carignan, cinsault, france, grenache, languedoc, mourvedre, provence, rhône, sardinia, syrah -

south of france

The south of France has always been a favorite place to visit for its beauty, its weather, its diverse geography, its food, and of course its wines. There's such a range of wines made, mostly red, but also plenty of rosé, a little bit of white, some fortified wine, and a small amount of sparkling. You don't have to venture far to try every style of wine—and at many different price points.


I've had rosé from the south of France in the club before, including from the famous village of Tavel and from Provence. Provençal rosé has transformed international styles, with the pale, barely pink color and herbal aromas. The most-renowned region is Bandol, which is a series of steep terraces rising above the Mediterranean sea just east of Marseille. Made mostly from Mourvèdre, the rosés are intense, structured, and powerful, and some of the finest, most ageworthy rosé made anywhere. A new addition to blackpoolmatt's wine club is Bastide de la Ciselette, who in 2010 became the 57th Bandol producer. The rosé combines the black fruits of Mourvèdre and the red fruits of Grenache and Cinsault, with vibrant acidity: a classic example of Bandol at an affordable price ($20).

the red blends

Another Provence wine is an unusual blend of Counoise, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Carignan. It's made by Domaine de la Brillane, who have been certified organic since 2004. The winery, located at 400m elevation, is just north of Aix-en-Provence, a small, beautiful city in the heart of the region. This is a fresh, fruity, go-to wine, at just $18.

Domaine du Séminaire is located further north in southern Rhône, also at elevation with cooling winds coming in from the Alps. The winery is based in the village of Valréas, which is one of the places that qualify for the Côtes du Rhône Villages appellation. A classic Rhône blend of 80% Grenache, 10% Carignan, and 10% Syrah, the 13% ABV demonstrates the wine's fresh, light touch and approachable style. Also at another great price: $20.

Further to the west in Languedoc, Domaine Clavel is based in Pic-St-Loup, an appellation named after the local mountain. I've always been a fan of the wines, visiting a couple of years ago. "Le Mas" is another classic Rhône/Mediterranean blend: 40% Syrah, 35% Grenache, 25% Mourvèdre, and it's just a delicious example. It's once again at an affordable price ($21) despite its very good quality.


A shout-out to Sardinia, which obviously isn't in the south of France but there's a strong French connection: it nearly touches Corsica, which is a short ferry-ride away, and the Kingdom of Sardinia became part of the Duchy of Savoie in the 1700s. The main black grape variety is Cannonau, which in Spain is called Garnacha and in France Grenache. The wines are a bit more rustic and bold in comparison, with characteristically dry, dusty Italian tannins. Pusole is a new winery founded in 2012, with the intent to express the warm Mediterranean climate of the large, rugged island. The winery is located near the coast, which gives the wine a freshness and appeal while remaining a fruity, forward wine. A little more pricey at $24...

The many regions which are connected by the Mediterranean share grape varieties and styles of wine, while always very much having their own identity. Besides varieties and climate, they also have one important aspect in common: the wines are great value for their quality.