Wine: French favourites

While France's first lady was seducing the audience of Later with Jools Holland, the country itself was coming to terms with the fact that this year's wine crop will be overtaken by Italy by some 500 million bottles. However, at least one French commentator had the nous to point out that its exports were still nearly double those of Italy. Anyway, he went on, "we are responding to the needs of a market that wants to drink less but better". He would say that, but over the past few years, competition from the New World has put a much-needed boot into the Gallic derrière. The French have also had to contend with the outlawing of advertising wine on the net because of its stringent anti-alcohol laws.

It's not all bad news from over the Channel. One bright spot in the tasting calendar is an annual event put on by the wine branch of France's trade organisation, Sopexa, called Absolutely Cracking Wines from France. The idea for the tasting followed the launch of Andrew Jefford's seminal book, The New France, in 2002, and it has endured. Wine critics are invited to contribute three wines in categories at under £6, under £10 and over £10. The stand-out categories in this year's 62-strong tasting were white wines from the Loire and south-west, white burgundies, reds from the Rhône, and reds and whites from Languedoc-Roussillon. The main let-downs, more from lack of presence than quality, were red bordeaux and champagnes, although red burgundies suffered on both counts.

The Loire showed the quality of its chenin blanc, the underrated grape of Vouvray and Anjou. To compete with New-World brands, the enterprising Englishman Charles Sydney has created the La Grille name for wines made to order. Gwenaël Guihard's 2007 La Grille Cool-fermented Chenin Blanc, £5.99, Majestic, is one example, an appley, fresh vouvray-style dry white with a touch of honey to it. Fuller-bodied and richer, Philippe Germain's 2006 La Grille, Classic Barrel-fermented Chenin Blanc, £8.25, Waitrose, is a food-friendly dry white with fine body and richness. There were some excellent white burgundies too, among them Christophe Cordier's stylish 2007 Milly Lamartine, £11.99, Majestic, a chardonnay whose toasty, aromatic quality is underscored by crafted complexity, the opulent, pineappley 2005 Thévenet Tradition, Domaine de Roally, £17.99, or £11.99 if you buy three, Thresher / Wine Rack, and the full-flavoured, would-be meursault style of the 2006 Saint-Aubin, Murgers des Dents de Chien, £16.99, Waitrose.

Bordeaux and good value are not always comfortable bedfellows, but there were a couple of oxymoron-defying examples, a herbal, blackcurranty 2004 Château Chadeuil, £4.85, a discovery at Bordeaux Undiscovered and in a superior league, a classic modern cherry and cassis-laden 2005 Lea & Sandeman Claret, £7.95, or £6.95 bottle / case, skilfully leavened with cedary oak. Maybe we shouldn't be surprised at this new development. Bordeaux is one of the few regions to have bucked the downward export trend of French wines and the high-priced euro by doubling the value of mid- to higher-quality reds sent to the UK last year. Much of this it seems has to do with the glowing reputation of 2005 bordeaux and the lesser vintages that followed. More good value clarets for the autumn and winter will be a recurring theme here.

For a fuller report of this wine tasting and others, visit my new joint-venture website Subscription is free to the end of October.

sportWWE latest including Sting vs Triple H, Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    SFL Group: Video Project Manager

    £24,000 pa, plus benefits: SFL Group: Looking for a hard-working and self-moti...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Reservations Assistant - French Speaking

    £16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding travel c...

    Recruitment Genius: Duty Manager - World-Famous London Museum

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you have a strong record of ...

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Assistant

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will have demonstrable unde...

    Day In a Page

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor