The largest wine-producing region in France, the Languedoc-Roussillon offers wine lovers rich pickings thanks to its diverse terrain, variety of grape styles and keenly priced bottles with baskets of flavour.
The Languedoc is steering away from its long history of producing bulk wine and g aining a reputation as the country’s answer to New World, especially with competitions like Sud de France Top 100 – the world’s biggest French wine competition.
Best known for its rich, ripe reds, 40 per cenr of this year’s Top 100 selection were actually white wines, an impressive result as only 13% of the region’s production is white wine.
Evocative of a pale, Provencal rose and star of the The Co-op’s Truly Irresistible range, Pic St Loup Rose, France (£6.99, available from beginning of September, The Co-operative) lives up to its name with a crisp core of cherry and wild berries and a hint of spice on the delicate, fresh finish, perfectly tuned to a long, balmy summer.
Domaines Paul Mas produces all our favourite styles – syrah (shiraz), grenache, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, viognier, chardonnay – but it was Les Domaines Paul Mas, Paul Mas Marsanne 2010, France (£7.99, The Co-operative) which won the judges over. It has a flowery nose with a soft, rich mouthfeel, pear and apricot fruits and a delectable, honeyed finish.
Bold, rich and classy reds such as Gerard Bertrand Syrah/Carignan 2012 Minervois, France (£7.49 from £9.99, now until August 7, Waitrose) from Minervois in the north-west are terrific any day, but match the cassis, lingering blackcurannt, spice, hint of black olives and velvety smooth finish with a Sunday roast and you’ve hit perfection.
The muscat grape comes in a variety of styles and trophy winner, Mas Amiel Muscat de Rivesaltes 2012, France (£10.99, 70cl, Waitrose) veers to the medium sweet side with an alluring, grapey nose which flowers into bergamot on the palate with crystalized orange and citrus fruits that slip down a treat.
The next three wineries weren’t involved in the Top 100 competition, but they still strongly demonstrate the diversity and standard of reds from the Languedoc.
Gourmandises Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Pays d’Oc, France (£8.99, Waitrose) would be a great choice ahead of the grouse season, aka the Glorious Twelfth (August 12), with the intense black forest fruits, firm structure and grippy tannins on the dry finish suiting the earthy flavours of game.
Gnarled, old vine carignan blankets the rugged countryside and labels such as Marquis de Saint Jean, Carignan Old Vines 2013, France (£6.99, Waitrose) actively promote this work-horse grape - and quite right too. The pure, flavoursome blackberry fruits are underpinned by dark cherry fruit and the brambly character conceals carignan’s naturally strong tannins in this very drinkable, light French table wine.
Meanwhile, the chalices on the label of Trois Calices Reserve Coteaux du Languedoc 2012, France (£8.99 from 9.99, www.virginwines.co.uk) are the first indication this wine is worthy of a goblet. A shiraz blend from three boutique estates, it’s full of character with bold flavours of raspberry, blackcurrant, spice and cocoa, a velvety texture and a hint of kirsch on the suave finish.