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tasting notes

(Prices and stockists in the UK are listed in brackets; as a rough guide £1 = US$1.50. Date of tasting is indicated by month/year at the end of the note.)

See also featured producers:

See my blog entries on Languedoc and Roussillon

Laurent Miquel Cazal Viel Cuvée des Fées 2007 Languedoc, France
13% alcohol. Lovely aromatics here: sweet, ripe and full with a hint of meatiness. Lovely aromatics and a hint of floral character, as well as red berries and plum. The palate is juicy and bright with nicely poised ripe meaty red fruits. Deliciously drinkable with real personality, and not at all forced. 89/100 (£8.99 Majestic) 09/09  

Matassa Blanc 2007 Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes, France
13% alcohol. 70% Grenache Gris, 30% Maccabeu. This is a serious, complex, backward wine that’s a bit of an acquired taste, but which I think is brilliant. It has a smoky, minerally, almost salty nose with some nuttiness and a bit of burnt match reduction. The palate is dry, savoury and intensely mineral with a long, nutty, broad finish. There’s real focus and intensity to this wine: it’s not at all fat. Just delicious, and all set for an interesting evolution over the next 5–10 years. 93/100 (Les Caves de Pyrene) 07/09  

Cave de Roquebrun Roches Noires 2006 Saint Chinian
Varietal breakdown: 60% Syrah, 20% Grenache, 20% Mourvedre. This has a nose of ripe red fruits with a pronounced roast coffee and cured meat character. The palate shows good concentration and a bit of spiciness, with some grippy tannic structure under the plum and cherry fruit. A solid effort. 85/100 (£7.95 Tesco; 13% alcohol) 02/09

Domaine de la Grange des Pères 1996 Vin de Pays de l’Herault, France
Probably the top wine from the South of France, and it’s great to get a chance to see how this ages. The answer is, pretty well. This has a complex, aromatic, spicy nose with lovely sweet, dusty aromatics. The palate is super-elegant with lovely earthy spiciness and nice acidity. Expressive, spicy and bright. 93/100 (£55 The Sampler) 12/08  

Michel & Pomplia Guiraud ‘Terre Promise’ 2005 AOC St Chinian Roquebrun, Languedoc, France
Two-thirds Syrah, and one-third 80 year old Carignan. This is quite serious stuff. The nose is fresh and well defined with elegant raspberry and sweet plummy fruit, together with some well integrated spicy oak. The is savoury and focused with a peppery, spicy edge to the taut dark fruit character. There’s a hint of the northern Rhône here, and it finishes with some tannic grip. A really solid effort that will repay a few more years in the cellar. 90/100 (The Real Wine Company,
www.therealwineco.co.uk £13) 11/08  

Gerard Bertrand Aigle Noir Chardonnay 2006 Sud de France
Rich, fat, toasty and buttery with a distinct nuttiness. Tasty in its style, but drink up. 82/100 (£7.99 M&S; 13%) 01/09

Laurent Miquel Nord Sud Viognier 2006 South of France
Fat, melony and peachy with lovely sweet, pure fruit and a soft texture. A broady, generous wine. 85/100 (13.5% alcohol; Tesco) 01/09  

Les Foulards Rouges 'La Soif du Mal' Vin de Table de France (NV)
No vintage declared (although the code 'L06' on the label indicates one), this light coloured red is utterly delicious and very drinkable. It has aromas of sweet cherry fruit with a sappy edge and lively purity, countered by an earthy, spicy note. The palate is bright and supple with a spicy, herby character that I often get in natural wines, as well as fresh, rather savoury cherry fruit. Think somewhere between new Zealand Pinot Noir and a deliciously fresh Gamay from the Beaujolais, and you've got something of the character of this wine. It's light, fragrant and aromatic. 13.5% alcohol, but it tastes lighter than this. This is remarkable, considering that this wine is a 70/30 Syrah/Grenache blend from the Roussillon. 'Soif du Mal' translates, I guess, as a wicked thirst, and this is the sort of wine that will certainly satisfy a thirst. 91/100 (UK agent: Les Caves de Pyrene) 12/08  

Gerard Bertrand Cigalus 2007 Vin de Pays d'Oc, France
75% Chardonnay, 20% Viognier and 5% Sauvignon Blanc, two-thirds of which is fermented and aged in new oak. It's a really refined wine that shows great balance between the lush, rounded, opulent Viognier and Chardonnay characters, and an innate sort of fruity freshness, which keeps it from being at all heavy. It's even a bit floral. The oak is really well integrated, just supplying a little vanilla spice and subtle breadiness. Overall, it's a really refined, modern wine of real poise, and the Viognier is adding something distinctive to it. 91/100 (Oddbins) 01/09  

Domaine La Combe Blanche 'Le Blanc' 2000 Vin de Pays des Cotes de Brian, France
A blend of Roussanne and Viognier aged in barrel for 12 months. Yellow/gold in colour this is very smooth, with a fruity sweet pear nose that also has complex notes of mandarin, fennel and apricot. The palate shows warm, sweet fruit with a crystalline fruits richness and some hints of nuts and peach. Broad, smooth and quite complex, with freshness as well as richness. Just lovely. 92/100 (£9.75 Leon Stolarski) 10/08

Grand Lauze Ledogar Vin de Table Francais
The Roman 'IV' on the label indicates this is from the 2004 vintage. This is one of those wines that ended up being rejected by the local Appellation authorization committee (in this case for Corbieres) for being 'atypical', hence the Vin de Table status. It's actually pretty serious: a blend of 12 barrels, 8 of which are 100-year old Carignan, 2 Mourvedre, 1 Grenache and 1 Syrah. All organically grown, with some biodynamic practices. Deep coloured, this has a tight, dense, slightly reductive nose showing spicy dark fruits. The palate is intense and concentrated with fresh, savoury, spicy dark fruits with firm tannins and attractive, minerally complexity. It's a pure, focused, youthful wine of real impact that needs time to show its best. Old vine Carignan at its best - not the easiest wine to 'get', but pretty serious. 91/100 (£15 http://www.therealwineco.co.uk/) 10/08  

Domaine des Foulards Rouge Cuvee Octobre [2008] Vin de Table
A young wine from the Roussillon, this is amazingly fresh and bright, with sweet, pure, sappy cherry and berry fruit. Vibrant and joyful this is superbly drinkable with lovely purity and freshness. 89/100 (£6 glass; £23.50 bottle)

Monty's French Red 2007 Vin de Pays des Cotes Catalanes, France
Lovely spicy, earthy edge to the fruit on the nose - quite savoury with some tarry notes. The palate is savoury and has an earthy undercurrent to the fruit, which is bright and expressive. A lovely wine, made in a style I really love. 90/100 (£7.99 Adnams)  09/08  

La Baume 'La Grande Olivette' Sauvignon Blanc 2007 Vin de Pays d'Oc, France
Beautifully packaged in a deeply punted bottle, this is a serious Sauvignon Blanc. The nose shows lots of rich, almost pungent gooseberry and passion fruit (technically, this is a thiol-rich style, and it's almost sweaty), together with some green pepper notes. The palate is concentrated and intense with richness combining nicely with grassy freshness. Stylish stuff. 90/100 (£6.99 Waitrose) 05/08  

Domaine Treloar Three Peaks 2006 Cotes du Roussillon, France
This attractive southern French red is the inaugural vintage from this producer, a Kiwi-English collaboration farming just 10 hectares in the Roussillon. It's a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. A concentrated wine with sweet-yet-focused red and black fruits with a spicy lift. There's a distinctly savoury, spicy quality to this wine which has enough tannin and acidity to keep it quite fresh. Finishes distinctly savoury and quite grippy. A food-friendly style that may develop nicely over the next few years. 90/100 (£10.25 Leon Stolarski) 07/08

Mont Tauch 'Retro' Fitou 2006 Languedoc, France
Light, with savoury, spicy, slightly earthy cherry and berry fruit, as well as just a hint of that wild herb complexity known as 'garrigue'. A versatile, drinkable red with a sense of place to it. 83/100 (£5.99 Tesco) 07/08  

Clos Fantine Faugères 2004 Languedoc, France
From schistose vineyards, in which no chemicals were used except for a bit of sulfur for the Carignan.
SO2 just used a little at bottling. Elegant, fine red fruits nose with some spice and earth notes. The palate is smooth with lovely texture and earthy, spicy notes under the bright fruits. Lovely. 90/100 05/08

Domaine des Marquises Lou Carignan 2007 Vin de Pays de l’Herault, France
Pure red fruits nose with forward cherry fruit.
The palate is pure with lovely vibrant vfruit and nice freshness. A joyful wine. 89/100 05/08

Cuvée Cariña Coste Longue Vin de Table NV France
Made by Pierrette and Claude Navare from St Chinian terroir, by maceration carbonique.
Very aromatic open, perfumed nose with floral red fruits and a bit of meatiness. The palate is quite dense with an open, fruity, meaty character and an earthy, spicy finish. Quite elegant in an oxidative style. 90/100 05/08

La Chasse du Pape Chardonnay 'Unoaked' 2007 Vin de Pays d'Oc, France
Attractive broad, fruity nose. It's quite rich with melon, apple and pear. The palate is fresh and nicely fruity, with a really approachable sort of personality. What it lacks in depth, it makes up for in charm. Impressive commercial winemaking. 86/100 07/08  

Domaine Mas Viel Pinot Noir 2006 Vin de Pays d'Oc, France
Sealed with ProCork, a natural cork with a special membrane attached to each chamfered end, to prevent any risk of TCA transmission from the cork to the wine: I haven't seen many of these around. It has a ripe, forward sweet berry fruit nose that's richer than you'd expect from Pinot. Quite dense on the palate with some firm tannins, ripe fruit and a herby tang, together with some sweet vanilla oak notes. It's attractive, in a flirty sort of way, but this doesn't really taste like Pinot. Still, it's quite cheap, and I suspect that if it was from Chile or California, it would have its fans. 81/100 (£6.95 http://www.therealwineco.co.uk/)  03/08

Vendanges d'Automne Muscat de Saint Jean de Minervois NV, France
Golden colour with some brown hints. Rich and quite viscous with notes of baked apple, dried apricot and organge peel, as well as some tea-like complexity. Very sweet, with a bit of spice on the finish. A satisfying, thought-provoking wine. 89/100 (Co-op £11.99/50 cl) 07/08

Chateau Paul Mas 'Les Dons' Vinus 2005 Coteaux du Languedoc, France
A Shiraz/Grenache blend from 40 year old vines on clay and lime soils, with a bit of maritime influence, this is sleek and sophisticated. Harmonious, smooth red and black fruits combine with fine-grained tannins and fresh acidity to make a very stylish, modern red wine of real appeal. Warm climate elegance here. 89/100  07/08

Domaine Treloar ‘Tahi’ 2006 Côtes du Roussillon
The top wine from this domaine, who advocate the use of sustainable viticulture. It’s a big old wine, made with a fair dollop of new oak, but there’s more than enough fruit to deal with it. Tight, dark, concentrated and quite tannic, this could do with a few years to become more approachable and is potentially very long-lived. Ripe dark fruits dominate, with a subtly roasted coffee oak edge and a bit of plummy bitterness on the finish. There’s a lot going for this wine, but it’s pretty tannic and full-on at the moment, and the tannins overpower the finish. I’d be fascinated to see how this wine will taste in a decade: I reckon it will be pretty serious. 93/100 (£16.50 Leon Stolarski here) 04/08

Domaine Treloar One Block Grenache 2006 Vin de Pays d’Oc, France
This is quite a big wine, with sweet, lush, almost jammy blackberry and raspberry fruit, coupled with some spicy tannic structure. Good depth of flavour and ample fruit expression here: a satisfying, warm, food friendly wine. 89/100 (Leo Stolarski) 04/08  

Domaine Treloar 'Tahi' 2006 Côtes du Roussillon, France
The top wine from this domaine, who advocate the use of sustainable viticulture. It's a big old wine, made with a fair dollop of new oak, but there's more than enough fruit to deal with it. Tight, dark, concentrated and quite tannic, this could do with a few years to become more approachable and is potentially very long-lived. Ripe dark fruits dominate, with a subtly roasted coffee oak edge and a bit of plummy bitterness on the finish. There's a lot going for this wine, but it's pretty tannic and full-on at the moment, and the tannins overpower the finish. I'd be fascinated to see how this wine will taste in a decade: I reckon it will be pretty serious. 93/100 (£16.50 Leon Stolarski) 04/08

Domaine la Terrasse d’Elise ‘Le Pradel’ 2004 Coteaux du Languedoc, France
This varietal Cinsault, made in a non-interventionist style, is wonderful stuff. The nose has that purity and focus that I find in many ‘natural’ wines: there’s brooding, sweet, pure red berry and cherry fruit, with cedary, subtly fudgey, tarry warmth and a bit of sweet spice. The palate is elegant and smooth with lovely rich texture and pure, spicy red fruits. There’s just a hint of undergrowth, which adds complexity but never threatens to obscure the pure, sweet fruit. Complex, understated and balanced, this is a really assured wine. Beautiful stuff. 93/100 (Les Caves de Pyrene) 04/08

Duo Mythique Syrah Grenache 2006 Vin de Pays d’Oc, France
This is what the South of France does so well. It’s a bright, rather peppery red with sweet fruit bolstered by some pleasantly grippy tannins. Generous and spicy, with a nice savouriness. Good value for money. 84/100 (£4.99 Co-op) 04/08

Marks & Spencer Old Vines Grenache Noir 2006 Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes, France
This Roussillon Grenache weighs in at 14.5% alcohol, but this is a variety that handles high alcohol pretty well. There’s some sweetness to the blackberry and red berry fruit palate, but there’s also some firm, savoury tannin. Finishes with a bit of chocolatey richness. Attractive but not ‘obvious’. 84/100 (£5.49 Marks & Spencer) 04/08

Christophe Barbier Les Terres Salées 2005 Vin de Pays des Côtes de Perpignan, France
An old vine Bourboulenc, this is a real treat. There’s apple crumble and honey character, coupled with a touch of vanilla oak, but also some waxy savouriness and a lovely minerally, burnt match reductive note. Indeed, it’s the distinctive reductive character that really frames this wine, and suggests to me that this could age very nicely for five years to a decade. With its savoury complexity, it is not for everyone, but I really like it. 91/100 (£10.99 Averys – the 2004 is £15 in Waitrose) 10/07  

Domaine Saparale 2006 Corse Sartene, France
From the island of Corsica, this is a varietal Vermentino from Philippe Farinelli's 100 acre estate. It's vibrant, floral and minerally, but with a rounded weighty depth to the palate. I like the contrast between the steely, lemony notes and the richer, peachy, almost nutty characters in the background. Mineralic, full flavoured and quite pure: a lovely wine. 91/100 (Yapp £8.95) 10/07

Chateau Guiot 2006 Costieres de Nimes, France
From the south of France, and more specifically a 75 hectare property south of Nimes planted mainly to Grenache and Syrah. This is really good. It's a boisterous young red with lovely fresh peppery, slightly meaty dark fruits on the nose. In the mouth the peppery, spicy fruit dominates, and is complemented by firm, grippy tannins and good acidity, making this a vibrant, savoury sort of red that's really versatile at the table. Lovely purity and focus, and the concentration and vibrancy to put many £10 wines to shame. 88/100 (£5.99 Majestic) 10/07  

Le Moulin des Nonnes Cuvee Ines Blanc 2003 Minervois, Languedoc, France
A blend of 50% Roussanne, 40% Grenache Blanc and 10% Muscat a Petits Grains; organically grown grapes. A deep colour, this has a beguiling minerality to the ripe, melony fruit. It's from a hot year, but it combines ripeness with a lovely mineralic freshness, with the result that it's a fat wine walking the line of overripeness but just staying on the right side. You've got to be in the mood for this sort of white, which with its declared 14% alcohol packs a bit of a punch, but it does it very well - creditably, the oak is barely noticeable, which allows the fruit the spotlight. It's the beatifully perfumed nose that wins it for me. Very good/excellent 90/100 (Les Caves de Pyrene) 01/07

La Difference Carignan 2005 Vin de Pays des Cotes Catalanes, France
A brilliant cheapie, with lots of personality, from the oft-maligned Carignan grape - which these days is being treated a bit more seriously by some winemakers. It's quite robust and structured, yet at the same time is made in a modern fruity style. There's some dense, spicy fruit with a fresh peppery character and a bit of cured meat richness. It's finished off with fresh acidity. It's not a wine that demands to be taken seriously, but along with the joyful fruit, there's far more seriousness than the price tag would suggest. It's a cheap wine that would satisfy people who understand and like wine. Very good+ 85/100 (Sainsbury £4.99) 01/07

Laurent Miquel Nord Sud Syrah Grenache Rosé 2006 Vin de Pays d’Oc, France
A crisp, dry style of rosé that’s a pleasant light pink colour and has herb-tinged berryish fruit. Good balance and quite food friendly – it’s not at all heavy or forced. 84/100 (£6.99 Tesco) 01/08

La Cuvée Mythique 2005 Vin de Pays d’Oc, France
A blended red made from the selected produce of 55 different growers, including grape varities such as Carignan, Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre. It has a dark, savoury, spicy nose with some richness to the fruit. The palate is earthy and spicy, with dark fruits and some well integrated oak. The result is a very drinkable, warm spicy red that’s highly food compatible. 87/100 (£6.99 Co-op, but on offer at £4.99 18 Feb–4 Mar 2008) 01/08

Domaine Rizière Sauvignon Blanc 2006 Vin de Pays d’Oc, France
Very bright and lean with crisp green apple fruit and a taut herbiness. It’s a bit short and ungenerous, but the high acid, fresh style might make it a useful food match. 80/100 (£5.49 Averys) 02/08

Domaine Pouderoux Maury Hors d’Age NV, Roussillon, France
Lovely sweet open, herb-tinged, sweetly spiced nose, which is a bit Port-like. The palate is quite concentrated and spicy, with powerful, sweet, rich flavours and a casky edge. Lovely vivid fruit showing nice definition, good acid and spicy tannins. Very good/excellent 93/100 02/06  

Château Saint-Jacques d’Albas 2002 Minervois, France
Lovely savoury, spicy nose: quite fresh and distinctive with a pungent, almost medicinal edge to it and some earthy undertones. There’s a hint of menthol. The palate is savoury and full with fresh spicy fruit. Lots of flavour here and a nice savoury character. Very good+ 88/100 (£8.35 Goedhuis) 08/06

Laroche Rosé de la Chevalière 2005 Vin de Pays d’Oc, France
Nice light pink colour.
It’s a delicious fruity rosé with a grippy savoury twist to the focused bright fruit. There’s a hint of herbiness. Brilliantly balanced. Very good 84/100 (Bibendum) 08/06  

La Côtes des Pins 2004 Faugères, Languedoc, France
Good colour with a meaty spicy edge to the dark fruits nose. Good density of savoury black fruits on the palate with a bit of grippy tannin. Spicy finish – a nice drinkable fruit forward wine that offers great value. Very good+ 86/100 (£6.24 Majestic) 07/06  

Vaquer Post Scriptum 1995 Rivesaltes Vin Doux Naturel
From a half bottle. Slightly cloudy red/brown colour. Warm, sweet ripe spicy nose with vanilla, spice, nuttiness and some raisins. The palate is soft, rich, spicy and sweet with nice casky complexity. A nicely balanced sweet wine. Very good/excellent 90/100 (Grand Cru Wines) 12/05  

Abbe Rous Banyuls Rimage 2003 Roussillon, France
Made from Grenache Noir grown in schist soils. This has a lovely complex, sweet, spicy, earthy minerally nose with wonderful Grenache fruit and spicy complexity. The palate shows good spicy structure and red fruits. Lots of personality, and quite Port-like. Very good/excellent 91/100 12/05

Domaine Piétri-Geraud Banyuls Cuvée Joseph Geraud 1997 Roussillon, France
Smooth, sweet, dark casky nose with a nice earthy spiciness. The palate is very smooth and rounded with sweet red fruits and a savoury, spicy bit. This combines the warmth of old wood with sweet fruit very effectively: it’s like a youthful tawny Port. A thoughtful, late-evening sort of wine. Very good+ 89/100 (UK importer Fields Morris Verdin) 01/06

Mas Amiel Carerades 2003 Côtes du Roussillon Villages, France
A bruiser of a wine.
Concentrated purple colour. It has a perfumed nose of savoury dark fruits with a liqueur-like edge and some spiciness. The palate shows concentrated sweet dark fruits with a chocolatey edge. Lovely pure fruit, and then almost brutal tannic structure. Finishes quite earth: wild, but enjoyable. Very good/excellent 90/100 12/05

Le Freak Shiraz Viognier 2005 Vin de Pays d’Oc
One of the new wave of commercially astute brands from France, this red is a blend of Shiraz with 15% white grape Viognier. The nose shows gently perfumed smooth, sweet blackberry and raspberry fruit, which leads to a palate that has a spicy, savoury kick to the otherwise restrained and quite classy fruit. There’s a bit of subtle meaty warmth, too. The overall result is a rich but refined wine that punches above its weight. Very good+ 87/100
(£5.99 Co-op, Thresher) 09/06

La Jasse Castel ‘La Jasse’ 2002 Coteaux du Languedoc Montpeyroux, France
Bright earthy spicy nose with a distinctive peppery edge. The palate shows some sweet red berry fruit with earthy tannins providing the structure. Not a bad effort for the vintage: savoury and very earthy. Needs food. Very good+ 88/100 08/06

Mas de Daumas Gassac 1996 Languedoc, France
Herby, spicy, earthy, evolved nose with a touch of Cabernet greenness to the fruit. The palate is spicy and quite earthy, but nicely expressive. Drinking nicely. Very good+ 88/100 02/06  

Paul Mas Estate Syrah 2004 Vin de Pays d’Oc, France
Really nicely packaged in a grand bottle. This is a lovely savoury, peppery red with a hint of seriousness. Above all, it’s an honest wine. Smooth, sweet red and black fruits dominate, and on the palate there’s an earthy undercurrent to the fruit with some fresh pepperiness. Shouts ‘terroir’. Very good+ 88/100 (£6.99 Somerfield) 12/05

Paul Mas Estate Viognier Chardonnay 2004 Vin de Pays d’Oc, France
Deep yellow/gold colour. A rich, honeyed, nutty, apricotty wine with some fresh fruitiness ofsetting the depth. A big, interesting white in a rich style. Very good+ 86/100 (£6.99 Somerfield) 12/05

Château Belles Eaux Fûts de Chêne 2002 Coteaux du Languedoc, France
Not big, sweet and ripe like many Languedoc reds, but rather savoury and earthy, with gently tannic, quite fresh fruit. Satisfying and earthy with a distinctive peppery kick to the fruit. Very good+ 88/100 12/05

Château Saint-Jacques d’Albas 2002 Minervois, France
Vintages add a nice layer of complexity to wine. Even less-good vintages are to be enjoyed because they offer something different. This has a lovely savoury, spicy nose that is quite fresh and distinctive with a pungent, almost medicinal edge, earthy undertones and hints of mint and menthol. The palate is savoury and full with nice fresh spicy fruit. I enjoy this: lots of flavour and savoury character. Very good+ 88/100 (£8.95 Goedhuis & Co) 08/06  

Domaine du Baruel 1995 Vin de Pays des Cevennes, France
Fresh, bright, spicy, earthy nose with some nice red fruits. The palate is tannic and spicy, with good acid hemming in the red fruits very effectively. It has evolved nicely, but it's still fresh, and there's a lovely earthy complexity emerging. Still pretty tannic, I reckon this is drinking almost as well as it is going to now, while there's still fruit to balance the structure. But no need to hurry. Remarkable for a 11 year old wine from the Languedoc. I'm enjoying this a lot. Very good/excellent 92/100 07/06

Le Freak Shiraz Viognier 2004 Vin de Pays d’Oc, France
A very attractive new wave wine from the south of France, offering spicy-framed, almost dusty vivid red fruits. A savoury food style with lots of extraction and nice grippy tannins. Great for the price. Very good+ 86/100 (£5.99 Coop) 03/06

Château des Erles Fitou 2003 France
From J&F Lurton. Distinctive savoury, spicy nose is well defined and fresh, with peppery, meaty red fruits. The palate is midweight with dry, peppery fruit and some grippy but reasonably elegant tannins. Finishes dry. An expressive wine that is quite complex, and shows good restraint. Rather grandly packaged. Very good/excellent 91/100 (rrp £15.95) 03/06

La Flamme Noire des Chandelles Carignan Vieilles Vignes 2001 Vin de Pays de L’Aude
Attractively packaged. Deep red/purple colour. Smooth, rather seamless nose with a liqueur-like edge to the damson, red berry and blackberry fruit. Hints of garrigue and spice in the background. The palate shows chewy, spicy fruit with some herbiness but underpinned by an earthy, spicy character. The plummy bitterness on the finish isn’t without appeal. Oak influence is cloaked by the fruit and the tannins are also disguised this way. Very distinctive and varietally true, this is a thought-provoking wine. Very good/excellent 91/100 (£9 Purple Wines) 02/05

Chais Suzanne Corbières 1999 Languedoc
Savoury, dusty, earthy nose of spicy, sun-baked rocks. The palate is earthy and spicy with an evolved savoury character and good acidity. A mature Languedoc wine with a good sense of place. Great with a range of foods; drink soon-ish. Very good+ 88/100 (£7 Purple Wines) 02/05

Chardonnay 2003 Vin de Pays des Côtes de Prouilhe
Quite an interesting fruity, slightly herby nose with a touch of minerality. Forward fruity palate with subtle nutty, waxy notes and good acid. Savoury style with some nice freshness. Very good+ 88/100 (£7 Purple Wines) 02/05

La Forge Estate Merlot Vin de Pays d’Oc 2004 France
This comes in a big heavy, show-off sort of bottle, but it’s still an honest wine. Really rich, vivid, curranty red fruits dominate the nose. The palate is juicy and vividly fruity with a nice freshness and savoury quality. Pure fruit is the key here. Very good+ 89/100 (Thresher £7.99, buy three for the price of two) 11/05

Les Collines du Paradis Minervois 2004 Languedoc, France
This is another honest, rather earthy wine that in a strange way tastes of where it comes from. There’s a spicy red fruits perfume, coupled with smooth, spicy elegance. Sip it, and suddenly you are in the South of France on a warm summer’s evening. A perfect dinner wine. (£6.99 Tesco) 11/05

Gerard Bertrand La Forge 2001 Corbières, France
The Languedoc used to specialize in making megalitres of wine-lake plonk, but it’s woken up in recent years and now produces some very fine wines. This delicious red from ex-Rugby player Gerard Bertrand is a good example: it’s ripe, with almost Aussie-like sweet fruit, but there’s a more serious savoury streak, too. (£19.99 Majestic, but £15.99 until the end of January 2006) 12/05

Matassa Blanc 2003 Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes, France
This is the white partner to the new Roussillon superstar Matassa red, made by Tom Lubbe and Sam Harrop from old vines (mainly Grenache Gris) on limestone soil. It has a fantastic nose: smoky, minerally and quite complex with generous fruit. The palate is broad and dense with a smoky, minerally edge, good acid and hints of toastiness. Sophisticated and classy. Very good/excellent 94/100 (Adnams, c £25) 11/04

Les Coteaux des Hautes Garrigues ‘Hameau des Biranques’ Eleve en Futs du Chene 2000 Pic St Loup Coteaux du Languedoc
Lovely open meaty nose with a roasted oaky edge and some bloody meat notes. The palate is savoury and spicy with good acidity. Complex and full of interest. Very good/excellent 91/100 (purchased at cellar door, c. £6) 01/04

Le Catalan Grenache Noir 2002 Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalans, France
Brilliant value, this robust Grenache. Slightly peppery nose shows rich berry fruits with an earthy edge. The palate is broad, slightly sweet and has a nicely savoury edge. High alcohol, but Grenache seems to take this better than most grape varieties. A warm, southern wine. Very good+ 86/100 (£4.99 Thresher) 12/03

Domaine Marcevol Côtes du Roussillon 2001 
From an organic 12 ha Roussillon domaine, this is a blend of 40% Grenache, 40% Carignan and 20% Syrah. Smoky, meaty, roasted red fruits on the nose, which is savoury and intense. The palate is chunky and dense with good concentration of savoury, spicy fruit with a slightly bitter twist at the end. Structured and firm, this is quite delicious in a rather stern way. Very good+ 89/100  03/04

La Cuvée Mythique Blanc 2002 Vin de Pays d’Oc, France
This is a delicious complex white wine from the south of France with aromas of peach, apricot, vanilla and almonds. The palate is fruity and nutty with good acidity. Full flavoured and delicious, this even outshines the very good Cuvée Mythique red that we know and love. Very good/excellent 90/100 (£6.99 Waitrose) 04/04

Domaine de Gravillas ‘Vous Voulez En Voilà’ 2003 Vin de Pays des Côtes de Brian, Languedoc, France
This elegantly packaged wine is a blend of Carignan, Syrah and Cabernet  from Nicole and John Bojanowski in the Languedoc’s Minervois region. It’s a fairly serious, brooding red that needs some time to show it’s best. The tight, deep nose shows hints of ripe raspberry and blackberry fruit, with a liquoricey, mineral edge. The palate is savoury and dense with lots of ripe red fruits cloaked in a rather minerally, taut structure. It’s got lots of appeal but not in a forward, showy style: it’s more guarded and beguiling. Very good/excellent 90/100 (£7.50 Les Caves de Pyrene, www.lescaves.co.uk) 12/04

Château Cazal Viel Cuvée des Fées 2003 Saint Chinian, Languedoc, France
Fantastic stuff. A perfumed, open ripe nose shows beguiling notes of earth, herbs, spice and meat with real savoury warmth. The palate is ripe and rounded with minerally, spicy fruit. A brilliantly expressive wine for current drinking and just begging for a steak, roast lamb or even meaty sausages to accompany it. Very good/excellent 91/100 (£6.79 Waitrose) 10/04  

Château des Cres Ricards Les Hauts de Milesi 2002 Coteaux de Languedoc
Indigo wines are a new outfit offering an interesting selection of quality southern French wines to both the trade and private customers. Ch des Cres Ricards is also new to the UK, and this is a wine showing that the 2002 vintage wasn't a complete write-off in southern France. It is beautifully balanced, showing a nicely defined nose of spicy, meaty fruit. The palate is spicy with good acidity and more of that delicious bloody, meaty fruit. Very good/excellent 90/100 (£8.75 Indigo Wine, www.indigowine.com) 04/04

Domaine Tourtourel Pic St Loup 2001 Coteaux du Languedoc, France
Perfumed red fruit nose with some spicy character. The palate shows a meaty, spicy edge to the red fruits with a savoury finish. It’s quite an elegant, supple red that manages to capture some of that Pic St Loup typicity. Very good+ 89/100 (£7.99 Majestic) 02/04

Château de la Negly La Côte 2001 Coteaux du Languedoc, France
Wonderful stuff: natural winemaking at its best. Slightly hazy in appearance. Powerful perfumed nose of roast meat, herbs and ripe spicy fruit. The palate is rich and ripe with a lovely meatiness to the fruit and lots of garrigue and black olive notes. Nice savoury stuff with good acidity. Very good/excellent 92/100 (£7.95 Moriarty Vintners, www.moriarty-vintners.com) 02/04

Château Massamier La Mignarde ‘Domus Maximus’ 2000 Minervois La Livinière
Deep coloured, this immediately makes an impression with its nose of ripe, sweet forest fruits with a spicy, liqueur-like character. The palate is fruity and ripe with a lovely spicy, liquoricey complexity together with some chocolatey richness. Great concentration and some elegance too. There’s an earthiness underpinning all the ripe fruit. An up-front wine that nicely straddles the old and new world styles, full of appeal. Very good/excellent 91/100 (£9.95 Berry Bros & Rudd) 02/04

Domaine de Canteperdix Viognier 2001 Vin de Pays de Cassan, France
This is an unusual, characterful white. Deep coloured, it has a striking perfumed nose with a rich herby depth to it. There's a lovely soft texture on the concentrated palate, which is nicely poised. Quite brilliant in a full-flavoured style. Very good/excellent 92/100 (£7.99 Sainsburys.co.uk/wine) 10/03


Domaine des Pensées Sauvages 2000 Corbières, France
Made by English couple Nick and Clare Bradford, this is a wild, dangerous wine. It has a lovely perfumed nose of smoky, roasted red fruits with notes of garrigue and a minerally edge. The palate is concentrated and intensely savoury with a lovely, slightly bitter cherry edge to the herby fruit. Good acid and a spicy, earthy finish. Very good/excellent 90/100 (£6.95 Berry Bros & Rudd) 02/04

Château Pech Redon La Clape 1999 Coteaux du Langeudoc, France
Continuing with a Languedoc theme, this red from the thriving La Clape sub region has a savoury, spicy, herby, slightly animally nose. The palate is firm and spicy with nice richness of earthy fruit. It’s an attractive spicy wine. Very good+ 89/100 (£6.49 Majestic) 02/04

Château des Cres Ricards Les Hauts de Milesi 2002 Coteaux de Languedoc
Indigo wines are a new outfit offering an interesting selection of quality southern French wines to both the trade and private customers. Ch des Cres Ricards is also new to the UK, and this is a wine showing that the 2002 vintage wasn't a complete write-off in southern France. It is beautifully balanced, showing a nicely defined nose of spicy, meaty fruit. The palate is spicy with good acidity and more of that delicious bloody, meaty fruit. Very good/excellent 90/100 (£8.75 Indigo Wine, www.indigowine.com) 04/04

Domaine Gauby La Soula Blanc 2001 Coteaux des Fenouillèdes, Roussillon
Gauby is best known for his sought-after, expensive reds, but this white wine, a blend of Marsanne, Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Rolle and Chenin Blanc grown at altitude, is quite special. The distinctive nose shows pronounced toasty notes with a herby edge. Distinctive, powerful palate with toasty oak and rich, herby fruit, with pronounced acidity. An extreme style, but enjoyable and full of interest. Very good/excellent 90/100 (£12 Raeburn) 10/03

Domaine Monpertuis Vignoble de la Ramière Cuvée Counoise 2000 Vin de Pays du Gard, France
The Counoise is a red grape that's often used as a blending component in Châtrauneuf du Pape but which is rarely seen on its own. I am very excited by this wine, which shows wonderful personality. It has a slightly cheesy, meaty, savoury edge on the nose. The palate is dense, spicy, meaty and savoury with good acidity, and a bold spicy aftertaste. With its firm, tannic structure it's quite challenging: it's a big, firm wine. (£5.95 Lay & Wheeler)  11/03

Château Massamier La Mignarde ‘Domus Maximus’ 2000 Minervois La Livinière, Languedoc, France
Deep coloured, this immediately makes an impression with its nose of ripe, sweet forest fruits with a spicy, liqueur-like character. The palate is fruity and ripe with a lovely spicy, liquoricey complexity together with some chocolatey richness. Great concentration and some elegance too. There’s an earthiness underpinning all the ripe fruit. An up-front wine that nicely straddles the old and new world styles, full of appeal. Very good/excellent 91 (Berry Bros & Rudd) 02/04

Château de la Negly La Côte 2001 Coteaux du Languedoc, France
Wonderful stuff: natural winemaking at its best. Slightly hazy in appearance. Powerful perfumed nose of roast meat, herbs and ripe spicy fruit. The palate is rich and ripe with a lovely meatiness to the fruit and lots of garrigue and black olive notes. Nice savoury stuff with good acidity. Very good/excellent 92/100 (£7.95 Moriarty) 02/04

Banyuls Malterre Vin Doux Naturel, Caves des Producteurs, Rousillon, France
This co-op Banyuls isn’t bad, and represents a great bargain at €6. Soft, spicy, slightly earthy nose with some sweetness. The palate is spicy and sweet and quite balanced, with some tannins and lots of southern warmth. Very good+ 86/100 08/03

Domaine Tourtourel Pic St Loup 2001 Coteaux du Languedoc, France
Perfumed red fruit nose with some spicy character. The palate shows a meaty, spicy edge to the red fruits with a savoury finish. It’s quite an elegant, supple red that manages to capture some of that Pic St Loup typicity. Very good+ 89/100 (£7.99 Majestic) 02/04

Domaine des Courtilles 2000 Corbières, France 
From a 12.4 ha estate with an average vine age of 40 years. Modern liquoricey fruit on the nose with some nice vanilla oak notes. Lovely intensity of savoury fruit on the palate. Very good+ 87/100 (£7.99 Waitrose) 04/03

Les Vieilles Vignes de Château Maris 2001 Minervois, France
100% old vine Carignan from Bertie Eden’s biodynamic vineyards. Inky black colour. Rich, spicy, satisfying nose. The palate is dense and chunky with a mineralic spiciness. A satisfying savoury wine. Very good+ 89/100 04/03

Domaine La Colombette Lledoner Pelut 2000 Vin de Pays de Coteaux du Libron
This is made from a rare old variant of Grenache and is foot trodden. Lovely liquoricey, caramelly spicy nose which is soft and intense. The palate is herby with earthy undertones. Expressive stuff and very appealing in a southern style. Very good+ 89/100 (£10.99 Waitrose) 04/03

Mas des Chimères Oeillade 2000 Vin de Pays des Coteaux du Salagou, France
Striking savoury, cheesy red with pronounced meaty, farmyardy, animally notes dominating the palate. Good acid, but the stinky, savoury character means it needs food. Bold and bretty. Very good+ 87/100 (Adnams £6.50) 02/04

Domaine les Terrasses d’Eole 2001 Côtes du Ventoux, France
A midweight, simple-yet-pleasant red showing soft, slightly herby, spicy fruit. Savoury in character. Very good 84/100 (Adnams £5.25) 02/04

Pic St Loup Réserve 2001 Coteaux du Languedoc
Ignore the rather unassuming packaging: from Les Coteaux du Pic, this is a good introduction to the wines of the Languedoc commune of Pic St Loup. There are hints of meats and spice to the savoury dark fruit nose. The palate is smooth and savoury with earthy, spicy fruit. Lots of typicity in this rather terroir-driven wine. Very good+ 87/100 (£5.99 Thresher) 11/03

Domaine Puydeval 2001 Vin de Pays d’Oc, France
Elegant packaging. Intriguing herby, minerally nose with a waxy edge. The palate has some interesting herby fruit with a savoury slightly minerally streak. Sophisticated and appealing. Very good+ (£4.99 Oddbins) 03/03

Domaine de Lavabre Coteaux du Languedoc 2000 Languedoc, France
Ripe, savoury and spicy with smooth tannic structure. Appealing southern, warm climate wine. Some minerality. Taut, with some development ahead of it. Very good+ 87/100 07/03

Domaine du Mas Blanc Collioure ‘Cosprons Levant’ 1995 Roussillon, France
Very distinctive herbal, undergrowthy nose with leathery, slightly gamey notes. Savoury palate shows dry savoury, herby characters with drying tannins. Some minerality. Quite a challenging wine with an evolved character and some complexity. Really needs food. Very good+ 87 06/03

Primo Palatum ‘Classica’ 1999 Vin de Pays d’Oc
A cut-price introduction to the wines of Xavier Copel. Very dark coloured. Deep, tight herby nose with some smoky, brambly fruit and a hint of green leafiness. Good concentration on the tight, rather herbal, tannic palate. A structured, robust wine of savoury appeal. Chewy and tannic this needs time. It is substantial rather than elegant, but still full of interest. Very good+ (£5.95 Fortnum & Mason) 09/02

Mas Foulaquier l’Orphée 2001 Pic St Loup Coteaux du Languedoc
A lovely expressive Pic St Loup, showing a well defined spicy, leathery berry fruit nose with an appealing earthy, slightly meaty edge. The palate is savoury with a subtle herby edge to the fruit. Firm tannins and good acidity. Nicely judged in a more fruit driven style. Very good/excellent (£8.95 Bentalls) 01/03

Château La Roque Cuvée les Vieilles Vignes de Mourvèdre 2000 Coteaux du Languedoc Pic St Loup
Deeply impressive varietal Mourvèdre from leading Languedoc commune Pic St Loup. Open, almost stern nose is savoury and intensely spicy with a meaty edge that makes me think of the Northern Rhône. The palate is firm, tannic and spicy with huge structure and nice acidity. It avoids being austere: there’s enough ripeness to prevent this. The spiciness and structure is typical of Mourvèdre, together with a slight meaty character that is very appealing. Brilliant but quite challenging; needs food. Very good/excellent (£8.95 Tanners) 08/02 

Mas Bruguière L’Arbouse 2001 Coteaux du Languedoc Pic St Loup
Showing its alcohol a little, the nose displays rich, slightly sweet berry fruit with a meaty, savoury edge. There’s some tannic structure on the palate, but overall this is a slightly lush, vivid rich wine that exhibits some of the Pic St Loup regional character. Very good+ 08/02 (purchased directly from the domaine)  

Laurent Miquel Syrah Mourvèdre 2000, Vin de Pays d’Oc
Distinctive savoury nose of ripe fruit with a pronounced roasted, toasty character. The palate has a charred meaty edge to it, with savoury berry fruit and pleasingly tart acidity. A lovely effort for the money with plenty of character. Very good+ (£4.99 Sainsbury) 12/02

Herrick Syrah 2001, Vin de Pays d’Oc, France
Fermented in stainless steel with no wood. Deep coloured. Vivid, juicy savoury berry and liquorice fruit on the nose. The palate is quite rich with a nice savoury edge to the dense berry fruit. Very attractive and not at all confected, with good concentration. Very good+ (£4.99
Waitrose) 10/02

Domaine d’Aupilhac ‘Lou Maset’ 2001 Vin de Pays du Mont Baudile
Attractive, smoky, slightly roasted edge to the nose with some peppery, almost meaty fruit. Palate is quite fruity with sweet ripe red berry fruits but with an attractive grown-up savoury pepper-spice edge. The texture is quite rich and chocolatey. It will be interesting to follow its progress. Very good+ (£7.99
Wannop Wines) 08/02  

Château Pech-Latt 2001 Corbières, France
From an estate fully converted to organic viticulture since 1991, this is 70% Carignan, with the balance being Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre. Deep coloured. Lovely savoury, herby, liquoricey edge to the nose. The palate has a deliciously savoury character with bright, earthy edged fruit, inky juiciness and quite a bit of substance. Very good+ (£5.99 Waitrose) 10/02

Ermitage du Pic St Loup Cuvée Saint-Agnes 2001, Pic St Loup, Coteaux du Languedoc, France
Mainly Syrah, with some Grenache and Mourvèdre, aged in a mix of new and used barrels. Smoky, earthy, slightly meaty edge to the nose, which displays quite vivid berry fruit. The palate is fruity and juicy with a lovely savoury, earthy complexity. Midweight and quite nicely poised in quite a modern fruit-forward style, but still shows some ‘terroir’ character. Very good+ (£7.99
Waitrose) 10/02  

Roc d’Anglade 1999 Coteaux du Languedoc
Made by Remy Pédréno and Réné Rostaing, this Languedoc ‘superwine’ has a simple, classic label. It’s a deep coloured wine with a forward, smoky herby nose with a dominant roast coffee bean character: it’s meaty and fruity. Lovely rich, meaty palate shows great concentration of spicy, smoky fruit with good structure from the tannins and acidity. A striking, unusual savoury wine. It will be fascinating to trace its evolution over the next few years. Very good/excellent (£25 La Vigneronne) 05/02

Michel Laroche Pinot Noir 2001 Vin de Pays d’Ile de Beauté
Deep coloured. Sweet spicy cherry fruit on the nose. The palate is quite rich with soft berry fruit. Unusual for a Pinot Noir but attractive. Very good (£4.99 Majestic) 10/02

Domaine Plantade Syrah Merlot 2001 Vin de Pays d’Oc
A brilliant cheapie. Very appealing with good definition to the spicy edged berry fruit, together with some chalky leafy structure. Very good+ (£4.49  Majestic) 10/02

Mas de Guiot Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 Vin de Pays du Gard
Deep coloured. Some liquoricey herby complexity to the nose. Lovely lushness to the sweet ripe fruit on the palate with some spicy vanillin oak poking through on the finish, which adds an extra dimension. Very good+ (£5.99 Majestic) 10/02

Domaine Madelon Corbières 2001
There’s some spicy earthiness on the nose, which displays sweet ripe fruit. Lovely savoury, minerally complexity on the palate, with the ripe fruit balanced quite well by the acidity. Lots of character and very good value. Very good+ (£4.99 Majestic) 10/02

Terra Vitis Corbières 2001
Quite a rich savoury wine with chewy, chunky fruit. Satisfying and authentic. Modern styled and fruit driven but not fake. (£4.99 Majestic) 10/02

Domaine Des Aires Hautes Minervois La Livinière 2001
This expressive wine has a lovely sweet lift to the nose with some spicy-edged tarry fruit. Vivid, taut palate with spicy, savoury intensity to the sweet fruit and some earthy structure hiding underneath. Very good+ (£6.99 Majestic) 10/02

Mont Tauch Fitou l’Exception 2000
Assertive forward nose shows vivid damson and berry fruit with some tarry medicinal complexity. The palate is bold, savoury and tannic with lots going on. A modern structured style with lots of character. Very good/excellent (£9.99 Majestic) 10/02

Domaine Capion ‘Le Sorbier’ 1999 Vin de Pays de l’Hérault
Neighbouring Mas de Daumas Gassac, this property is now owned by South Africa’s Saxenberg Estate. From a Languedoc area better known for its red wines, this is an ambitious, striking white wine. Powerful nose of lemony, floral fruit with lots of vanilla-edged new oak. Savoury, intense palate with coffee and vanilla notes, a rich spicy texture and some of that soapy, soft texture often found in southern French whites. The oak is quite dominant but it works well. Complex stuff. Very good+ (£10.95 Berry Bros) 03/02

Domaine des Aires Hautes Minervois La Livinière 1998, Languedoc
Deep red/black colour. Lovely rich savoury nose of smoky, liquoricey fruit with a slightly roasted cinnamon-spice edge. Taut, chunky fruit on the palate. Good acidity and tannins: a rich, concentrated wine. Interesting and good value – worth keeping for a few years? Very good+ 03/02  

Domaine Felines Jourdan Picpoul de Pinet 2000, Languedoc, France
Picpoul is an old-fashioned southern French grape that can produce lovely crisp white wines. Rich, smoky, nutty nose is very fresh and bracing. Lovely rich, savoury palate with a nutty texture and a touch of lemony, pear-tinged fruit. Good concentration and some minerality. Brilliant Picpoul. Very good/excellent (£5.95 Berry Bros) 04/02

Château Cesseras Cuvée Olric 1999, Minervois, France
100% Syrah. Rich, liquoricey fruit on the nose with a slightly roasted edge. Good concentration of chunky fruit on the palate. Rich, satisfying stuff. Very good+ (£5.95 Berry Bros) 04/02

Mas de Daumas Gassac Rouge 1999, Vin de Pays de l’Hérault, France
A famous Cabernet Sauvignon based blend from the Languedoc. Quite closed nose. Good concentration of savoury, chunky fruit on the palate, this is currently a tight tannic wine but has potential. Very good+ (£19.95 Berry Bros) 04/02  

Château L’Hospitalet Cuvée Beatrice 1999 La Clape, Coteaux du Languedoc
An ambitious, modern-styled Languedoc white, packaged in a suitably aspiring bottle. It’s a blend of 60% Bourboulenc, 30% Roussanne, 10% Rolle. Very intriguing lemony herbal nose with a floral twist and some toasty new oak. The palate is rich and rounded, with a liquoricey, spicy edge and low acidity. Good concentration and intensity. It’s an interesting wine, but for me there are two problems. First, the oak is a little too dominant, and there’s a bit of a hole in the mid palate: something seems to be missing. It comes across as a bit soft and soapy. Perhaps it’s the low acidity? Very good+  (£11.99 Oddbins) 02/02

Camplazens l'Ermitage 1998 Élevé en fûts de chêne, Vin de Pays d'Oc, France
Striking stuff. Inky dark red/black colour, showing some intense, herby, spicy fruit on the nose, with a sweet sheen of vanilla oak. Chunky, concentrated palate with some rounded, roasted oaky notes ad savoury tannins. Ripe stuff with porty, caramel like notes: elegance is not the strong point here, but you do get a lot of raw power and concentration for the money. Impressive. Very good/excellent (£6.99 Oddbins) 12/01

La Baume Sauvignon Blanc 2000, Vin de Pays d’Oc
Crisp, grassy nose with some ripe tropical fruit notes. Good flavour and concentration on the palate. Grassy and varietally true, with just a trace of bitterness on the finish. They’ve just about got it right here. Good/very good (£4.99, widely available) 03/02  

Domaine Perdiguier Cuvée d'en Auger 1999, Vin de Pays des Coteaux d'Ensérune
A blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot, made by Jérome Ferracci from his vineyards just north of Beziers. Super nose: complex liquorice and spice notes with some southern herbal character and toasty edge. Palate is rich with a spicy edge and good balance. Savoury in style, with good density. Very good/excellent (£9.69 A&B Vintners) 11/01

Domaine de Lavabre Les Desmoiselles de Lavabre 1998, Pic St Loup, AOC Coteaux du Languedoc
Olivier Bridel makes three different cuvées; this is his middle one. This is a blend of 40% Syrah, 40% Grenache, 10% Carignan and 10% Cinsault. It has an attractive juicy nose with meaty, plummy fruit. Elegant, full flavoured meaty/earthy palate with good acidity and balance. Impressive. Very good+ (£8.22 A&B Vintners) 11/01

Domaine du Poujol 'Podio Alto' 1999 Coteaux du Languedoc
Very elegantly packaged, this is clearly a wine with some ambition. It's a mid weight red, with a ripe, spicy, leathery nose that's still quite tight and youthful. The dry, spicy palate has some chunky southern character. It's an authentic southern French style, but needs time to develop some real personality. Very good (€7.50; £4.90 Mille Vignes) 1/02

Domaine de Montpezat Merlot 2000 Vin de Pays d'Oc
Deep red/black colour. The nose shows ripe, liquorice-tinged fruit with a slightly smoky, toasty edge. Good density of savoury berry fruit with a spicy, dusty edge and some tannin. Quite chunky and satisfying in a southern style, with a lush sheen to the fruit. Good value here. Very good+ (€3.80; £2.50 Mille Vignes) 01/02

Domaine Montrose Chardonnay 2000, Vin de Pays d'Oc
Quite a full yellow/gold colour, this a ripe nose of tropical fruit, which carries through to the buttery palate, with a slightly coconutty edge. It is a well made commercial Chardonnay, but it could have come from virtually anywhere. Very good (€4.9; £3.20 Mille Vignes) 1/02

Domaine Felines Jourdan Picpoul de Pinet 2000 Coteaux du Languedoc
A yellow/gold colour, this has a lovely subtle nose displaying notes of lime, honey, spice and candle wax. Very expressive. The palate is quite full flavoured and has an attractive texture, with a herby edge and a minerally, acid finish. An impressive yet restrained white wine that would make a versatile food companion. Very good+ (€5.40; £3.50 Mille Vignes) 1/02

Mas Champart Saint Chinian 'Tradition' 1998, Languedoc
Deep coloured wine with a slightly muted, spicy, herby nose. Palate is dense with tight structure and a spicy, tannic finish. A dense wine; currently a bit firm but very good value. Very good (£7.25 A&B Vintners) 11/01

Domaine de la Prose Cuvée Prestige 1999, AOC Coteaux du Languedoc
Bertrand de Mortillet is a young vigneron who is fanatical about wine, and grew up in the area (apparently he also has wealthy parents). He's passionate: pruning short he goes for low yields and attains good physiological ripeness. This wine, a blend of Grenache and Syrah, has a nice nose with a herby cherry fruit and an attractive meatiness. The palate is rich, savoury and quite delicious, with spicy tannins and good acidity on the finish. A really nice wine. Very good/excellent (£7.25 A&B Vintners) 11/01

Fox Wood Old Bush Vine Syrah 2000, Vin de Pays d'Oc
This isn't as good as previous vintages of this wine, which were pretty impressive. It has a ripe, chocolatey nose, and the palate shows sweet fruit and some oak with savoury tannins and a touch of spice. It's well judged commercial winemaking. Easy drinking stuff with quite good concentration. A bit bland though. Good/very good (£4.99 Majestic) 11/01

Château Pech Redon Sélection La Clape 1998, Coteaux du Languedoc
This deep-coloured red has an intriguing, spicy nose with a lifted, meaty edge. Palate is rich and savoury with a really attractive slightly bitter edge to the fruit, making it a good food wine. Very good+ (£6.99 Majestic) 12/01

Château L'Euzière Cuvée Les Escarboucles 1998, Pic St Loup, Coteaux du Languedoc
There's a sweet caramel edge to the expressive herbal nose, with a bit of cinnamon spice. The palate is medium bodied with spicy tannins and a hint of 'garrigue'. Not as meaty or earthy as many of the wines from Pic St Loup, and showing perhaps just a little too much oak influence. It's also a little alcoholic. I find it a bit disappointing, but it may just be that it needs a couple of years to come round and express itself. Very good (£8.99 Unwins) 12/01

L'Esprit de Fonte Caude 1997, Coteaux de Languedoc
One of the superstar new-wave wines emerging from the Languedoc, this is a dense red with real character. The rich, spicy, meaty nose shows some old leather notes, and leads to a full, complex palate with meaty, liquoricey fruit. There's a herby, garrigue-like edge that adds interest and stops this falling into the 'international' wine category. Very good/excellent (£14.95 La Vigneronne) 09/01

Château le Thou 1999 AOC Coteaux du Languedoc
Very unusual nose of herbs and caramel with a plasticene-like edge. The rich palate is quite ripe and full. Unusual stuff; I'm not sure about this one, but I can see it's appeal. Good value. Very good (£6.76 A&B Vintners) 11/01

Domaine D'Auphilac Montpeyroux 1998, AOC Coteaux du Langudeoc
Sylvain Fadat's wines have established a huge reputation from this promising Languedoc commune. Deep coloured, this wine has a rich, slightly herbal edge to the nose. The palate is attractively meaty and spicy. It's currently quite firm, but showing plenty of potential. A very solid wine with the potential to be serious in a few years' time. Very good+ (£10.70 A&B Vintners) 11/01

Domaine de Coudoulet Muscat 2000 Vin de Pays d'Oc
A family owned Domaine in the South of France that's well known for its Viognier, but this dry Muscat is no slouch—it's probably one of the best examples that I've tried. It kicks off with a beautifully aromatic, herby, grapey nose, which leads to a full flavoured, spicy palate. Impressive stuff, and finishes dry. Very good+ (£5.95 Berry Bros & Rudd) 09/01

Syrache 1998, Comte Cathare, Corbières
A premium Languedoc wine (but with a corny name), made with hand picked Grenache and Syrah, cultivated biodynamically and bottled unfiltered. 12 200 bottles produced. A deep red/purple colour, this has a nice savoury, spicy/herby nose with a meaty edge and touches of undergrowth. The palate shows rich, spicy fruit, firm fine-grained tannins and a lovely herby, spicy southern character. After a while in the glass, herby, leathery and tea-leaf notes emerge. Nicely combines ripe fruit with old world restraint. Very good/excellent 06/01

Bergerie de l'Hortus Classique Blanc 1999, Vin de Pays de Val de Montferrand
Surprising this Languedoc white, from a region best known for reds. It’s an impressive, boldly flavoured white wine, made from a blend of Chardonnay and Viognier. The aromatic, floral, herbal nose has a touch of citrus, spicy notes and some honey. The palate is full textured, minerally with some lime notes, good acidity and good concentration. Very good+ 06/01

Mont Tauch Fitou L'Exception 1998, Langudeoc
This is an ambitious effort from the well-regarded Mont Tauch cooperative. It's a deep coloured wine with a striking smoky, new oak influenced nose. The palate is concentrated and savoury, showing herbal fruit, firm tannins and lots of oak. Dense, chunky stuff. Very good+ (£8.99 Majestic) 10/01

Domaine de Coudoulet Muscat 2000 Vin de Pays d'Oc
A family owned Domaine in the South of France that's well known for its Viognier, but this dry Muscat is no slouch—it's probably one of the best examples that I've tried. It kicks off with a beautifully aromatic, herby, grapey nose, which leads to a full flavoured, spicy palate. Impressive stuff, and finishes dry. Very good+ (£5.95 Berry Bros & Rudd) 09/01

Abbaye Sylva Plana Faugères La Closeraie 2000, Languedoc
Nicely packaged with an elegant label design, this is a tasty, authentic wine from the South of France. A concentrated red/purple colour it has a stunning smoky, meaty, 'roasted' nose, with a herby, complex palate that's finished off with dry, spicy tannins. A delicious savoury southern-style wine with bags of character. Very good+ (£6.99 Majestic) 10/01

Château Cazal Viel St Chinian Vieilles Vignes 1999
Deep red purple colour, with a nose of spicy dark fruits with an attractive smoky edge. Chewy palate with a leathery, chewy character, dry tannins, good acidity and nice minerality. Tasty stuff, showing real typicity. Very good+ (no UK listing at present) 11/01

Château Cazal Viel Saint-Chinian Cuvée des Fees 1999
From calcareous clay soils, this is mostly Syrah with a dash of press Viognier, and doesn't see any oak. Deep red/purple coloured with a satisfying earthy, spicy, mineralic nose. The palate shows a good concentration of juicy, mineral edged fruit with smooth supple tannins and good acidity. Not a blockbuster, but a satisfying wine showing lots of southern character and really nice balance. Very good+ (£6.99 Waitrose; £6.49 Somerfield) 11/01

Cazal Viel Viognier Grande Réserve 2000, Vin de Pays d'Oc
(Clay soil, yield 35 hl/ha, matured in a mixture of steel tanks and new oak barrels.) An attractive wine from trendy grape Viognier: it's varietally true, with that authentic aromatic peach , apricot and slightly burnt rubber nose. Rich, soft-textured palate has a touch of spice on the finish and relatively low acidity. Tiny bit 'hot', but an interesting and tasty example of this grape. Very good+ (£6.99 First Quench) 11/01

Laurent Miquel Syrah/Mourvèdre 2000 Vin de Pays d'Oc
Quite deep coloured, this wine has an enticing smoky/earthy nose with a touch of cinnamon. Palate has plenty of savoury, slightly meaty fruit with a deft touch of tannin. Satisfying stuff, this is quite impressive for the price. (£4.49 Sainsbury) Very good 11/01

Bergerie de L’Hortus Classique 1999, Pic St Loup, Coteaux du Languedoc
Refreshingly, this new-wave southern French red is not some overoaked 14° alcohol monster, but instead is a classic example of why Pic St Loup is one of the most impressive communes in the Languedoc. The nose is deliciously meaty, herby, smoky and earthy, with some raspberry/damson fruit. The palate shows meaty, olive-laced fruit with quite high acidity and a lovely savoury character. Good balance. Very good/excellent (£8.50 Lea & Sandeman, Handford) 08/01

Domaine L'Aigueliere Grenat 1997, Vin de Pays du Mont Baudile
This is a wonderfully expressive, peppery Grenache that outperforms most Châteuneuf du Pape. Sweet fruit, herbs and spice (especially cinnamon) dominate the nose, leading to a deep savoury palate with a peppery edge and dusty tannins. The next day the wine has opened out a bit to display meaty, chocolatey fruit with some smoky notes. Very good/excellent (£7.99 Oddbins, currently reduced to £5.99) 07/01

Fortant de France Syrah 1999, Vin de Pays d'Oc
With a smoky, roasted nose this chunky Syrah shows impressive concentration and dry, dusty tannins on the finish. Not subtle, but impressive for the price. Very good (£3.99 Budgens) 09/01

Fortant de France Sauvignon Blanc 2000, Vin de Pays d'Oc
Varietally true aromatic nose with grapefruit and grassy notes. The palate is rounded and shows good concentration. Modern and full flavoured, this is quite impressive for the price. Very good (£3.99 Widely Available) 09/01

Domaine des Aires Hautes Minervois La Livinière 1998, Gilles Chabbert
La Livinière is acknowledged to be the best sub-appellation of Minervois, and this is a delightful blend of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan in which the grapes have been allowed to express their origin by some unintrusive winemaking. The nose mixes 'garrigue' herbal notes with sweet fruit. On the palate there is earthy, minerally, liquorice-laced fruit with good concentration and a herby character. Very good+ (Majestic £6.99) 03/01

Domaine Fonte Caude Montpeyroux 1997 AOC Coteaux du Languedoc
Satisfying and authentic southern red from a promising commune in the Languedoc. It's a chunky, savoury, earthy wine with some nice barnyardy complexity (but it is not a stinky wine). There is deep savoury, cassis-laden fruit and good structure. Very good+ (About £10?, La Vigneronne) 2/01

Les Fontanelles Viognier 1999, Vin de Pays d'Oc
Quite full coloured, this is a dry, crisp white with a bit of fatness of texture, a touch of spiciness and melon and mango notes. Lacks some of the exotic, floral, peachy notes normally associated with this variety, but still a nice drop. Good/very good (£4.99 Majestic)

Picpoul de Pinet 'Carte Noire' 1999 Cave L'Ormarine
A full yellow colour, this distinctive Languedoc white has a nice herby/waxy nose and a fresh, savoury, citrus-tinged palate. Bone dry and fresh, it's a good inexpensive food wine. Good/very good (about £4, worldmarechal) 05/01

Mas de Quiot 2000, Vin de Pays du Gard
A blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon/40% Shiraz. Very deep red/purple colour. The warm, spicy nose has an attractive earthiness to it, and leads to a chunky palate showing red berry fruit and dusty, dry tannins. With good concentration, this is a solid if slightly unexciting wine. Very good (£5.99 Majestic) 10/01

Château de Lascours Pic St Loup Cuvée Classique 1999, AOC Coteaux du Languedoc
Nice savoury, smoky/herby nose with a savoury, medicinal pungency on the palate. Lively acidity. Tasty stuff and a good effort from this tricky vintage. Very good+ 04/01

Château de Lascours Pic St Loup Cuvée Fût l'Ambroisie 1998, AOC Coteaux du Languedoc
Attractive smoky/herby nose with a savoury pungency. Lively palate with rich fruit, high acidity and a nice savoury character. Very good/excellent 04/01

Domaine Mas de la Garrigue Cuvée C'line 1996 Côtes du Roussillon
A faulty wine? On opening it is slightly cloudy, and there's obviously been some rather odd microbial activity taking place here. It is extremely stinky with an animal-like nose and a savoury, meaty, cheesy, poopy palate. There's also a metallic tang on the palate. I don't mind a bit of stink in my wines, but this has crossed over and is almost undrinkable. Mind you, I'd rather suffer the odd faulty bottle than end up with sterile, over-filtered, techno wines. (La Vigneronne, around £7) 2/01

Corbières d'Embres 1998, Tardieu Laurent
From low-yielding old vine Syrah, Grenache and Carignan, this is an opulent, sexy wine, but not instantly recognizable as Corbières. Deep red/black colour with an attrcative, full, licqouricey, smoky, herby nose. There is classy oak on the palate, together with soft, exotic fruit, lots of alcohol and a rich texture. With lots of everything, this is seductive in a modern style. Very good/excellent (£14.95 La Vigneronne) 11/00

Corbières Roquefort 1998, Tardieu Laurent
From 80 year-old Grenache, Mourvèdre and Carignan at heroically low yields of 15 hl/ha. Concentrated, deep red/black colour with an exotic, ripe nose of fruit, licqourice and alcohol. Very ripe and sweetly fruited on the palate hides consiberable tannic structure. Acoholic and quite port-like, with a slightly 'chemical' edge. Very good+ (£14.95 La Vigneronne) 11/00 

Domaine Les Aurelles 'Aurel' 1998, Coteaux du Langeudoc
From a domaine located near Pezenas started a few years ago by Karl Mauguin and Basile Saint-Germain. This is a Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre blend from low-yielding old vines. A red/black colour, this has a ripe, herby, sweetly fruited nose. Soft spicy fruit is backed by firm tannins. It's chunky and savoury, and a bit like a very good Châteauneuf du Pape. Very good/excellent, but needs time. (£15.95 La Vigneronne) 11/00

Domaine de la Marfée, Les Champs Murmurés 1998, Coteaux du Languedoc
Thierry Hasard apparently vinifies this wine in the basement of his house in the centre of Montpellier, and first vintage was in 1997. This is a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Cinsault A deep red/black colour, with a forward, smoky, licqourice nose. Complex and full, this has a lovely, rich palate with firm, spicy tannins and a nice mineral streak. With great balance, this is modern and delicious; for the long haul. Excellent (£18.75 La Vigneronne) 11/00

Domaine de Creisses 'Les Brunes' 1998, Coteaux du Languedoc
A blend of Cabernet, Mourvèdre and Syrah. Rich, exotic nose of ripe fruit and licqourice. Complex and full, this has a dense, rich palate with firm tannins and quite high alcohol. Nice, but expensive. Very good + (£22.50 La Vigneronne) 11/00

Domaine de la Casa Blanca, Banyuls Tradition 1998
Mainly Grenache Gris. Ripe, sweet, herbal nose -- slightly caramelized. Full, dense and rich on the palate, with great balance and sweet herbiness. This has plenty of what is known as 'rancio' character. Very good/ excellent (£10.95 La Vigneronne) 11/00

Domaine de la Casa Blanca, Banyuls Vintage 1998
Mainly Grenache Noir, matured in small oak barrels. This is darker coloured, with a less open nose than the Banyuls tradition, and less sweetness too. Dark coloured, this has a complex, herby palate with some tannins. It's quite port-like, without much 'rancio' character. Super balance. Excellent (£11.50 La Vigneronne) 11/00

Domaine de Ravanès Merlot 1998, Vin de Pays
From an ambitious producer from the South of France, this is a mid-weight red with an attractive leafy/herby nose. Soft, balanced and spicy on the palate, perhaps lacking a bit of concentration, with leafy, tobaccoey undertoned. Good/very good. (£7.50 La Vigneronne) 11/00

Domaine de Ravanès Cabernet Sauvignon 1998, Vin de Pays
A mide-weight red showing a refined blackcurrant and herb-laced nose. Nice balanced palate with a bit of spice and some herby notes. Unremarkable. Good/ very good. (£8.50 La Vigneronne) 11/00

Domaine de Comberousse 1998 'Roucaillat', Coteaux du Languedoc
A tasty white wine (a blend of the varieties Grenache Blanc, Rolle and Roussanne), this has an attractive mineralic nose with bright, smoky note. It has a lovely rich palate: rounded, soft and full with nutty, herbal character. Quite fat textured; full flavoured and delicious. Very good+ (£6.95 La Vigneronne) 11/00

Domaine Terre Mégère Merlot 1998, Vin de Pays
A great bargain from the South of France. Deep purple/black, with a lovely blast of sweet leafy/herbal fruit on the nose, underlain by a touch of smoky complexity. On the palate this shows great concentration and lovely, ripe, mineralic fruit. All you'd want in an inexpensive red. Very good/ excellent (£5.50 La Vigneronne) 11/00

Domaine Terre Mégère Cabernet Sauvignon 1998, Vin de Pays
Deep red colour with an attractive smoky/herbal nose with some ripe fruit. On the palate there is lots of fruit, but overall it is savoury and quite austere. Good concentration; a nice wine. Very good + (£5.75 La Vigneronne) 11/00

Domaine Terre Mégère 'Les Dolomies' 1998, Coteaux du Languedoc
Mostly Syrah, this is a wonderful, rustic, meaty wine of great character. Deep, rich, smoky nose with a meaty depth to it. Concentrated, earthy, rich palate: this is impressive stuff with a slightly wild, animal-like edge. Very good/excellent (£6.95 La Vigneronne) 11/00

Domaine Vaquer 'L'Exception' 1998, Vin de Pays Catalan
A blend of Carignan and Grenache. Dep red/black colour with a herby/peppery nose that has a touch of caramel about it. Ripe, full and porty palate with good density and rich, slightly sweet fruit. Warming and southern. Very good (£9.95 La Vigneronne) 11/00

Domaine de la Casa Blanca Collioure 1998
Alain Soufflet uses more Syrah than is usual for this Grenache-dominated appellation. This wine is a full red colour with a lighter rim. Warm Southern nose gives way to a ripe palate dominated by rich, spicy/peppery fruit. There's a bit of tannin there, too. Very good (£8.95 La Vigneronne) 11/00

La Cuvée Mythique 1998, Vin de Pays d'Oc, France
A blend of Val d'Orbieu's best parcels of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Carignan, this is a superb, dense, fruit-packed red at a very good price. Deep coloured, it has a lovely nose of ripe fruit, herbs and well-judged oak. On the concentrated palate there is sweet fruit and oak, underpinned by firm tannins. In style, this sits somewhere in between other new wave Languedoc reds (which tend to be more terroir-driven) and Aussie Shiraz. It's a wine to buy by the case for drinking over the next few years. Very good/excellent (£6.49 Majestic, Waitrose) 1/01

Domaine des Chênes 1997 Tautavel, Côtes du Roussillon Villages
A deep red/purple colour, this is a medium bodied southern red with an attractive nose of herbs and olives, but with a slight green or vegetal edge. There's good concentration on the palate, together with herby, slightly cheesy fruit and noticeable tannins: this is currently still quite youthful, and it will be interesting to see how it develops, and whether the greenness dissipates with time. (£9.50 La Vigneronne) 1/01

Domaine du Baruel Cuvée Fontanilles 1996, Vin du Pays de Cevennes
From a 12 Ha domaine in the picturesque Cevennes in the South of France, planted with Cabernet and Syrah; the average vine age is 20 years, and yields are very low at 20 hl/Ha. This is the Syrah-only wine, and it is a dark red/black with an attractive smoky nose, showing real Syrah character. The palate is dominated by firm tannins, dark fruits and a dry, dusty character, finished off with lemony acidity. Tasted blind, I might even mistake this for an Italian wine; it clearly needs some more time to show its best. Very good+ (£11 La Vigneronne) 1/01

Mas de Daumas Gassac 1996, Vin de Pays de l'Herault
Possibly the most famous wine from the south of France, this almost lives up to its huge reputation, but there's a touch of greenness that stops it being really great. Deep red/black colour. Intense nose of complex cassis with a leafy mineral streak. Good concentration and complexity, with ripe fruit, firm tannins and a slightly green streak (although this isn't unpleasant). Almost claret-like in its balance. Very good/excellent (£12.99 Tesco) 11/00

Château Grande Cassagne Blanc 1999 Costières de Nîmes
A nice southern French white with good balance and real character, made mainly from Grenache Blanc with a touch of Roussanne. Attractive perfumed floral nose with a musky edge, followed up by a broad, full flavoured palate. Very good + (£6.99 La Vigneronne) 10/00

Faugères Abbaye de Sylva Plana 1999, La Closeraie
First vintage from new winemaker, handpicked grapes and low yields of 30 hl/ha. Full red/black colour. Slightly muted nose but full, dense palate of soft, ripe, chalky fruit. Nice concentration: needs time to show its best? Very good. (£6.49 Majestic) 10/00

Minervois Domaine des Aires Hautes La Livinière 1998
Soft, forward, slightly sweet nose that seems to be typical of new-wave Minervois. Exotic herby, rich fruit on the palate, with nice balance. Very good+ (Majestic £6.99) 10/00

Château Coupes Roses Les Plôts 1999, Minervois
Deep red purple with a delicious nose: pungent, meaty and exotic. Tannic and full on the palate this is super stuff, with lovely herby complexity. Very good/excellent. (£6.99 Majestic) 10/00

Corbières 1999, Domaine Madelon
Red/black colour, with good concentration. It's a bright, fruity wine with a nice smoky edge. Good/very good, and a good value. (£3.99, Majestic) 10/00

L'Excellence du Château Capendu 1999, Corbières
Impressive red/black colour and good concentration to this nicely packaged wine. Quite muted on the nose, with a modern, fruit-forward palate. A little disappointing. Good+ (£5.99 Majestic) 10/00

Château de Lastours 1993 Elévé en Fûts de Chêne, Corbières AOC
An evolved, mid-weight Carignan-dominated wine. Deep purple/red, this has a full nose of sweet tea, leather and exotic feral/animal notes, with Bordeaux-like cedar notes. On the palate it has begun to dry out a little, but there are still firm, spicy tannins and good acidity, and this is followed up with a mineral-like stoniness. A delicate, complex and well poised wine, probably peaking now. On the second night the wine is over the hill. Very good+ 10/00

Fox Wood Old Bush Vine Syrah 1998, Vin de Pays d'Oc
Made from 45 year old bush vines and aged in American oak. This concentrated southern red is full of character, with a stony/earthy nose and ripe, earthy fruit, firm tannins and some spiciness from the unobtrusive oaking. Very good+, and a bargain. (£4.99 Majestic) 9/00

Collioure Cuvée 'Cosprons Levants' 1995 Domaine du Mas Blanc
Impressive southern red from an estate more famou for its Banyuls, made of Mourvèdre, Syrah and some Counoise; 4400 bottles produced. Red/black colour with a muted, stony nose. Brooding, concentrated, earthy and stony on palate. Deep, savoury and a little bit leathery; attractive but not showy, this wine may well evolve some more. Very good+ (£5.99 Majestic) 9/00

La Cuvée Mythique 1998, Vin de Pays d'Oc, Val d'Orbieu
This attractively packaged wine is the top cuvée from the large negociant firm of Val d'Orbieu in the Languedoc. This chewy, structured wine is a real winner. Dense red/black, with a nose of smoky, meaty red fruits. Chunky and with earthy tannins on the palate, the noticeable oak adds depth and spice to what is a satisfying and balanced wine. There's also a minerally, stony edge to the fruit. Very good (£6.49 Waitrose, Majestic) 9/00

Mas Bruguiere La Grenadière 1998, Pic Saint-Loup, AOC Coteaux du Languedoc
Attractive medium bodied wine displaying a nose of smoky and spicy notes. On the palate it is ripe and soft, with soft, peppery fruit and dusty, drying tannins. There is some chocolatey richness to the fruit, too. It's an attractive wine that is nicely poised between the old and new worlds in style, and which has a promising evolution ahead of it. Very good. 4/00

Borie du Maurel Cuvée Sylla 1998 Minervois
Perfumed, exotic nose of sweet fruit. Astonishingly intense. Rich and licqouricey with dense fruit, olives and firm tannins. Despite the concentration, this is a soft, intense wine. Very good, but a bit soft, lacking balance. Perhaps the grapes were just a bit too ripe? (£12.99 Oddbins) 7/00

Borie du Maurel Belle de Nuit 1999, Minervois
This is an odd wine. It has rich, soft, concentrated flavours of chocolatey fruit and liquorice, with an exotic nose of sweet herbs, but it lacks the acidity and/or tannins necessary to structure the wine properly. It's certainly attractive in an upfront sort of way -- a bit like an overripe Zinfandel -- but I'm not sure they've got it right. I suspect that with the high alcohol (14%), they harvested these grapes when they were slightly overripe, resulting in an unbalanced wine. (Oddbins £7.49) 8/00

Grande Cassagne Hippolyte 1998, Costières de Nimes
Another dense southern French superwine. Slightly muted, bready nose with masses of sweet, ripe fruit on the palate. There are firm tannins and good acidity balancing the ripe fruit. Very good, but lacks a tiny bit of excitement. 7/00

Barrel-matured Merlot Vin de Pays du Torgan 1998, Mount Tauch, Languedoc
From the well-reputed Mount Tauch cooperative comes this concentrated, oaky, modern-styled red. It is well structured with firm tannins and red berry fruit. Good, without being really interesting, the varietal character of Merlot is underlaid by earthy, dusty, regional character. (£7.99 Tesco) 7/00

Chateau Reig 1991 Coillioure
Soft, dusty mature red with firm tannins. A lovely southern wine with firm acidity and mature character. Good. 7/00

Château de Lancyre Grande Cuvée 1997, Pic Saint-Loup, Coteaux du Languedoc AOC
From a 73 Ha estate, this is a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre matured for 12 months in barriques. A red/purple colour, this is wonderful stuff. A smoky nose is followed by a smoky, meaty, herby palate with medium body and quite high acidity. There are hints of tea and tobacco, firm tannins and some cherry fruit. Complex and refined, this is archetypal Pic Saint-Loup with quite a life ahead of it. Very good/ excellent. (£7.19, Tesco) 6/00

Domaine Haut Lirou 1998, Pic Saint-Loup, Coteaux du Languedoc
A herby, meaty, chocolatey wine of medium concentration. Quite pleasant, with real regional character, but why is there no vintage date on the label? (£5.30, Languedoc Select [winesoc.co.uk]) 7/00

Domaine Ollier Taillefer Faugères 1998, Castel Fossibus
Concentrated deep purple colour. Herby nose with some smoky oak. Ripe, complex and with noticeable new oak and plenty of red berry fruit. Savoury and intense with a good tannic structure; a serious, full flavoured wine. Very good + (Languedoc Select [winesoc.co.uk]) 6/00

Mas des Costes Pic Saint-Loup 1997, Coteaux du Languedoc
A satisfying Southern French red with plenty of regional character. 70% Syrah, 30% Grenache. Deep coloured with a nose of smoky bacon and herbs. On the palate it is chunky, deep and herby, with a touch of pepper and chalky tannins. There are red fruits present, and there's also some balancing acidity. Good complexity, and noticeable oak. Good/very good. (£6.65, Languedoc Select [winesoc.co.uk]) 7/00

Château des Peyregrandes 1998, Faugères
35% Syrah, 30% Carignan, 25% Grenache and 10% Mourvedre. Yields of 35 hl/ha.
Deep purple/black colour. Muted stony nose. Firm palate with intense, earthy fruit and strong tannins. A structured, brooding wine; serious, but restrained. May develop nicely. Opens out nicely after a while in the glass to reveal smoky, herby elements. Very good (£6.20 Languedoc Select [winesoc.co.uk]) 6/00

Domaine Begude Chardonnay 1999, Comte Cathare, Vin de Pays d'Oc
A light, fresh, lemony Chardonnay. Its appealing, but quite simple. Medium bodied. Good. (£4.99 Oddbins) 7/00

Domaine Begude Marsanne/Viognier 1999, Comte Cathare, Vin de Pays d'Oc
A 50/50 blend. Gently aromatic wine with a rich, full palate of nutty, floral and melon flavours. Modern in style, but attractive and fresh. A good food match. Good. (Oddbins £4.99) 7/00

1999 Les Clos de Paulilles Rose, Colliure AOC
Syrah-based, this is quite deep coloured for a rose, with sweet cherry and pepper flavours. Deep, fruity and dry, it is a good food wine with a nice texture, but is probably pushing the limit a bit on value for money. (£5.99, Oddbins). 6/00

Chateau Valcyre 1998 Robert Graffinet, Pic Saint Loup, AOC Coteaux du Languedoc, Elevé en fût de Chêne
Youthful red/purple colour. Bright raspberry fruit combines with peppery notes and firm tannins to produce a clean, modern-styled wine with well judged oak. It probably needs some time to show its best; the South of France meets the Hunter Valley. Very good. (£5.45, Languedoc Select [winesoc.co.uk]) 7/00

Château de Jau, Côtes du Roussillon Villages 1997
Full, herby, barnyardy (bretty), peppery wine with high acid, medum body and cherry and red fruits. A typically Southern French red. Good. (Nicolas £6.99) 6/00

Domaine de la Grangenon 1998 Vin de Pays des Coteaux de l'Ardeche
A varietal Syrah in a modern, fruit-driven style: quite unusual for a Southern French wine. Inviting nose of ripe chocolatey fruit with bacon-fat varietal character. Soft and meaty on palate with sweet herby fruit. Youthful and soft, this is a delicious, new-world styled wine. Soft and expressive. Very good, but avoid if you are looking for a traditional styled wine. (£7.50 La Vigneronne) 5/00

Mortiès Grande Cuvée 1996, Mas de Mortiès, Pic Saint-Loup, Coteaux du Languedoc
Deep red/purple, with an open nose of earthy, meaty cherry fruit and a big dose of farmyardy aromas. On the palate there is meaty, chocolatey fruit with a tongue-tingling finish. Tasty southern wine if you don't mind the strong brettanomyces (brett) character. (£9.99 Harrods) 5/00

Domaine de La Motte Chardonnay 1998, James Herrick, Vin de Pays d'Oc
10% barrel fermented; 50% malolactic. Concentrated but tight. Light lemon and mineral laden Chardonnay with some nice smoky/appley notes. Nicely balanced and savoury; quite delicate. Good. (£6.49 Oddbins) 5/00

Domine Les Garrigues de Truilhas 1998, James Herrick, Vin de Pays d'Oc
The name comes from the stony soil of the vineyards. Lean on the nose with smoky, mineral-like characters. Some ripe fruit on the palate, but overall still quite lean, with more smoky, mineralic notes. Slightly bitter finish. Quite good. (£5.49 Oddbins) 5/00

Domaine Capion Cabernet Sauvignon 1997, Vin de Pays de L'Herault
A really impressive domain-bottled Cabernet Sauvignon from the South of France, but with a dreadfully dull label. Concentrated purple/black with a creamy, herbal, chocolatey texture. Leafy, rich blackcurrant fruit with firm tannins and good structure. A nice, new wave Southern French wine. (Berry Brothers & Rudd, £6.95) 5/00

La Gravette 1999 Rosé, AOC Coteaux du Languedoc
A delicious rosé in a modern style: fresh, crisp and dry with strawberry laced sweet fruits and good acidity. Delicate and nicely made. (£4.10 Languedoc Select [winesoc.co.uk]) 6/00

Château de Lascours 1998, Coteaux du Languedoc Pic Saint-Loup, Rosé
Rosé wines are relatively neglected in the UK, but are drunk by the pitcher-full in the South of France. Attractive Amber/pink colour. Lovely fresh, fruity wine with good acidity, full flavour and a peppery edge. Clean and delicious well chilled. On a warm summer's evening, this is the ideal wine, good with food. (£4.45, Languedoc Select [winesoc.co.uk]) 6/00

Château de Lascours 1998, Coteaux du Languedoc Pic Saint-Loup
Lovely stuff. Youthful red/purple colour. A savoury, peppery, herby wine with good concentration and meaty undertones. Firm tannins underlying the fruit; lovely balance and good complexity. Has the distinctive regional character commonly found in many Pic Saint-Loup wines. Despite the meat/earthy character, it is not at all barnyardy or bretty. Very good + (£4.65, Languedoc Select [winesoc.co.uk]) 6/00

Ermitage du Pic St Loup 1998, Pic-St-Loup, AOC Coteaux du Languedoc
Youthful red/black colour. This is a soft-textured, medium-bodied wine with a nice smoky nose of southern herbs and wet stones. On the palate the smoky, herby fruit is joined by olives and dry tannins. Not as richly structured as some from this region can be, but a substantial and authentic southern wine. Pretty good. (Waitrose, price unknown but should be around £6). 2/00

La Gravette Marsanne/Rousanne 1999, Vin de Pays d'Oc blanc
A good value, clean white wine from a progressive co-op in the South of France. Aromatic nose of flowers and honey. On the palate, clean soft fruit flavours predominate. Dry and modern-styled, with some mineral notes. Good value -- shame about the horrible composite cork they use, and there is no vintage date on the bottle. (£3.95, winesoc.co.uk) 6/00

Domaine des Courtilles 1998, Corbières AOC
Bernard Schürr, vigneron. Unfiltered, 14.5% alcohol
A blend of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan. It is a vibrant red/purple colour. Intense nose of herbs and liquorice. Ripe and concentrated with flavours of pepper, cherries, vanilla, cinnamon (from the Grenache?) and wet stones (from the Carignan?). With soft tannins, this is distinctively a Corbières wine, yet it has the softness and fruit of a new world wine. Very good, but unusual. (£8.99, Waitrose) 5/00

Mas de Gebre 1998, Coteaux du Languedoc
The Southern French revolution continues. This is an interesting concept: it is a single estate wine made by the local co-op, with 100% low yielding old vine Syrah grapes, fermented and matured in stainless steel tanks for five months before bottling. The wine is a concentrated purple/black. The nose is typical Syrah: smoky bacon fat and violets. On the palate it is savoury and tannic, spicy and peppery and with a mouth-coating texture. Very attractive stuff, and may develop well in the bottle. (£6.99 Oddbins) 11/99

Mas Bruguiere L’Arbouse 1998, Coteaux du Languedoc Pic St Loup
My first crack at the supposedly excellent 1998 vintage in the Languedoc. This wine is deep coloured with an enticing nose of smoky, earthy red fruits. It is medium bodied, with deep, almost mystical flavours that are predominantly herby, meaty and earthy than fruit-derived. There is a touch of chocolate-like richness and no detectable oak. Tannic and savoury, this is an ideal food wine. Interesting and very good. (£6.79, Noel Young Wine) 11/99

Chateau L’Euzière Cuvée Les Escarboucles 1997 Coteaux du Languedoc Pic St Loup
This is matured in new oak, but it is hard to detect. Delightful structure provided by a combination of tannins and acidity. Characteristic Pic St Loup profile of herby, smoky, earthy red fruit, with raspberry and black cherry notes. Quite aromatic -- not as lush as the Ch de Cazenueve Roc des Mates, but pretty good still. Soft and approachable now, but will evolve. Recommended. (£7.99, Fullers) 7/99

Domaine Forca Real 1996, Cotes du Roussillon Villages
Distinctive smoky, herby wine with real class and good concentration. 60% grenache/20% syrah/15% Mourvedre/5% Carignan. The nose has some really interesting notes of meaty, smoky bacon. It is rich and complex, but not noticeably bretty. Soft textured. Really good and a great bargain for current drinking. (£4.99 Fullers) 8/99

Chateau de Lastours Blanc de Blancs 1997, Corbieres
Full bodied Southern French white with delicious floral and peach bouquet and a concentrated, fruity, slightly spicy palate. Soft textured and impressive. It is mainly Malvoisie, apparently. This is a real find from a region and producer better known for its reds. (35 ff from domaine) 9/99

Château de Cazeneuve Pic-St-Loup 1997 Le Roc des Mates
A £7 wine that tastes like a £15 wine. Deep red/purple colour. Rich, herby and earthy with meaty fruit -- there is also some pepper spice character. Authentic wine with good complexity (there may be some new oak here) with a deep, brooding character that appears to owe more to the vineyard than to the winery. (Fuller's £6.99) 5/00

Chateau de Jau 1997, Cotes du Roussillon Villages
Bright red purple with medium concentration. Lovely big bretty nose: herby, fecal, cheesy and meaty notes dominate. Very savoury with balancing acid and tannins. This wine is certainly bretty, but for me it is still at a level that is attractive and adds complexity. Good but not a stunner. Price around 35ff from the domaine, in the UK this translates to about £7. 8/99

Mas Llaro Grande Reserve 1998, Cotes du Roussillon
Beautiful stuff and great value. This is a deep, smoky wine with a youthful purple colour. The nose is distinctly herby and smoky. Quite a clean wine (it's not bretty), but plenty of secondary complexity. Good concentration, ripe fruit. I don't know the cepage, but I'd suspect there is a strong Mourvedre component in here as well as some Grenache. Real interest here. (£4.99, Oddbins) 8/99

Domaine de la Grande Olivette 'La Jasse' 1996 Vin du Pays Cevennes
Intense purple/black in the glass. Delightful nose of creamy blackberries and blackcurrants. On the palate, firm tannins, a chalky earthiness and a touch of new oak. Good concentration, enticing complexity -- this could really use a few more years in the bottle, but already it is an exciting prospect. Excellent. It is a tragedy that I only have one left. (Bought a couple of years ago from Oddbins for £6.99) 8/99

James Herrick Chardonnay 1999, Vin de Pays d'Oc
Lovely fresh nose of bright fruit. Ripe and full flavoured with a lovely, full creamy texture. Despite the roundedness of the palate, this is not at all fat, with the bright lemony acidity holding everything in balance. With no oak exposure, the depth and complexity comes from lees stirring. Previously I've been unconvinced by Languedoc Chardonnays, but this really gives other Chards at this price a good run for their money. Avoids being technological or synthetic. (£4.99, widely available) 5/00

Les Clos de Paulilles Banyuls, Hors D'Age, Ambre
My first brush with a Banyuls. Orange pink with honeyed nose of sweet strawberries. Hard to describe the flavours, but combining sherry-like and tawny-port like flavours with a some orangey, sweet, grapey fruit. Very delicious and a bargain. Much more interesting than Muscat de Rivesaltes, and a great dessert wine for a bargian price. (£8.99 Oddbins) 8/99

Les Terres Rouges 1996, Chateau de Cazeneuve, Coteaux du Languedoc Pic St Loup
Lighter Cuvee from this quality minded producer. Rich nose and palate of smoky, barnyardy, earthy red fruit. With no oak and a smooth structure, this is an excellent wine for the money, showing real regional typicity. (Fullers £4.99) 7/99

Chateau La Voulte Gasparets 1996 Cuvee Reserve, Corbieres
Attractive cherry red colour. Bretty nose gives way to blackcurrant fruit and hints of olives and herbs. It is beginning to soften and is beginning to soften nicely. Good acidity and tannins. This is one of the better Corbieres I’ve tried and is definately a food wine. I think it is really tasty, but avoid if you can’t tolerate a reasonable degree of brett. (46 ff purchased direct) 5/99

Chateau de Cazeneuve Pic St Loup 1996, Grande Cuvee, Coteaux de Languedoc
Deep purple/back with a smoky, earthy nose. Gushing ripe fruit, vibrant acidity and firm tannins fuse to make this a very good wine. Another winner from Pic St Loup. (£6.99 Fullers) 4/99

James Herrick Cuvée Simone 1997, Vin de pays d’Oc (Narbonne)
Attractive smoky herb-scented fruit. Medium bodied, this syrah-based wine relies on the flavour of the grapes rather than oak, and makes an interesting table wine with plenty of earthy character. (Oddbins £4.99) 2/99

Abbots Cumulus Shiraz 1996, Minervois
Thick, purple colour. When coaxed yields a full nose of bacon fat and stones. Minerally, chocolatey palate, with rich fruit. Better than Australian Shiraz at this price. (£4.99 Sainsbury) 2/99

Mas des Costes 1995 Coteaux du Languedoc Pic St-Loup
Jeanne Paul Rambier
Wonderful combination of red fruits, minerals and herby/meaty/earthy notes that typify Pic St-Loup wines. Tannic and concentrated, there is a spicy smokiness that may have come from some new oak. Very good. (£6.49 Fullers) 2/99

Chateau de Lancyre Vieilles Vignes 1996, Pic St Loup
Another superb, individual and well priced wine from the South of France. 65% Syrah, 35% Grenache, this has good concentration and is a beautifully stinky, smoky, brambly red with smoked bacon and blackberry fruit left to run free without the encumberance of new oak. Bold and characterful, I'm now keen to try their Grand Cuvee.(Tesco £5.99) 1/99

Château de Lastours Cuvée Simone Descamps 1994, Corbières AOC
Lovely smoky nose with hints of earth and berry fruits. On the palate, medium bodied, smooth and nicely balanced, with the structure provided by both the acidity and tannins, and spicy, herbal red berry fruits. Good authentic stuff, this Carignan-dominated wine is savoury, oak-free and 'terroir' based. Pretty good. (40 ff, from domain) 1/00

L'Hospitalène vin de Liqueur, Languedoc
A wine about which I know nothing other than what is on the label (apparently this is made from fresh grapes and grape spirit). It is soft, red and spirity, with licqourice notes -- rather like a young inexpensive port. OK, but a bit simple. 1/00

Le Pigeoulet des Brunier, 1998 Vin de Pays de Vacluse
This is a really super Southern French wine for a knockdown price (around £6/US$10). Made by the company that produces Vieux Telegraphe and Domaine La Roquette in Châteauneuf du Pape. It is deep red/purple with a good concentration. Lovely, meaty stinky nose (but I don't think this is brettanomyces this time, rather I suspect the grapes: does this have Mourvedre in it?). On the palate, well balanced and savoury, with dry tannins. More substantial and serious wine than you would normally expect at this price. Very good. 

Domaine D'Aupilhac 1997, Montpeyroux, Coteaux du Languedoc
Medium bodied wine of cherry red colour. Big nose of barnyard indicates some brettanomyces in this old vine Carignan-based wine. Lovely, savoury palate with moderate tannins and plenty of Southern character. Herby notes, and slighly cheesy edge make this a great food wine. Good value, too. (£7.95, Justerini and Brooks) 1/00

Viognier 2000, Vignerons Ardechois, Vin de Pays Coteaux de l'Ardeche
This is a nice varietal Viognier that's quite impressive considering the price. The nicely perfumed nose leads to a very soft, rounded, low acid palate. There's a bit of peachy fruit and some minerality. Very nicely textured without being confected. A Condrieu taste-alike? Very good (£4.60 World Marechal) 03/01

Cuvée Prestige Cépage Syrah 1999, Vignerons Ardechois, Vin de Pays Coteaux de l'Ardeche
A brilliantly chunky wine for the price, this is an inky, angular red showing admirable concentration and some nice varietal character. Its solidity means that it's best with food, though. Very good (£3.60 World Marechal) 3/01

Château Puech-Haut 1998 Saint Drézéry, Coteaux de Languedoc
A modern styled wine from this ambitious Languedoc producer. Nose shows forward bright fruit and spicy vanilla oak with a creamy edge. Good concentration and ripe fruit on the palate, with firm tannins and lots of new oak (contributing spicy vanilla and cinnamon notes). Attractive stuff but currently the oak is quite dominant. I suspect and hope that it will integrate much better after a year or two in the bottle. Very good+ (World Marechal, about £8) 3/01

Chateau Grande Cassagne Blanc 1999, Costières de Nîmes
This was delicious when I first tried it, back in summer 2000, but it has lost the lovely floral, aromatic freshness since then -- southern French whites often are best as young as possible. A deep yellow colour, the shy nose is beginning to show the first signs of oxidation. Nice, fresh palate with good balance, firm acidity and a crisp character. Two bottles opened were both very similar. Good/very good (La Vigneronne £6.50) 3/01

Mas Llaro Muscat de Rivesaltes 1998, Roussillon, France
From a 75 Ha estate, the grapes were hand picked. Yellow gld colour. Full nose of table grapes, honey, spice and peaches. On palate, smooth and sweet, with nice balancing acidity. It is not terribly exciting, but it is a useful dessert wine. As good as Muscat de Baumes et Venise, but cheaper. Serve well chilled. (£4.99 Oddbins) 1/00

Mas Bruguière 'L'Abouse' Pic St Loup 1998, Coteaux du Languedoc
Lovely, expressive Southern French red with a savoury, meaty nose that's actually rather Northern-Rhône-like, showing raspberries, blackcurrants and herbs. The palate is dominated by ripe, meaty fruit, some tannins and nice balancing acidity. It's a wine that doesn't rely on power, but beguiling complexity. Very good/excellent (£6.99 Noel Young) 03/01

Maury 1928 Solera (50 cl)
This is a fortified wine made from red grapes (Grenache Gris, Grenache Noir, Carignan) but aged in a Sherry-like solera style: 600 litre barrels are used and each year a bit of wine is taken off and replaced with new wine. The original solera here at the Maury co-op was started in 1928, so each bottle may contain a few molecules from the 1928 mother wine. It's a deep red/brown colour with a delicious christmas cake and raisin nose, together with some caramel notes. The palate is dense and raisined, with coffee and treacle notes. Complex, sweet and not too sickly; a real treat. Only 840 bottles in stock, so be quick. Very good/excellent. (£14.99 Majestic) 10/01