Get involved! Send your photos, video, news & views by texting KS NEWS to 80360 or e-mail us
7:00am Saturday 24th August 2013 in Lifestyle
Fancy a drink? Our drinks columnist Sam Wylie-Harris heads to the sunny Languedoc-Roussillon and pulls the cork on some award-winning wines.
With most of France 'en vacances', August is one of the busiest months to visit the southern part of the country. But for a grape escape without the masses, Languedoc-Roussillon is a vast vineyard snaking from east to west, offering rich pickings for wine lovers.
Before the summer, the region's winemakers were invited to enter the Sud de France Top 100 competition to find the best wines from the region. Almost 600 were narrowed down to 100 by drinks experts across the UK, with whites representing around 35% of the final selection, chardonnay coming out on top, and reds representing 60%. This was an impressive result for the blondes because red grapes dominate the landscape and only 13% of production is white wine.
At present, the majority of winning wines aren't available to consumers in the UK. However, to appreciate the rural charm of those that are, here's a snapshot of the judges' favourites.
Supermarket own-label wines shouldn't be sniffed at and even wine snobs will be bowled over by Finest Costieres de Pomerols 2012, AOC Picpoul de Pinet (£7.49, Tesco). Native to the Languedoc, the picpoul grape is becoming increasingly fashionable in wine circles and this deliciously refreshing summer wine topped the leader board by being voted Best White and Best AOC Wine. Aromatic and light with an orchard of lemony fruit flavours and good acidity (which is probably why its so popular in the sun-drenched south), it's a great choice for ice-buckets at lunchtime.
A wine that bridges the gap between chardonnay and sauvignon blanc, viognier is widely planted here too, and at its best is aromatic and creamy with exotic flavours of apricot. Winemaker Laurent Miguel scored with his Laurent Miquel, Nord Sud Viognier 2011, IGP Pays d'Oc (£9.99 or £8.99 each when you buy 2, Majestic), a bright white with creamed apricot and glazed stone fruits that glide along with scents of nectarine and a subtle hint of oak on the finish.
Another polished wine, Domaine les Quatre Pilas 2011, Languedoc AOP (£8.49, Laithwaites.co.uk) may not have been vetted in the Sud de France Top 100, but it was picked out by Jancis Robinson when she blind-tasted more than 100 wines from the Languedoc-Roussillon, which is more than enough testament to the winemaker's skills. A blend of vermentino, roussanne and viognier, the flavours charge together to produce a burst of white peach, round, honeyed fruit and perfectly balanced acidity on the mouth-watering finish.
Lying between the Mediterranean and the mountains, the diverse terrain of the Languedoc-Roussillon is widely planted with syrah, grenache, mouvedre, carignan and cinsault which lend baskets of flavour to the red corner of the tasting.
Enjoying a bumper summer, the Wine Society has been voted Wine Merchant of the Year for the second time in three years, and Wine Club of the Year for the third consecutive year at the IWC (International Wine Challenge). And with little gems like their Ollieux Romanis, The Society's Cuvee 2011, AOC Corbieres (£7.25, www.thewinesociety.com) from the rugged terrain of Corbieres, it's easy to see why the judges took a shine to it - and why members are keeping their wine racks well-stocked. A blend of carignan, grenache and syrah with a splash of mouvedre, this violet beauty is jammed with juicy cherry and strawberry fruits and notes of herbs.
Closer to the Spanish border where the sun shines 325 days a year, Vignerons de Caramany, Carmagnole Prestige 2011, AOC Cotes du Roussillon Villages Caramany (£9.99, Marks & Spencer) is made from old vine carignan, syrah and grenache. It's soft and voluptuous with earthy aromas, and a spicy core of juicy red fruits with subtle tannins.
Another jammy, ripe red with plenty of gusto, Clos du Serres, Les Maros 2011, AOC Languedoc Terrases du Larzac (£12.75, www.cambridgewine.com) is a blend of grenache, cinsault and carignan with textured berry fruits and herbs that extend through the long, lingering finish.
Inexpensive and easy to drink, The Exquisite Collection Sud de France, Grenache, Syrah, Mouvedre 2011 (£5.99, Aldi, from now until October) is a little gem crafted by Jean-Claude Mas for Aldi. One of the most famous Languedoc producers, Mas has won hundreds of awards for his wines and while this delightful ruby red wasn't one of his trophy winners, it punches well above its weight and shouldn't be overlooked.
:: Best buy
New vintage, new look! Villa Maria have released their latest sauvignon blanc, Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Marlborough, New Zealand (£10.99, Sainsbury's), and not only does it taste quite delightful but this famous Kiwi white has had a makeover too. With a more contemporary look, the label, capsule and logo have been redesigned and the timing couldn't be better. The 2013 vintage shows exceptional fruit quality with gooseberry and passion fruit flavours that leap from the glass, and a crisp backbone of acidity keeping it all in check.
:: Liquid news
Flowing with expectation... To complement the summer revival of open-air film screenings around the country, the Champagne Bureau have put together a guide to pairing different styles of champagne with film genres to add some extra fizz to your alfresco cinema experience.
Not that many of us need an excuse to pop the cork on a bottle of champagne, but movie-lovers looking for inspiration can try pairing the following styles with their favourite flick.
:: The Hollywood Classic - a full-bodied blanc de noirs champagne to reflect the themes of love and life. Made from two black grape varieties - pinot noir and pinot meunier, it will complement both the film and smoked salmon sandwiches.
:: The Action Adventure - a lively non-vintage champagne to spice things up and pair with chilli and nachos.
:: Romance - a rose champagne which will go with romantic summer foods such as lobster salads and prawns, or a vintage rose champagne to sip with take-away sushi.
:: An American Movie - a blanc des blancs champagne which is made from the chardonnay grape. The mineral overtones will match hot dogs, burgers and chips and act as the perfect foil to the salt and tomato ketchup.
:: For more info visit www.champagne.fr
Comments are closed on this article.