Anthony Rose: 'There are excellent co-operatives producing quality wines throughout France'


Bastille Day: an opportunity to arm yourself with a bottle in celebration of the revolutionary fraternity of that horny-handed son of the terroir, the French vigneron. The Gironde was once the breeding ground of the counter-revolution and the Bordeaux château remains today a symbol of capitalist enterprise. The French co-operative movement, in contrast, bands together groups of like-minded individuals with small vineyard parcels.

Throughout France, there are excellent co-operatives producing quality wines. Consider the Cave de Prissé and Cave de Chablis at opposite geographical poles of Burgundy. Prissé's basic Mâcon in its 2011 Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Mâcon-Villages, £6.99, Sainsbury's, is a spritz-fresh chardonnay, while the Cave des Vigneron's 2010 Chablis, £10.99, Waitrose, combines the flavours of the chardonnay grape with mouthwatering acidity.

The Plaimont Co-operative's Tesco's 2011 Finest* Côtes de Gascogne, £4.99, down from £7.99, or £4.74 bottle/case, is a zesty white made from the local gros manseng grape with a dash of sauvignon blanc. Further south, the Sieur d'Arques co-operative makes both good fizz and a mean chardonnay, the 2009 Les Bénédictins Chardonnay, Limoux, £12.99, Laithwaites, a burgundian-style dry white with a clean bite. If you can keep your head when others are losing theirs? Marie-Antoinette might have kept hers if she'd let them drink the fine proletarian Champagne Philizot, £12.99, Aldi.

In Robin Hood fashion, our own Co-op has stormed the stronghold of Charles and Piper Heidsieck to stock one of the greatest value vintage champagnes on any retail shelf in the 2004 Les Pionniers Champagne, £24.99, The Co-operative, a fizz with fabulous depth of flavour and guillotine-sharp crispness.