wine-pages.com
Tom Cannavan's wine-pages.com   

wines from southern France

by Tom Cannavan, 02/06

white

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.

red

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

Les Vignes de l'Arque (France) Duche d'Uzes 2004
This Grenache and Syrah blend is aged in oak barrels for four months and packs 14.5% ABV. I rated the last vintage of this that I tasted as "Excellent". This has a very dark and savoury black plum and cedar nose, with a touch of warming, baked fruit pie and plenty of spices and a distinct peppery kick. On the palate it is juicy and full, but it is a more restrained and sophisticated wine that the Merlot above, with lovely ripe tannins and a broad, sweeping integration of fruit, oak and plummy acidity. It is excellent again. £8.50

Les Vignes de l'Arque (France) VdP Duche d'Uzes 2001
This vintage weighs in at 13.5% alcohol. The colour is a dark, dense ruby. The nose has an intense, pungent peppery spice aroma with masses of powerful damson and black cherry fruit, and a warming layer of toasty, mellow baked plum-pie. The palate is very concentrated with powerful, bracing flavours that marry spicy, thick tannins to dramatically dark and rasping fruit with a bittersweet, roughening plumskin quality, yet little glimpses of really sweet raspberry and chocolate fruit. The finish is mouth coating with a thick-textured, dry layer of fruit, smoky oak and tannin, in a very impressive wine. Excellent

Les Vignes de l'Arque (France) Terroir de l'Arque 2004
In its tall, screen-printed bottle this wine looks very different from the rest of the Vignes de l'Arque range, and is 100% Grenache with only moderate oak, if any. This wine is all about intensity and concentration, and has a really vivid, liquorice-tinged blackness on the nose, with aromas of cherry and black plum, and a nice earthiness emerging. It if juicy and attractive, without being at all jammy. On the palate this is really tight and concentrated. I recommend decanting this for several hours before pouring, or sticking it away in the cellar for a few years. At present it is fairly tight and slightly monolithic, but a I have no doubt whatsoever that it is an excellent wine, just a little too young at present. £8.25

Les Vignes de l'Arque (France) Cuvee des Boissierres 2004
Aged in oak for nine months, this is 100% Merlot and is another wine I have rated highly in previous vintages. There's a herbal note to the nose here, and a slightly leafy character - though that is definitely not lack of ripeness. It is quite fragrant, with little notes of Sandalwood, black cherry fruit and a hint of chocolate. On the palate this is a dry style of wine. It lacks the lusciousness of some of Les Vignes de l'Arque's other wines, but then it has structure and a very powerful, solid character that makes it really very appealing. Definitely a food wine, with a cleansing acidity, this is very good indeed. £8.40