SITTING in the garden outside his chateau, Jean-Francois Meynard’s arms are whirling so fast that it looks like the winemaker might be about to take-off at any moment. He’s regaling his guests with stories from the vineyard – including how his son was roped into pruning leaves on the previous day after asking his father for pocket money.
Jean-Francois and Christelle, his wife and business partner, are generous hosts and the wine is soon flowing. Their Chateau Roque le Mayne 2014 (£8.99) is about to star in discount supermarket chain Lidl’s latest Wine Cellar promotion – which kicks offs on 29 September with a distinctly French theme – and the couple are keen to show the wines at their best in amongst the monkfish salad, local Limousin beef steak and lemon tart being served at the picnic in their garden.
They are introducing the wine to members of the press at their vineyard in Cotes de Castillon, an area bordering the picturesque village of Saint-Emilion on the right bank of River Dordogne in Bordeaux. Like its more famous neighbour, wines made in Castillon favour Merlot over Cabernet Sauvignon, with the Meynards also growing the traditional Bordelais varieties of Petit Verdot and Cot – know better known as Malbec – to add to their blends.
The 2014 is full of blackcurrant and black cherry aromas and flavours, harmonising with sweeter vanilla from its time spent ageing in oak. The wine’s bright acidity and firm yet smooth tannins make it an ideal match for roast meat and casseroles.
After disappearing back inside the chateau, Jean-Francois reappears with a sample of his 2015 wine, which is still maturing in its oak barrels. He’s blended 80 per cent Merlot with 15 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon and 5 per cent Malbec – a classic right-bank combination – and the results are delicious, with plum, juicy black cherry and sweet spices of cinnamon and vanilla. Though it is still several months away from being bottled, the wine is showing tonnes of promise.
Across the water in Saint-Estephe on the left bank of the Gironde estuary, Chateau Tour de Pez manager Franck Duprat is also keen to introduce his wines to the press. His Les Hauts de Pez 2012 (£12.99) will feature in the latest Lidl promotion, with its familiar black fruit flavours mingling with mint, redcurrant and plum, alongside smoky oak notes on the nose.
Cabernet Sauvignon normally dominates over Merlot in the Medoc area on the left bank, but here the winemaker has blended more Merlot in the Les Hauts de Pez, providing lots of concentrated fruit flavours all the way through to the long finish. The property is separated from its most illustrious neighbour – Chateau Lafite Rothschild, one of the five first growth classified wines of the left bank – by just a gully and a stream, and draws on the experience of consultant oenologist Eric Boissenot.
Chateau Tour de Pez is one of the “Crus Bourgeois”, the level of wineries that sit just below the five levels of classified growths. Interestingly, the chateau sells its eponymous flagship wine “en primeur”, with merchants and critics tasting it before it’s even been bottled, emulating the top producers.
The self-titled Chateau Tour de Pez has all the black fruit flavours of its little sister but goes further with even more concentrated cassis notes. Along with the smoky oak, there are also classic developing aromas of damp earth and wet leaves.
As the name suggests, the Entre-Deux-Mers area sits between the Dordogne and Garonne rivers in Bordeaux and is home to some of the region’s best-value white wines. The Chateau Marjosse (£7.99) is a perfect case in point, with its blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon providing bright lemon, peach and green apple flavours coupled with drier asparagus and green pepper aromas.
Chateau Marjosse is owned by Pierre Lurton, who is also the manager at famous producers Châteaux d’Yquem and Cheval Blanc. The fruit flavours in his wine are really concentrated and last all the way through to the end of its long finish, with just a whiff of smoke on the nose.
As well as Bordeaux, Lidl’s latest Wine Cellar promotion also takes in other French wine producing regions. Highlights for me include the Bissinger Champagne Brut Rose (£14.99), the pink version of the supermarket chain’s stalwart fizz, which at the price represents excellent value, with its concentrated strawberry and lemon flavours and its gentle bubbles.
Regular readers of the Wine to Dine column in the main Scottish Field magazine, will know of my fondness for Reuilly, an area in the Loire that’s often overlooked in favour of its most-famous neighbours at Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. The Domaine du Chene Vert Reuilly (£8.99) offers asparagus, green pepper and leafy notes on the nose, but then the fruit comes shooting through on the palate with gooseberries and apricots.
Finally, also worthy of a mention is the Domaine Saint Prix Saint-Bris Sauvignon (£8.49). Most white wine made in the Bourgogne – or Burgundy to its friends – comes from Chardonnay grapes, but here the Bordelais combo of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon join forces to create a wine with aromas of gooseberry, grapefruit and smoke on the nose, leading through to a flinty and lemon-centred drink on the palate. Plenty of acidity here, but also a bit of body to add weight and improve its feel in the mouth.