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First taste: Six wines to try from Rhone, Languedoc and Loire

This week, I popped in on a 'new to market' tasting of regional French wines in London. I love these tastings because you get a sense of how exciting regional French winemaking is at the moment from the Loire and Alsace down to the Languedoc. So, here are six of the most interesting and impressive wines I came across.

Vines in France’s Loire Valley

See my top six wines from the tasting below:

  • Domaine Belles Granges Syrah Pays de Collines Rhodaniennes 2012 Cave de Tain

Classic Northern Rhone Syrah expression from this single domaine which sits just outside the Crozes Appellation with well sited sandy soils. All the grapes are destemmed and put into tank as soon as possible to maintain and preserve the juicy fruit flavours. Pale in colour, it has a palette of lovely bright red fruits with a touch of violet and peppery finish. This light-bodied and great value red is not a wine to age but to enjoy in its first flush of youth.
Abv 12%
89 points/100
Drink 2015-2017
Stockist: D Byrne, £7.99

  • Les Dauphins Cotes du Rhone Village Reserve Blanc 2014, Cellier des Dauphins

I have to say that I love the presentation of this brand almost as much as I love the wines. The brand takes its cue from the roaring 20s in Paris when the wines of the Dauphine region were popular because of their fruit-forward, easy-drinking style. This wine is 63% Grenache, 7% Marsanne and 30% Viognier, grown on chalk and clay alluvial plains. This delightful southern rhone blend is pale yellow but really packs an aromatic punch. On the palate, there’s pear, peach and apricot with lovely lift coming from the Viognier and some chalky minerality from the Marsanne. It’s also fresh, a touch herbal and silkily textured.
ABV 12.5%
88 points
Drink 2015-2017
Stockist: Tesco and Asda £6.99

  • Les Dauphins Cotes du Rhone Villages Grande Reserve 2014, Cellier des Dauphins, Rhone Valley

This joyful, fragrant red is an absolute steal with intense berry fruit (blackberries, mulberries and cherries). Although unoaked, there’s a lovely polish and creaminess with good acidity and round supple tannins. The blend is 75% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 5% Mourvedre, which are planted between the Drome and Vaucluse and picked at optimum maturity.
ABV 13.5%
90 points
Drink 2015-2018
Stockist: Waitrose £8.99

  • Chateau de Tracy 2013, AC Pouilly-Fume

One of the Loire’s most famous and historic names and chateaux, which overlooks the Loire in Pouilly-Fume and dates back to 1396. Still family owned, the small estate produces benchmark quality and this is no exception. Precise, floral, grassy and mineral aromas lead into a palate of gooseberry, greengage and mineral fruit with excellent angular acidity. There’s also weight and texture here and a very long, classy finish. Deserves food and will keep for a few years yet.
ABV 13%
93 points
Drink 2015-2019
Stockist: Lea & Sandeman £20.95

Another stellar southern French wine from the former French Rugby International Gerard Bertrand. 80% Chardonnay, 15% Viognier and a dash of 5% Sauvignon Blanc (all biodynamically farmed), this delicious blend has been 70% fermented in new French barriques. And it shows in the weight, texture and mouthfeel of the wine. The flavours are also big and bold: pear, honeysuckle, ginger and cream. This is complex, rich and powerfully long.
ABV 14.5%
91 points
Drink 2015-2020
Stockists: Discover Wine, Tilstons, The Smoking Jacket, Whalley Wine Shop, Stoney Wines Ltd, Exel Wines
Indicative Price: £24.77 (Exel Wines)

  • Muscadet de Sevre et Maine, Sur Lie, La Griffe’ 2013, Chereau Carre, Loire Valley

Personally, I am drinking much more Muscadet these days, and this is one of the reasons why. 100% Melon de Bourgogne, this has been aged on its lees to give that sappy, savoury, mineral characer which adds depth and dimension. There’s lovely green apple and citrus fruit to the wine, with a salty, tangy finish. Dry, crisp and low in alcohol this is also great with shell-fish dishes.
ABV 12%
89 points
Drink 2015-2018
Stockists: Askew Wine, Le Vigneron, Cheers Wine Shop, Miles Better Wines
Indicative Price: £9.99

Written by John Stimpfig

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