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Top ten classic French wines for £20 or under

Published: July 11, 2015
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This week we look at the ­classic regions of France to give you our top ten ­favourite wines for summer drinking up to around £20.


Loire: VOUVRAY PETILLANT L’ANCESTRALE 2010 Vincent Careme (£20.50, Berry Bros & Rudd)

This is the most delightful petillant (slightly fizzy) chenin blanc that I have tasted from the Loire, with a wonderfully elegant palate, apple flavours, touch of yeast and a fabulous racy minerality. Vincent Careme is a dynamic young winemaker who runs a small 15 hectare domaine in Vouvray, with his South African wife Tania. He established his own domaine from scratch in 1999 – his parents were cereal farmers. He believes that good sun exposure and well drained soils – as well as successive passages through the vineyards at picking – are the key to success with chenin blanc in the Loire.

Alsace: RIESLING, CLOS ST JACQUES 2011 Domaine Viticole de la Ville de Colmar (£14, Majestic Wine)

If it’s dry maturity you’re after, don’t miss this Alsace riesling from a single vineyard, just over ten hectares in size, near the town of Colmar. Colmar is the second driest town in France (after Perpignan), protected by the high Vosges mountains to the west. The warm, dry conditions and stony soils create very focused riesling with floral and lime notes, and a crisp, dry palate with honeyed notes from its extended time in bottle.

Bordeaux: CHATEAU DU SEUIL GRAVES BLANC 2012 (£13.99, Virgin Wines,

A well-priced example of dry white Bordeaux with 70 per cent semillon and 30 per cent sauvignon blanc in the blend, the resulting wine has a citric and honey flavour from the semillon and a vibrant acidity from the sauvignon. There is a very slight smokiness to the palate from part-fermentation in French oak, but with a bone dry finish, making it an ideal match with smoked chicken or fish. This chateau is Welsh-owned and is a worthy Decanter Magazine award winner.

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Loire: POUILLY FUME ‘RENAISSANCE’ 2012 Domaine de la Loge (£16.99, Raeburn Wines, Edinburgh)

Pouilly Fume is a hugely popular appellation, but many of its wines are now getting over-priced. This 2012 from a small grower is both affordable and extremely well made. It has a lovely creamy weight to the palate, beautifully balanced with a minerally edge and a bone dry finish. Made by David Millet at Domaine de la Loge, who owns 19 hectares of vineyards near Soumard, the winemaker’s focus is on getting the best out of his different plots. Like its neighbour Sancerre, the appellation of Pouilly Fume has a large mix of soils which allows producers great blending scope.

Burgundy: ST VERAN EN FAUX 2012 Domaine Cordier (£17, The Wine Society,

This is from one of my favourite Maconnais producers, Christophe Cordier, who makes some of the best Pouilly Fuisse and their look-alikes from his immaculately-kept cellars in Fuisse. He owns 100 different parcels of vines across eight different villages. This is a fabulous, rich, vibrant St Veran, so an ideal wine for those who usually buy Pouilly Fuisse. It is oaked, but beautifully balanced. Check out Cordier’s other St Verans – he makes ten different St Verans in total – as they are all good.

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Chablis: CHABLIS PREMIER CRU VAILLONS 2012 William Fevre (£20.99, Waitrose)

It is hard to find a premier cru Chablis at a decent price, particularly from a top notch domaine like William Fevre. This vintage is apparently exclusive to Waitrose – and can sometimes be found on offer at six or 12 bottles if you wanted to buy more than one. A step up from standard Chablis, it hails from the sunny early ripening Vaillons vineyard (organic since 2006). This Chablis is dry, clean, well-structured, with a touch of oak and lovely natural acid core – a perfect accompaniment for richer textured seafood like monkfish or scallops.


Bordeaux: CHATEAU PUY CASTERA 2007 (£18-£20 The Haslemere Cellar,; Noble Green Wines,;  The Wine Library,

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Look out for 2007 Bordeaux right now as some is now soft, supple and beautifully matured like this Haut Medoc Cru Bourgeois. It’s made in a classic left bank style predominately with cabernet sauvignon which ripens well on the gravelly soils here right on the border with St Estephe. Owner Alix Mares took over from her father and uncle ten years ago. Forward, lush, attractive and mature – drink now.

Northern Rhone: ST JOSEPH ‘OFFERUS’ 2001 Chave (£17.99, Raeburn Wines)

For those who like a meaty peppery syrah with undertones of black olives, liquorice and a good grippy finish, this is fantastic value considering its age and pedigree. Made by top winemaker Jean Louis Chave – this is an authentic traditional northern Rhone syrah. St Joseph is a huge appellation of 1,000 hectares, so there are a lot of mediocre wines on the market from this AC. A great price for a mature wine.

Beaujolais: FLEURIE VIEILLES VIGNES LE VIVIER 2012 Domaine Lardy (£13.65, L’Art du Vin, Dunfermline, 01383 873 510,

I discovered this enchanting Fleurie in a restaurant and was delighted to find it available with a Scottish winemerchant L’Art du Vin (who incidentally are a great source of classic French wines). This is made by the creator of Terroirs Originels, Lucien Lardy who farms his tiny two hectares organically in two Crus of Beaujolais: Fleurie and Moulin a Vent. This is from his older Fleurie vines; a lovely, classic, juicy, red fruited Fleurie, light for a red, but just perfect for serving with a summer platter of charcuterie and pâté.

Languedoc: LES COCALIERES ROUGE 2010 Domaine D’Aupilhac (£19.75, Berry Bros & Rudd,

Renowned organic producer Sylvain Fadat with his wife Desiree makes some of the most stylish Languedoc reds near Montpeyroux, north of Montpellier. This syrah, grenache and mourvedre blend hails from north west facing slopes 350 metres up on the site of a prehistoric lake. Soils here are volcanic and limestone, giving the syrah a fabulous freshness and pepper undertone. Try with roasted duck or pigeon.

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