This is a great tasting as it shows some of the best of France for sheer enjoyable drinkability. Each year Sopexa asks about twenty of us writers to suggest some of our favourite wines, in three price brackets – under £6; under £10 and above £10, and this year they added an extra category, for Christmas drinking. For some reason – I’m not sure why - I stayed away from the Languedoc with a rosé from Gascony; a scrummy Beaujolais from a new producer in Moulin à Vent, Richard Rottiers and a Marcillac, one of the more unusual wines of the south west, from a quirky grape variety, Braucol.

However, the Languedoc was well represented and what follows are wines that I could very well have chosen myself.

2008 La Nuit Blanche, Sélection Roussanne, Domaine Sainte Rose - £8.99 Majestic
Ruth and Charles Simpson are making Roussanne a bit of a speciality and very successfully so. The wine is vinified in oak, but the oak is well integrated, with a rounded palate, with white blossom and nicely textured mouth feel. Rounded and satisfying.

There were a couple of Viognier, one from Château Pennautier in Cabardès, which was easy, rounded and peachy - £8.99 Majestic. The other was from Laurent Miguel, his 2009 Nord Sud Viognier - £8.99 Majestic. This has more weight and depth than the Pennautier with fresh acidity and some dry peachy fruit. See my earlier posting.

2008 Le Roc des Anges, Iglesia Vella, Vin de Pays des Pyrénées Orientales - £34.49 – Les Caves de Pyrène. This estate is on my list of cellars to visit. The wine was intriguing, with white blossom on nose and palate, very textured and layered, complex and satisfying, and difficult to pin down. It comes from old Grenache Gris vines.

2006 Le Soula blanc, Vin de Pays des Cotes Catalanes - £20.00 Uncorked.
This has a firm nutty nose and on the palate there is fresh acidity, some well-integrated oak, but also some almost salty, mineral notes. Again layers of flavour and great length.

2008 Clos de Gravillas, L’Inattendu - £21.50 Les Caves de Pyrène.
This is not the first time that this estate has appeared on my blog – see my dilemma of what to drink after 1921 d’Yquem. This white Minervois has wonderfully minerality, with a rich textured palate, rounded white blossom fruit and layers of flavour and great length.

2009 Château la Liquière, les Amandiers, Coteaux du Languedoc. £7.00 The Wine Society. From one of the pioneering Faugères estates. A herbal peachy note on the palate; maybe I detected a touch of Viognier. Very fragrant with good acidity. Nicely rounded finish.

2009 Mas de Daumas Gassac blanc, Vin de Pays de l’Hérault - £28.99 Les Caves de Pyrène. From a wonderful fruit salad of different grape varieties. I definitely prefer the white to the red at Mas de Daumas Gassac these days. The white illustrates just how good the white wines of the Languedoc have become. This has peachy notes on the nose, with full ripe peachy fruit on the palate, and a lovely textured mouth feel and a rounded finish, with good length.

2009 Domaine Lafarge, Côtes du Roussillon Cuvée Centenaire. £10.94 Bibendum.
A blend of 80% Grenache and 20% Roussanne, with lovely textured flavours. A rich nose and palate, and a hint of oak. Rounded and mouth filling and very satisfying. This is another estate on my list to visit.

And in the Christmas list there was another wine from Le Roc des Anges, 2008 Vieilles Vignes, Vin de Pays des Pyrénées Orientales. £20.49 les Caves de Pyrène.
Rounded nose with a hint of oak, with a ripe rounded textured palate, with layers of flavour and a long finish. Again wonderfully satisfying.

And now for the reds, which were generally less exciting for some reason, but with an exception or two.

2008 Domaine les Yeuses, les Epices Syrah, Vin de Pays d’Oc - £8.99 Majestic.
Black fruit on the nose, with the spices and scents of the garrigues. And on the palate rich spicy dense black fruit and tapenade. Quite powerful and mouth filling

2007 Minervois la Livinière, Château Cesseras - £12.99 Waitrose
Medium colour; quite firm fruit on the nose, with a touch of oak and some smoky spicy fruit on the palate. Nicely structured. Medium weight.

NV The Society’s Full French Red – Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes. £4.95 The Wine Society
Easy undemanding spicy fruit on nose and palate. A touch of tannin. Easy and gluggable. The Midi at its least demanding and most accessible.

2008 Costieres de Nimes, Fontaine du Roy - Waitrose - £5.99 I've enthused about this before. It coems from one of the leading estates of the appellation, Chateau Mourgues de Gres - see an earlier posting - and has lovely easy spicey, succulently juicey berry fruit. Again eminently gluggable and enjoyable.

And from the Christmas line up :

2007 Collioure, Puig Oriol, Domaine la Tour Vieille – Yapp Bros - £14.95. This is one of my favourite estates in Collioure – see a posting from earlier this year. Firm spicy mineral fruit on the nose. A sturdy stony palate, rounded with dry spicy notes. Intriguing and complex. Drinking nicely but would also develop further in bottle.

2005 Les Clos Perdus, L’Extrème, Vin de Pays des Cotes Catalanes - £46 Artisan & Vine
Deep colour ; quite solid sturdy oaky nose. A dense spicy palate, with ripe fruit under the quite intrusive oak. Powerful oak and spice; seriously mouth filling, but short on elegance.


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