What to drink this week
Co-operative wineries used not to be the byword for quality. They arose all over Europe, but especially in the South of France and parts of Italy in the 1930s, as a response to the Great Depression, so vignerons could use communal facilities for making, bottling and marketing wine. They were a great social achievement, but not necessarily sources of really fine wine.
Why you should be drinking them
That old story has been undergoing revision for some time now. Canny wine buyers have long known of certain excellent French co-ops, such as La Chablisienne in Chablis, the Turckheim co-op in Alsace and the Le Mesnil co-op in Champagne, making grand cru Champagnes in one of the region’s greatest wine villages. Now, the south islands of Italy and the south of France have very good co-ops as well.
What to drink
One of the best is Les Vignobles Foncalieu. Foncalieu vinifies an astonishing amount of wine from 4,500 hectares (11,120 acres) of vines, but maintains really good quality across the range, rising to some true peaks of quality. In the Les Extraordinaires range, I especially enjoyed the Griset Rosé 2014 (below, £8.99; www.henningswine. co.uk), made from Sauvignon Gris, with an unusual grapefruity nose, crisp and fresh on the palate, and the complex, floral and rounded Petit Paradis, Saint Chinian Blanc 2013 (£9.99; www.finewinesdirectuk.com). In its L’atelier Prestige range, Foncalieu works with individual producers making tiny quantities. I was most impressed by L’apogée Saint Chinian 2013 (£21.99; www. finewinesdirectuk.com), big and brooding with a lovely violety note on the nose and fine acidity on the palate.