Wine: In the red Pays d'Oc
France's Mediterranean Pays d'Oc wines are the antidote to French bureaucracy. The rule book controlling the appellation for the Languedoc region is replaced by liberating experimentation and labelled Pays d'Oc.
Here, amid the ripening vineyards cooled by sea breezes and carrying the fragrance of the garrigue - the wild rosemary, thyme and lavender - are planted grape varieties from other regions of France. It is this marriage of the parochial with non-native grapes that gives the Pays d'Oc wines their appeal. Coupled with a perfect balmy climate and serious upgrading of the wineries, the Pays d'Oc wines are a safe bet for reliable quality and value.
Wine of the week: 1) Le Petit Pont Réserve 2014 12.5pc
Very accomplished and savoury blend of locals Grenache and Cinsault with Bordeaux's Merlot. Herbal highlights from the local wild lavender, rosemary and thyme. Serve with a tomato and garlic stew of white beans and smoked bacon.
€11.60 at Wines Direct wine shop, Mullingar and winesdirect.ie.
2) Malbec 2014, Élevé 13pc
Delicious depth of blackberries and damsons that sustain their concentration at length. Needs a rich and earthy meaty dish - duck cassoulet.
€12.80 online at winesoftheworld.ie.
3) Cabernet Sauvignon 2104, Domaine Preignes le Vieux 13pc
Savoury aromas of sausage meat. Classic Cabernet blackcurrant character with firm but friendly tannins and a local herbal garrigue accent of terroir. Loves roast lamb with rosemary and garlic.
€12.70 at Wines Direct wine shop, Mullingar and winesdirect.ie.
4) Merlot 2013, Granfort 13pc
Tasty, with a fresh and juicy plum palate well balanced with moderate alcohol, tannin and acidity. Finishes with a little chocolate richness. Equally comfortable with either roast poultry or pork.
€12.30 online at winesoftheworld.ie.
5) Syrah 2014, Baron de Badassière 13pc
Intense attack on the taste buds of inky blackberry fruits that linger on the finish. Good with venison.
€13.99 at Egan's, Portlaoise; Number 21, Cork; Wine Well, Dunboyne; World Wide Wines, Waterford and wineonline.ie. In Dublin: Fresh (Grand Canal Square, Smithfield, Camden Street & IFSC); Anderson's; Fallon & Byrne and Martin's.
6) Syrah 2013, Villa Blanche, Calmel & Joseph 13pc
Benchmark mature Syrah's pork bouquet. Very savoury palate supported by firm meat-tenderising tannins. Try with steak in a creamy black pepper sauce with a thimble of Irish whiskey.
€13.99 in Dublin at Celtic Whiskey Shop & Wines on the Green, Dawson Street; McCabe's, Blackrock and the Gables Foxrock
Value buy: Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Pays d'Oc 12pc
Very pretty with typical elderflower aromas and crunchy green apple flavours. Young and vibrant.
€6.99 at Lidl nationwide
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Enjoy the research.