Les Vignes de l'Arque (France) Chardonnay 2004
One of the saddest things to have come out of the "Anything But Chardonnay" movement that (quite correctly) rebelled against cheap, blowsy, over-oaked and plank-flavoured wines, is that now all oaked Chardonnay is viewed with suspicion, if not downright derision. But equally, many people presented with a really tight, minerally, unoaked Chablis find it too severe and too lean. Here is a fine little wine that exemplifies the racy, lemon and style of its juicy, mouth-watering fruit, but which adds in a touch of tropical richness and a mouth-flattering hint of residual sugar to make a clean, crisp, food-friendly wine that is also easy to drink. £5.75
Les Vignes de l'Arque (France) Viognier 2004
Viognier is a fairly recent arrival in the Vin de Pays d'Oc, and this example from the excellent Les Vignes de l'Arque is a particularly racy, crisp example. It has the haunting pear and honeysuckle perfume that is typically Viognier, but whilst many wines become rather blowsy on the palate, this stays very sharp, very focused, with a light- to medium-body and only a little touch of dried apricot and a suggestion of nectarine before a sweep of clean, zesty acidity into the finish. How much you like this wine might depend on how much you like the full-frontal impact of some of other, larger scaled Viogniers, but it is very good indeed. £6.45
Les Vignes de l'Arque (France) Muscat 2004
It is quite unusual to find Muscat being grown and bottled as a dry white wine in the Languedoc, but this one has already been picking up medals in important wine shows. This has a lovely nose of fresh green grapes and a musky perfume, with notes of citrus and ripe melon skins. On the palate it has quite intense fruit, that has a sweetness to it, but the wine has a totally dry character, with a lemony clarity of fruit through the mid-palate, and plenty of mineral and lemon zest crispness in the finish. Very good indeed. £6.80.
es Vignes de l'Arque (France) Saveur d'Automne 2003
From the much hotter, riper 2003 vintage, this is a selection of late-harvested Viognier grapes, 100% barrel-fermented and aged. It has an absolutely sumptuous nose, laden with ripe figs and sweet, burstingly ripe apricots, and aromas of hot buttered crumpets, crème-brûlée and toasted hazelnut. Okay, that's a massive concoction of aromas, but this really is a sensationally aromatic wine. On the palate that toasty, vanilla and custard overlay adds smoky depth to sweet, beautifully ripe and yielding fruit. This more medium- to three-quarters sweet than off-dry, with a full, rich texture and really tropical fruit sweetness all brought alive by spices, cinnamon, and a twist of grapefruity acidity that just tweaks and pulls the finish, stretching longer and longer. A sensational wine this, and really quite unusual. Excellent.
Les Vignes de l'Arque (France) Merlot 2004
Winner of a Gold Medal at the 2005 Concours General in Paris, this merlot weighs in at 14% alcohol, showing the ripeness possible in the sunny South of France. It has a very smoky, tobacco and leather-scented nose, with all sorts of spices and schisty, mineral notes, and an edge of real earthiness and animal character. The palate is flooded with rich, ripe, very succulent blackcurrant fruit, dashed with black pepper and underpinned by a chocolate and spice darkness. Tannins and acidity are both well up to the mark, in a remarkable blockbuster wine at such a low price. Excellent. £5.95