine châteaux and smart estate signs. In the Languedoc-Roussillon, you need to keep an eye out.
Drive along the valley floors and you’ll see lots of young vines that pump out the huge volumes of cheaper wine that gave this part of the world something of a reputation in the days of the EU wine lakes.
Head into the hills and you notice precious plots of vines in tiny plots carved out of the stone hills. You also notice how much thicker their trunks are. Gnarled, twisting, squat. It means they are old. Older vines deliver much lower yields of grapes. But those grapes are much richer in flavour – and make wines of greater intensity and concentration, with richer, purer fruit flavours.
There’s GOLD in them there hills …
There really is! Just look at this summer’s medal count. Long-standing favourite Le XV du Président has scooped 3 Golds in competition. It’s made from thunderously powerful old-vine Grenache from 15 vineyards dotted in the hills around Opoul and has wowed fans of big, rich warming reds for over two decades now.
It’s only the third vintage of Marcelin Chardonnay but this bright, gently oaked, crisply refreshing gem has again won Gold. The wine, very appropriately, is named after Albert Marcelin. He was regarded as the Languedoc’s first champion of quality wines. He led a winemakers’ revolt in 1907 against over production and fraudulent wines. ( I like to think the second champion of quality wines here is my boss, Tony Laithwaite. Tony was one of the first modern day wine merchants to take this area seriously and imported totally unknown wines in the 1970s).
Plus double Gold for Cabalié – the most re-ordered red in our cellars and Hervé Sabardiel’s pride and joy.