HIDDEN GEMS OF FRANCE

HIDDEN GEMS OF FRANCE image

By Rose Murray Brown MW  Published in The Scotsman 14 April 2018

This week I have been searching out lesser known wines, regions and grapes across France:


Sparkling

Alsace: CREMANT D’ALSACE BRUT CUVEE PRESTIGE NV Kuehn (£12.99 Virgin Wines www.virginwines.co.uk)
Cremant d’Alsace is France’s most popular sparkling wine, but only 10% is exported, so UK wine lovers have yet to discover this fizzy bargain.  Made using the same method as Champagne, but with Alsace’s local Pinot Blanc grape – it is citric, appley with a creamy nutty palate.  Serve it, Alsatian-style, with madeleines or kougelhopf almond fruit cake: 11.5%


White

Languedoc: MONROUBY GRENACHE BLANC 2016
(£8.99-£9.99 Beer Hive, Edinburgh; Fine Wine Musselburgh; www.rudewines.co.uk; www.eclectictastes.co.uk)

Fresh unoaked well-priced full bodied Cotes de Thau white made by New Zealander Graeme Paul at Cave de Pomerols co-operative near Sete.  Grapes are from low lying hills cooled by a string of lakes at Bassin de Thau in eastern Languedoc from the little known white version of the Grenache grape: 12.5%

Languedoc: LA REVELATION CHASAN 2016 (£10.99 www.laithwaites.co.uk)   ***STAR BUY***
A limited release white from the rare Chasan, a grape created in the 1950’s by crossing Chardonnay with the Palomino grape of sherry renown.  This Chasan is made from low yielding 30 year old vines – it has a rich creamy silky smooth palate with impressive length – it could certainly be confused with a white Macon.  Better value than Burgundy: 13%

SW France: JURANCON SEC 2015 Domaine Bellegarde (£13.95 www.yapp.co.uk)
A wonderfully nervy tangy dry white from historic Jurancon, a forgotten region in the shadow of the Pyrenees, where the local dry Fohn winds keeps the area warm and dry in the autumn when dry whites are picked.  Pascal Labasse makes this vivid white from two little known grapes 70% Gros Manseng and 30% Caramalet grown organically: 13.5%

Loire: BLANC DE FRANC SEC 2016 Couly-Dutheil
(£15 Woodwinters, Edinburgh, Bridge of Allan & Inverness www.woodwinters.com)

An intriguing white wine made from red grapes.  The skins of Cabernet Franc might be red, but as the juice is white it is possible to make a white wine if the skins are not left to macerate and the pulpy flesh is pressed gently.  Made by Couly-Dutheil, a well-known Chinon winery.  Our tasters loved its appley flavours and full fleshy creamy texture: 13%

Loire: MONTLOUIS LES HAUT HUSSEAU 2015 Domaine de la Taille aux Loups
(£22 www.laithwaites.co.uk)   ***STAR BUY***  
                  
If you normally drink Vouvray or Saumur, try their little known neighbour Montlouis from celebrated winemaker Jacky Blot.  Locally known as the maestro of Montlouis, Blot has crafted a really stylish poised silky Chenin Blanc with zesty vivid acidity from old organically tended vines grown on calcaire soils in his special high Husseau plot.  Superb: 12.5%


Red
                   
Rhone: VINSOBRES 2015 Domaine Croze-Brunet (£7.99 Lidl)

The Drome-based Vinsobres appellation, about 40 kilometres north of Chateauneuf du Pape, makes similar but slightly humbler reds from the classic southern Rhone trio of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre.  Soft, herby, spicy plum flavours at a very good price: 14%

SW France: GAILLAC ROUGE 2016 Chateau l’Enclos des Roses 2016 (£10.95 The Wine Society www.thewinesociety.com)
From two obscure grapes, Duras and Prunelard grown north east of Toulouse on the banks of the Tarn.  Duras gives peppery flavours, it may be related to Petit Verdot, whilst ancient revered Prunelard grape, similar to Malbec, adds wonderful plummy spiciness to Gaillac red blends.  Our tasters enjoyed the deep ruby colour and spicy finish: 13.5%

Roussillon: GRENACHE NOIR 2015 Domaine Jones
(£12.50 The Wine Society www.thewinesociety.com)    ***STAR BUY***

Made by Englishwoman Katie Jones from 90 year old vines grown on rugged schist soils in Maury on the edge of the Garrigue.  An astonishing vivid unoaked rendition of this peppery grape with lovely succulent ripe fruits, a wonderful wine to enjoy right now with a platter of charcuterie – not for the long haul: 14.5%

SW France: CAHORS CUVEE PRESTIGE 2014 Chateau Vincens
(£9.99 Rude Wines www.rudewines.co.uk)

If you normally drink Argentinian Malbec, this lush black fruited Malbec from south west France will definitely suit.  Our tasters loved its upfront plummy fruitiness and dark chocolate notes, it does have more robust tannins and earthiness than you find in the New World.  Made from 80% Malbec 20% Merlot blend grown in a remote vineyard near Luzech in the beautiful Lot valley by brother and sister, Philippe & Isabelle Vincens: 13.5%

Rhone: LIRAC ROUGE 2015 Moulin des Chenes (£14 Oddbins)   ***STAR BUY***
A brilliant find from little known Lirac and star value buy at our recent Rhone tasting.  Soft herby liquorice undertones, smooth sweet and unctuous red with tobacco undertones.  If you normally drink Chateauneuf du Pape, head across the river to Lirac, an undervalued appellation making this wonderful blend of Cinsault, Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre: 14%
                                                       
Roussillon: COLLIOURE LE VOILE DE PAULILLES 2015
(£11 reduced from £13 Marks & Spencer)

If you like your reds deep, spicy and gutsy try this 60% Grenache 20% Syrah 10% Mourvedre blend from sun-baked schistous slopes near the French-Catalan coastal region in the Pyrenees foothills.  Loved its vibrancy, black cherry fruits and soft oaking: 14%

Languedoc: MINERVOIS LO PAIRE 2013 La Croix St Jean (£21.99 Henderson Wines; Cornelius Wines; Herbies; Fine Wine Musselburgh; Vino wine shops, Edinburgh; Luvians, Cupar; Markinch Wine Gallery)  ***STAR BUY***
A fresh juicy spicy blend of predominantly Grenache with Syrah with a raspberry and smoky aroma and minerally tinge.  Made by Michel Fabre in cool Les Causses on schist and limestone soils in the north east of Minervois, made by Michel Fabre named after Robert his father - Lo Paire means father in Occitan: 14.5%


Join Rose’s Hidden Gems of France wine and charcuterie tasting at The Scores Hotel, St Andrews on Friday 18 May £36 www.rosemurraybrown.com