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Premium wines from Robert Skalli, Languedoc and Corsica 

Robert Skalli began working in the Languedoc in 1974. This was back in the dark old days when just about the entire production of this enormous region was uninsipiring plonk. His company, Les Vins Skalli, was one of the pioneers in producing branded varietally labelled wines, planting non-Languedoc varieties such as Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. The highly successful Fortant de France line of varietals offers consistent, clean wines at a very affordable price. According to Skalli, ‘My conviction is that strong brands are the real guarantee of the cultural and economic heritage of our vineyards’.

In the last few years he’s begun to set his sights higher, with the creation of upmarket premium wine brands in both the Languedoc and Corsica. The ‘F’ program has been going since 1995, and is aimed at producing premium Cabernet and Chardonnay from Skalli’s top growers. A brand new project has been creation of the high-end estate wines of Clos Poggiale in Corsica and Silène des Peyrals in the Languedoc. The wines from these two estates are going to be exclusively targeted at the on-trade (restaurants). Outlets include The Radisson Hotel, Marriott Country Hall Hotel (Westminster Bridge Road), The Glass House (Ambleside), The Swan (West Malling), Ashdown Park (East Sussex) and Tolworth Court (Cotswolds). They are distributed by Matthew Clark.

Quality is very high with all these wines. If I’m going to be picky, the ‘F’ wines failed to excite me as much as I was expecting. They come across more as wines made in a particular style, rather than exciting expressions of a terroir. The domaine wines are very good, and it will be interesting to see how they develop in the bottle.  

Clos Poggiale 2000, AOC Corse
First commercial vintage of this Corsican wine, made from 10 hectares on the Piannicia plateau, planted with Niellucciu and Syrah. This wine is a blend of these in equal proportions, with the Syrah matured in oak. Quietly confident, this isn’t a flashy sort of wine. It displays subtle, spicy, slightly earthy fruit on the nose. The palate is savoury and nicely earthy with some spicy, tight-knit berry fruit. Some tea-like and herbal elements add interest. Tight now, but may evolve nicely: a satisfying, high quality wine. Very good+ (ex cellar €11 ; £6.95)

Domaine du Silène des Peyrals 2000 Coteaux du Languedoc       
Very deep-coloured red/black. Slightly herby, intense berry and spice nose with some leathery hints. The palate is rich and inky with a minerally, earthy edge, together with a sophisticated sheen of oak. Rich and concentrated, this is modern and sophisticated. Very good+ (ex cellar €17; £10.75)

Domaine du Silène des Peyrals ‘L’Esprit du Silène’ 2000 Coteaux du Languedoc       
Quite a savoury, earthy minerally nose, which is a little restrained and slightly dusty. The palate is quite savoury, reasonably dense and shows a good density of plumy fruit. Spicy tannins and a minerally edge: no oak here. Tight now, this needs a bit of time to come round. Very good+ (ex cellar €8.50 ; £5.40)

‘F’ Cabernet Sauvignon 1997 Vin de Pays d’Oc
Forward nose with a pronounced leafy edge to the blackcurrant fruit, and a tarry, toasty edge. The palate shows a good concentration of leafy, herby fruit with a spicy finish and quite firm tannins. It’s a little bit rustic, but boldly flavoured with lots of character. Very good+ (£9.99)

‘F’ Chardonnay 1999 Vin de Pays d’Oc
There’s some confusion here. The label says 1999 but the cork says 2000. This was a trade sample so perhaps things got mixed up! Quite a classy ripe nose with well judged toasty oak and some lemony, caramel-edged fruit. The palate is evolved with quite delicate, nutty lemony fruit. New world in style but still quite elegant and nicely poised. Good balance. Very good+ (Waitrose £9.99)

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