Our list of best Provence wines

A growing collection of Provence wine discoveries for 2017

Top picks for March:

  1. Chateau Unang, La Source, Cote du Ventoux, Price around €14

Chateau Unang RougeI’ve always been partial to wines from the Cote du Ventoux. Too many southern reds are heat baked and over blown, they pack a punch but lack subtlety. They’re perfect for basic dishes like slow cooked lamb shank and for summer tourists accustomed to getting pickled on Majestic’s finest Chilean red, but they frequently leave me longing for a touch of finesse.

This is where the Cote du Ventoux comes in. The area has long been underestimated, and has such an image problem that the producers now downplay the ‘Ventoux’ geographic designation preferring to describe themselves as Rhone Valley vineyards. I always pick up a couple of bottles of Chateau Pesquie whenever I see it. And now I have another Ventoux favourite – Unang. Setting aside the name which sounds like an obscure Chinese dialect or village, the wines are a revelation.

I’ve stocked up on the 2014 La Source, a combination of Syrah, Cinsault and Grenache delivering strong tannins with that lovely mineral edge I so admire in the wines of the region. It’s currently my wine of choice for a Cote de Boeuf and gratin dauphinois, which is high praise indeed for any wine.

2. Domaine de Lauzieres – Persephone Red, Les Baux de Provence, Price around €14

Domaines LauziereWhen you taste a wine you are tasting the terroir from which it came. At it’s most basic level terroir means the earth or soil in which the grapes are planted.  However, the word is often more broadly used to describe not only the soil but also the weather and the philosophy of the vigneron responsible for the wine.

And when you taste the Persephone Red from Domaine de Lauzieres, it is easy to be transported to the heat baked plans of Les Baux de Provence, the olive groves and rocky outcrops. The rounded wine is full of the scent of pine, and to taste there’s red fruit and black cherry. The ease with which the wine is associated with it’s soil, is probably due to the biodynamic farming (working in accordance with the cycles of the moon) which is the most natural way of working the land. Whatever the reason the wine is set to become a March staple.

3. Domaine de la Verriere, Goult, Price around €8

DSC9416-bisProvence is of course the land of rose. Somehow the whites never quite measure up to the food, the landscape and the bright blue sky. The one white grape variety which I think works well in Provence is Viognier. It’s light, it’s fragrant and it’s full of perfume. I just love this example from Domaine La Verriere in Goult.

 

Top pick for April

Perrin Family VinsobresThe Perrin family never did anything to me. So I am not quite sure what I had against them for so long. Perhaps it is the bottom of the range Vieille Ferme, Cote du Rhone they produce – cheap bottles, cheap wine, big marketing budget. More likely it is the connection that they had with Brad and Angelina Jolie, using the Hollywood brand to launch a top of the range pink – Miraval. The bottle shape is ridiculous and the wine overpriced, but as a result of the hype it sold well.

 

Fast forward to the divorce, and for the first time I felt like going into the posh Perrin family shop that bestrides the top of the Cours Mirabeau in Aix en Provence. I was curious.  ‘What was going to happen to the Miraval brand now?’ I asked the shop assistant. Nothing I was informed the Chateau belonged to Brad and Ange’s children and the wine would continue to be made. Well if you are on to a good thing why stop?

 

While in the shop I picked up a bottle of Vinsobres. Winesober, the name just made me laugh so I reasoned it had to be worth a go. I had never heard of the appellation before. Turns out it is not far from Nyon, the olive capital of the south, and was the first of the Drome Provencal wines to gain Cru class designation in 2006. The land is high, the climate warm, and the wine (syrah based) full of finesse, and blackberry flavours. At under 10 euros a bottle it is also an absolute steal. So now the Perrin family are by new best friends. Forget the first two paragraphs, buddy-up with the Perrins like me, and drink as mush (sic) Vinsobres as possible. It has magic qualities – apparently because of the name, you never get drunk. Honest!

 

 

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