French Drinking Dozen – August 2020
France is an incredibly diverse country and one that offers a plethora of great drinking at all levels. From its balmy southern shores, warm and verdant interior to the cool limits of its northern hills there is truly something for everyone.
This mixed dozen offers up a selection of some of our favourite producers, regions and varieties as well as up-and-coming winemakers and dark horses you may not heard of. We have tried to include a little snap-shot of the state of play from this wonderful vinous country.
1. Hugel Gentil 2018
Alsace White Blend
There's a delightful juiciness and vibrancy on the nose of this young bland. It's lush and spicy, with ripe pear aromas. It's firm yet generous and concentrated, with a youthful assertiveness and vigour. It's surprisingly minerally on the finish, which is quite long. Best enjoyed fairly young for it's exuberance STEPHEN BROOK
2. Uva Non Grata Gamay Noir 2019
100% Gamay from central France
Uva Non Grata (Latin for 'ungrateful grapes') refers to the historical downgrading of Gamay while Pinot Noir became the ascendant of the two grapes in Burgundy. Gamay loves the granite/siliceous soils of the vineyards in the hills to the north west of Lyon in eastern France.
Carbonic maceration techniques followed by a short cuvasion keep the upfront, juicy fruit characters in a no fuss and delicious lighter style Gamay.
Its bouncy and crunchy with so much zip and personality. Crammed with spicy red fruits and a juby overlay offset with some lightly earthy undertones. Its sunshine in a bottle!
3. Guigal Cotes du Rhone Rouge 2016
From Legendary Rhone Producer E.Guigal
How Guigal year after year extracts such quality from such volume is astonishing. Famous for paying his growers well above market value for their grapes is probably the key. The fact that he treats this wine with every care and respect that her treats his upper eschelon wines is probably the other. Either way this is one of the most consistent wines to come out of France. THE DRINKS LIST
Deep, brilliant ruby color. Expansive dark berry, cherry, floral and spice aromas show very good clarity and pick up darker olive and licorice notes as the wine opens up. Sweet and energetic on the palate, offering juicy cherry, blackberry flavors and a spicy jolt of cracked pepper. Finishes with impressive length, sneaky tannins and a lingering suggestion of candied flowers. As usual, this bottling, which is made in massive volume and available seemingly everywhere, delivers outstanding value. The inherent elegance of the 2016 vintage comes through loud and clear. It'll age well, too, if one is so inclined. JOSH RAYNOLDS
There are an impressive 4.5 million bottles of the 2016 Cotes du Rhone, a ripe, silky wine that should bring pleasure to thousands of consumers. Cherries and raspberries mark the nose, while the medium to full-bodied palate adds nuances of cola, tree bark and spice… it represents a terrific value. THE WINE ADVOCATE
4. Rendez-Vous Malbec 2017
100% Malbec, Bordeaux
Vignoble Mingot is a third generation family operated winery, on the right bank of Bordeaux in the area of Savignac-de-l'Isle. This is where their historical Chateau Marechaux property is located 7 kms north of the vineyards in Lalande de Pomerol.
The Mingot family have also integrated a range of red wines with a modern concept named 'Pur'; a natural, low sulphur, monovarietal and quirky labelled Bordeaux Supérieur.
Vignoble Mingot is a producer that delivers superb quality and a great representation of right bank Bordeaux, providing excellent value across the portfolio of wines.
5. Les Vignerons Vermentino Colombard 2016
Fleshy and bright White Blend
Les Vignerons is a brilliant new value range from one of the ubiquitous cooperatives of southern France. However, unlike the many anonymous wines these outfits are known for, Les Vignerons was born from a different concept. Here, a group of grape growers agitated for more input into the finished product and as a result they were permitted to work with a parcel of their own grapes and with the assistance of the coop winemaker produced their own set of wines.They are all blends of a maximum of two varieties and display good fruit expression, clean winemaking, and deliver excellent value for money.
This Vermentino and Colombard blend is a straight as an arrow. Saline, crisp and bright with a very subtle textural naunce.
6. Chateau Montlandrie 2015
Right Bank Bordeaux
Castillon - Cotes de Bordeaux
The 2015 Montlandrie is a blend of 75% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, picked between September 29 and October 8, and matured in 45% new oak. This is perhaps more precocious on the nose compared to Denis Durantou's La Chenade and Les Cruzelles 2015s, gradually revealing an attractive floral, dried rose petal/pot pourri scent as it opens in the glass. The palate is medium-bodied with fine tannin, quite grippy in the mouth, the acidity nicely judged here and again, very harmonious and sensual on the finish. You could almost whisk this out of barrel and drink this now, but preferably, give it 4-5 years in bottle. (91-93) Neal Martin
7. Les Vignerons Carignan Syrah 2016
Bright and crunchy red blend
Les Vignerons is a brilliant new value range from one of the ubiquitous cooperatives of southern France. However, unlike the many anonymous wines these outfits are known for, Les Vignerons was born from a different concept. Here, a group of grape growers agitated for more input into the finished product and as a result they were permitted to work with a parcel of their own grapes and with the assistance of the coop winemaker produced their own set of wines.They are all blends of a maximum of two varieties and display good fruit expression, clean winemaking, and deliver excellent value for money
This wine is the perfect companion for some nice Italian (ironic cause it's French). This light and fruity wine is cheap and cheerful. When you've had a long day and just want something easy to drink this is what gets me through those times. ALEC JOYNSON
8. Baron Leopold Bordeaux Blanc 2018
Sauvignon Blanc with a touch of Semillon
A new producer in the market that has just nailed it for entry level Bordeaux that actually taste like Bordeaux! Blended from vineyards across the appellation this is a superb introduction to the Bordeaux style, delivering a classic expression of the region and delicious to boot.
Raised in tank and aged on fine lees, an abundance of savoury, grassy grapefruit, tangy and beautifully balanced.Lifted tropical fruit, lime and green apple with subtle herbaceous grassy end notes. Light, fresh and dry the palate with a touch of textural slip that carries it through the zingy close.
9. Pichot Vouvray Sec Coteau de La Biche 2018
1005 Chenin Blanc
The Pichot family is one of the oldest in Vouvray with origins as restaurateurs going back to 1739. Their vineyard holdings are mostly located all at the top of the village with the largest holding which makes up their classic Coteau de la Biche in the prime Vallee de Nouys which is perfectly sited for making drier styles of wine and faces south-east.
All vineyards are farmed organically with grasses grown between the rows to reduce the uptake of moisture and vigour to the vines. Vinification in stainless steel tanks at low temperature with a small amount in used oak barrels for the still wines, 10% aged barrels for sec and aged on fine lees for 6 months before bottling using tangential filtration.
This wine comes from vines situated just above the family house and winery in the prime south-east facing Vallee de Nouys. Vinified in stainless steel with about 10% of this cuvee being aged in older 400 litre barrels. This is a classic vintage for dry Vouvray yielding wines of perfume, finesse and lip-smacking freshness. Aromas of pear candied fruit and spice with hints of honey and that distinctive chalkiness that is so typical of great Vouvray. Fine, brilliantly focused flavours with exceptional texture and length this shows the tension typical of great dry Vouvray
10. Reverie Pay's D'oc Grenache Rose 2019
Rose from the great South West
Reverie takes you on a journey through the vineyards of Languedoc-Roussillon, the sultry sun-baked territory along the Mediterranean coastline in Southern France. The warmer climes coupled with the maritime location produce wines that are full of flavour, bold, rich and textured that deliver excellent value.
That is exactly what you get with his Reverie Rose - sun in a bottle. It's peachy and citrusy on the nose with sea breeze, mineral edge. Light and easy with fresh cut fruits and summer berry coulis on the palate.
11. Stephane Aviron Beaujolais Village 2017
100% Village Gamay
Made in the Burgundian fashion, Aviron's wines have earned a reputation for ageworthiness and, in my experience, really demand the wait. At the very least, bottles of his Crus that are less than three years old should get a little air time in a decanter before serving. JOSH RAYNOLDS, Vinous
Wafting from the glass with aromas of plums and cherries, the 2017 Beaujolais-Villages is medium to full-bodied, velvety and succulent, with lively acids, powdery tannins and a sappy core of fruit. From the steep slopes around Quincié, this is a superior and well priced Beaujolais-Villages. WILLIAM KELLEY, The Wine Advocate
12. Ogier La Rosine Syrah 2017
100% Northern Rhone Syrah
Deep violet. Assertive, spice-accented red and blue fruit aromas are complemented by building spice and floral accents. Juicy and seamless in texture, offering palate-caressing raspberry, mulberry and violet pastille flavors given a spicy edge by a jolt of cracked pepper. Smooth tannins lend gentle grip to a long, energetic finish that echoes the red fruit note. JOSH RAYNOLDS, Vinous