Sud de France: Old World, New Blood

DanBy Daniel Briggs, Assistant Manager of Majestic Wine Wimbledon

Unlike some of the better-known French regions like Bordeaux and Burgundy, the Languedoc is one of the most dynamic places to be making wine today. Thanks to fewer stringent appellation laws and less red tape, producers are embracing modern winemaking techniques and experimenting with grape varieties.

VinesThe Sud de France is rich in tradition and culture, but what struck me the most when I visited the region in March this year, was the sheer variety and quality of wines. Many will always think of France as home to the best old-style wines, but what’s exciting about the Languedoc is the way it combines some truly exceptional terroirs with pioneering, multi-award-winning wine-makers who have managed to strike a remarkable balance between respecting tradition and striving for quality through innovation.

Domaine Sainte Rose 'Le Marin Blanc' Marsanne Roussanne 2010 PGI Côtes de Thongue  Domaine Sainte Rose ‘Le Marin Blanc’ Marsanne Roussanne 2010, PGI Côtes de Thongue
£7.99 or £6.99 when you buy 2 bottles

Domaine Sainte Rose is run by a British couple who left high-flying careers in Blighty to pursue their dreams… and so far they’ve made a pretty good job of it! Inspired by the traditional styles of the Midi, their wines embrace new world techniques and have earned them a string of accolades and awards. Award-winning ‘Le Marin Blanc’ 2010, is a lively, refreshing blend of Rhône varietals – Roussanne, Marsanne and Viognier. Partially barrel-fermented, this floral wine with aromas of white rose petals and nectarines pairs beautifully with grilled fish.

Viognier Réserve Spéciale 2010 Gérard Bertrand, Vin de Pays d'Oc  Viognier Réserve Spéciale 2010, Gérard Bertrand, PGI Pays d’Oc
£7.99 or £6.99 when you buy 2 bottles

On meeting Gerard Bertrand in his winery, Chateau L’Hospitalet, he told me “the history of wine has already been written in Bordeaux (in 1855) and Burgundy (by the monks!), but we are writing ours on a clean page. We are writing history.” Gerard has set the bar high with a host of award-winning wines. Winning a Silver medal at the International Wine Challenge (IWC), his Viognier Réserve Spéciale 2010, is an expression of Viognier from a more southerly aspect with some tropical notes of pineapple and dried apricot yet still floral and elegant with honeysuckle aromas.

Laurent Miquel L'Artisan Chardonnay 2009 PGI Pays d'Oc  Laurent Miquel L’Artisan Chardonnay 2009, PGI Pays d’Oc
£7.99 or £6.99 when you buy 2 bottles

Having won a Bronze medal at the IWC, this is one of a host of wines from a prestigious producer who strives to make natural, simple wines, with minimalist intervention in the vineyards. This beautifully balanced, delicately-oaked Chardonnay has notes of white peach, citrus and honey with a slight creamy texture from the oak and a refreshing minerality. It has all the makings of a great white Burgundy at half the price.

Masterful Mas

The Paul Mas Estate was founded as a family winery in the late 1800s and is now making critically acclaimed, award winning wines that often push the boundaries of convention.

Paul Mas Estate Marsanne 'La Forge Vineyard' 2010 Vin de Pays d'Oc  Paul Mas Estate Marsanne ‘La Forge Vineyard’ 2010, PGI Pays d’Oc
£8.99 or £6.99 when you buy 2 bottles

Winning a Silver medal at the IWC this wine is delicately scented with white floral notes and honeydew melon, following on to the palate with a creamy texture and notes of stone fruit, reminiscent of peaches and cream.

Paul Mas Cabernet de Cabernet 2009/2010 PGI Pays d’Oc  Paul Mas ‘Cabernet de Cabernet’ 2010, PGI Pays d’Oc
£7.99 or £6.49 when you buy 2 bottles

This is a blend of classic Bordeaux varietals made using modern techniques. This rich wine is brimming with juicy red and blackcurrant fruit, with notes of pencil lead. It has a savoury nature and shows some restraint making it an ideal ticket for a barbeque when a wine of more elegance is desired. Awarded a Decanter Silver and IWC Bronze, expect excellent quality at an impressive price.

Paul Mas Estate 'Savignac Vineyard' Mourvedre 2009/2010 PGI Pays d'Oc  Paul Mas Estate ‘Savignac Vineyard’ Mourvèdre 2010, PGI Pays d’Oc
£8.99 or £6.99 when you buy 2 bottles

Making a wine from 100% rustic and muscular Mourvèdre is a bold move, but this multi award-winner shows it can pay off. The wine is deep and rich, expressing notes of blackberry and damson. Use of American oak imparts cinnamon and toast. This full-bodied wine will match well with red meats and stand up to rich sauces and intense marinades.

Paul Mas Estate 'Nicole Vineyard' Syrah Viognier 2009 PGI Pays d'Oc  Paul Mas Estate Syrah Viognier ‘Nicole Vineyard’ 2010, PGI Pays d’Oc
£8.99 or £6.99 when you buy 2 bottles

Bringing home a Silver medal at the IWC, a Decanter Bronze medal and Top 100 IGP Trophy, this Syrah Viognier has achieved acclaim by imitating the revered style of Côte Rotie, a wine from northern Rhône. A small amount of Viognier (white grape variety) is blended with Syrah, to achieve an aromatic dark, fruity red that has silky ripe tannins. A winner with lamb chops and mint sauce.

Domaine Haut-Lirou 2009 Pic Saint-Loup  Domaine Haut-Lirou 2009/10, Pic Saint-Loup
£8.99 or £7.49 when you buy 2 bottles

IWC commended, this is a real wine of the garrigue (Mediterranean scrublands). From soils abundant in rosemary, thyme and fennel this deep spicy red is truly expressive of its surroundings. A traditional wine mastered from five generations of expertise. Savour with Coq au Vin made with plenty of thyme and garlic.

Clos d'Yvigne 'Le Rouge et Le Noir' 2001 Côtes de Bergerac  Château La Dournie 2008/09, St Chinian
£8.99 or £6.99 when you buy 2 bottles

Located in one of the oldest vineyard regions in France, the Château has been passed down from mother to daughter for six generations. A traditional blend of Syrah and Grenache, opulent blackberry and dried fruit blend harmoniously with more savory earthy notes of field mushroom and nutmeg. Wonderful to drink with a selection of hard cheeses.

Château de Pennautier 'Terroirs d'Altitude' 2008 Cabardès  Château de Pennautier ‘Terroirs d’Altitude’ 2008, Cabardès
£9.99 or £7.99 when you buy 2 bottles

This Decanter Bronze medal winner is a wine of great purity, achieved through the cool climatic conditions found on the vineyards cultivated between 200-400m above sea level. This spicy wine is brimming with fresh blackcurrant and blackberry fruit and would make a great partner to duck breast with a blackcurrant sauce.
The Sud de France Festival in London runs from 9 – 25 September.
Visit for more details.

Prices valid until 31 October 2011.

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