What to drink this week

French co-ops

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country Notebook -

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.

Harry Eyres

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.

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