We’ve a great selection of regional French wines this week from my old chum Jason Yapp. With carefree al fresco imbibing in mind, during what promises to be a blisteringly hot couple of weeks, I was keen to keep the wines under a tenner and relatively light in alcohol, and we almost succeeded.
Only a gorgeous, peach-scented Viognier is more than 12.5 per cent alcohol by volume, and only a cheeky Vin de Savoie is over a tenner. Wines of similar quality from better-known (but certainly not better) regions would have cost a heck of a lot more.
Sadly, our self-imposed strictures meant that we had to ditch a really toothsome 2010 Vacqueyras Cuvée Spéciale. It’s just too pricey for this offer at £14.25 and too alcoholic at 14 per cent. But it’s a belter: full-on, rich, dark and spicy, and perfect with barbecues. It’s on the Yapp list if you’re interested. Tell Jas I sent you and if you ask nicely he might lop a quid off.
As for the offer proper, we start with a charming 2013 Saumur Blanc (1) from the uber-reliable Cave de Saumur co-operative based in Saint-Cyr-en-Bourg. Made only from Chenin Blanc, it’s delightfully refreshing and fruity with an exhilarating, long, crisp finish. It’s a great summer standby, this, and one of Yapps’ perennial best sellers. It’s hard not to be charmed by it or its jolly, Pippa Goldfinger-designed ‘Charles de Gaulle’ label. £9.75.
I first tried the 2013 Coteaux de l’Ardèche Viognier (2) on my trip down south with Jason earlier this year and just loved it. And tasting it again back home, I find it’s better than ever. Made by the Vignerons Ardèchois co-operative (who boast the largest Viognier vineyard in the world), it’s crisp, seductively scented, creamy, apricotty and peachy. Viognier is hard to grow and vinify, since it can get flabby and be short of acidity but this example is spot on, being laudably fresh and lively. Enjoy it as an aromatic aperitif or alongside a dressed crab or lobster. £9.95.
The 2013 Cuvée l’Orangerie, Vin de Savoie (3) is a real charmer and something of a curiosity, being made from the Jacquère grape, a delicately perfumed, high-yielding variety found hardly anywhere else other than here in the foothills of the Alps.
It is light, dry and mountain-fresh and although excellent and undemanding on its own (it’s only 11 per cent a.b.v.), it’ll be familiar to many skiers as the perfect partner to cheese fondue. £10.95.
The 2012 Saumur Rouge (4) is the counterpart to the Saumur Blanc, as you might just have guessed — pure Cabernet Franc and extremely versatile. Although vibrantly fruity and fresh, it has that familiar Cab Franc savouriness to it and is one of those rare reds that’s perfectly gluggable on its own. I favour serving it lightly chilled (in a jug or carafe if I didn’t like that Goldfinger label so much) with French bread, farmhouse cheeses and coarse country pâté sitting on a rug on the grass. £9.75.
The 2012 Coteaux de l’Ardèche Cabernet Sauvignon (5) is corking value at £8.95. Again, I tasted this in Montpellier a month or so back and was struck by its easygoing charm. It is absurdly soft and supple on the palate and what it lacks in complexity it more than makes up for in its sheer drinkability. There are the expected hints of pencil shavings, cassis and mint supported by very gentle tannins — I can’t think of a better partner to a puy lentil and duck breast salad.
Finally, we’ve the 2013 Côtes de Gascogne, Domaine Millet Cabernet Franc/Merlot (6) from the Dèche family, celebrated producers of Armagnac near Eauze, in the heart of d’Artagnan country. Ripe fruit is cool-fermented in stainless steel vats to give a wine of admirable colour and freshness. Silky soft, I like this red lightly chilled too, allowing it to warm a little in the sun. Drink it with chicken liver salad or thick slices of saucisson sec. £9.50.
There’s a sample case containing two bottles of each wine and, as ever, delivery to mainland Britain is free.
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