Surprisingly, Languedoc growers – often considered anything but French winemaking “insiders” – have a sub-group that calls itself “The Outsiders”.
With members from eight countries as distant as New Zealand and America, the group – pictured below – may literally be étrangères, but they love the region’s diverse terroir and open-minded approach to wine as dearly as any local.
They certainly do an excellent job capturing the Mediterranean-style ripe, herbal and sometimes rustic flavours that typify so many reds from thereabouts.
For example, former top Bordeaux winemaker Eric Fabre’s mineral and elderberry-centred 2013 Château D’Anglès Classique reflects exactly that spirit but is hard to find over here. My top choice red, though, is the bright, floral 2014 Domaine Les Yeuses Les Épices Syrah (Majestic have the 2013 at £7.99) with bold bramble and raspberry fruit nicely supplemented by herb, cinnamon and savoury touches.
However, the absolute revelation came when I tried two “Outsider” whites.
Château Rives-Blanques produces impressive apple and quince-based Blanquette de Limoux but also makes a rare still wine from the same mauzac grape variety. The latter, the 2015 Château Rives-Blanques Occitania (£11.50 at www.cambridgewine.com), is frankly superb. Its light, perfumed, peach components (vaguely resembling a viognier but with less viscosity) are embellished by mint, nutmeg and a firm prickle of apple acidity.
The other star producer is a Scot. Ruth Simpson was born in Inverness but is now in her 14th year in Languedoc. There, she and husband Charles make the aromatic, floral, redcurrant and crab apple-centred 2015 Domaine Sainte Rose Coquille D’Oc Rosé (£7.49 at Waitrose).
Their superstar though is 2013 Domaine Sainte Rose Barrel Selection Roussanne (£11.99 at www.waitrosecellar.com) which is a creamily textured, nutty, grapefruit and apple-based wine with oak-derived suggestions of butter and vanilla.
The Simpsons have recently also acquired vineyards in Kent, so stand by for an “Outsiders” take on English sparkling wine.
2015 Campo Viejo Viura-Tempranillo Blanco
Spain, 12 per cent
Time was when white Rioja was much more miss than hit, but this version – adding the recently discovered white mutation of tempranillo to the traditional viura – is excellent. Enjoy its lively, perfumed grapefruit and apple fruit wrapped with smooth, pear-centred texture and embellished by touches of custard cream and sweetish spices.
£8 at Sainsbury’s
Bodegas Cayetano del Pino Palo Cortado
Jerez, 20 per cent
Tomorrow sees the start of the two-week Sherry Festival. To find participating retailers visit www.sherry.wine. As an appetiser, try this brilliant palo cortado with its backbone of dried fruit, nuts and spice but nicely balanced by nippy acidity and strong orange influences.
£11.49 for a half bottle at Waitrose or www.waitrosecellar.com
• For regular recommendations on good value wines go to www.midweekwines.co.uk