Pure enjoyment from Southern France: Richard Esling September 1

Autumn knocking at the door, kids going back to school (at last!) and holidays virtually over, whether on a Sussex beach or further afield.

Southern French wines SUS-200828-115229001
Southern French wines SUS-200828-115229001

I almost said, ‘Back to normal’, but unfortunately, we seem to be a long way off that yet. Time perhaps for a few satisfying red wines, for a last barbecue using up the remnants of the charcoal, with the sausages quietly steaming as it buckets down.

The Languedoc-Roussillon area of Southern France is a fabulous source of delicious red wines, with tremendous variety and a range of prices few of which will break the bank, even with some possibly hard times ahead.

There are a number of different Appellations, each area with its own definite characteristics, transposed into different wine styles and flavours.

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    The Wine Society has a really interesting selection of around 40 different wines from this region, all of which represent brilliant value for money.

    One of these is Chateau de Pennautier, which comes from the relatively small appellation of Cabardès, near the walled city of Carcassonne. An unusual appellation in that both Bordeaux and Rhone grape varieties are allowed in the blend. This is an area steeped in history, and the chateau dates from at least the fifteenth century.

    Currently run by the 10th generation of owners, the vineyards were replanted in the 1960’s at higher altitude, between 600 and 1,200 feet above sea level.

    Coolness from the mountains and an Atlantic influence, moderate the Mediterranean heat, retaining the desired acidity together with deep, luscious ripe fruit.

    Chateau de Pennautier 2015 is amazing value at only £9.95. The wine was aged for 12 months in oak and with now a few years of bottle age, complexity and depth has developed, alongside the supple tannins and plummy, spicy fruit.

    Equally delicious but subtly different is Chateau Sainte Eulalie 2017 from the Minervois region. Dark red, almost black, it is brimming with juicy, succulent, chewy fruit, like liquefied black cherries and blackberries. With satisfying length on the palate, it is almost poetical! £13.50 again from The Wine Society.

    Further west towards Spain, lies the Cotes du Roussillon region, in the shadow of the Pyrenees mountains.

    Ripe, generous wines are made here too, the warm dry climate influenced by the Mediterranean Sea being perfect for wine production. Mas Cristine, perched on the hills overlooking the sea has vineyards full of magnificent old vines, limiting quantity but favouring concentrated quality. The red is made from Grenache, Syrah and Carignan, hand harvested and aged in barrels for 10 months to enhance the rich flavours. Mas Cristine Rouge 2017 (moving soon to 2018) is a very appealing red, full of juicy red and black fruit flavours with a touch of spice, leather and fresh tobacco.

    Deep and concentrated with great length on the finish. Around £17.85 on-line or a little more from the Mayfair retailer Hedonism.

    Mas Cristine also produces an excellent white, with bags of peachy flavour, complexity, fruit, balance and length. Made from a blend of different grape varieties, including Macabeo, Grenache Blanc and Gris, together with a little Vermentino. Fermented and aged in oak to enhance structure and aroma.

    First class, top quality white from just inland of Collioure on the coast of the Med.