I’ve so many mates on the wagon this month that there is hardly anyone left to play with. It turns out that even my old chum Jason Yapp is doing a detox. More baby steps really, he tells me, a day at a time, but even so.
Happily, though, before Jason went all virtuous, he and I sat down for a lengthy tasting in order to choose some seriously tasty fare for the first Spectator Wine Club of the year. And I am really chuffed with the final six that we picked, for they are excellent examples of what regional France has to offer the discerning drinker.
All three reds and one of the whites are organic. We didn’t pick them because of this — it just turned out that way. The two remaining whites are so-called lutte raisonnée, which is to say that they are made with minimal intervention. All, no doubt, good for the detox.
I reckon that if you’re taking it easy at this time of year, like poor Jason, it makes sense to trade up a bit and buy from vrais vignerons — independents — rather than from the mass-producers. As Jason points out, you can taste the winemakers’ integrity in every glass. And if you’re not drinking at all this month, stash the bottles away and congratulate yourself on your foresight.
The 2013 Domaine Gaujal Picpoul de Pinet (1), from near Montpellier, is charm itself, from one of the most celebrated of all P de P producers. High in acidity, it’s both zesty and smooth and deliciously full–flavoured. It has plenty of fruit in the mouth and an ever-so-slightly salty finish to it, making it ideal for knocking back with some bi-valves from the neighbouring Bassin de Thau. £9.25 down from £10.25.
The 2013 Coteaux d’Aix Domaine des Oullières Blanc (2) is a typically enticing blend of Vermentino, Grenache Gris, Ugni Blanc and Rolle from Provence. It’s organic too, with a seductive fragrance to it and great depth of flavour. It’s complex and intense with hints of herbs and spice and is ideal for those bored with single varietal Chardonnay or Sauvignon. £9.95 down from £10.95.
If, on the other hand, pure, single varietal Sauvignon Blanc is your thing, then look no further than the 2013 Domaine Dominique Guyot ‘Les Loges’ Pouilly Fumé (3). This is very grown-up stuff indeed, bearing all the typical hallmarks of minerality and freshness and is a real steal at £13.95, down from £14.95. I would expect to pay much more given its provenance, the vineyard of Les Loges being in the absolute sweet spot in the centre of the Pouilly Fumé appellation.
The 2010 Domaine Ferrer Ribière Côtes du Roussillon Cuvée Tradition (4), from the village of Terrats in Roussillon, is an old favourite. An intense and fascinating blend of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan from low, low-yielding 100-year-old vines, it is smooth yet robust and is gratifyingly richly flavoured with blackcurrants, prunes and spice on the palate. Just about perfect in terms of maturity too. £10.95 down from £11.95.
We featured the vintage prior to the 2013 Mas Bruguière Pic St-Loup L’Arbouse (5) early last year and it was snapped up by readers. A rich, dense, heady, sweet/savoury, Syrah/Grenache blend from the Languedoc, it has long been a staple at Le Gavroche and it’s not hard to see why. It is the perfect winter warmer and great value at £12.50 down from £13.50.
Finally, the 2011 Côtes du Luberon, Château la Canorgue Rouge (6) from the picturesque Provençal hill town of Bonnieux. It might be dark and richly scented but, thanks to the grapes being grown at altitude, irrigated by natural subterranean aquifers, the wine is also marvellously fresh and vibrant, with buckets of blackberry/blackcurrant/plum fruit and herbs on nose and palate. Organic since its planting in 1978, the estate really is one to watch. £12.95 down from £13.95.
There’s a sample case containing two of each bottle and delivery, as ever, is free.
All prices are correct at time of publication, but we may alter prices at any time for any reason.
To view all other offers, visit new.spectator.co.uk/wine-club.