Diverse and individual – 20 Pays d’Oc IGP wines to make sommeliers smile

The Pays d’Oc vineyard of southern France is a treasure trove for sommeliers and wine buyers. With 58 different grape varieties allowed and winemakers’ freedom of expression positively encouraged so in Pays d’Oc one can find wines to suit every taste – made with traditional southern grapes and international varieties to more offbeat wines such as Alicante-Bouschet, Nielluccio and Mareslan, wines that turn to gold in a sommelier’s hands. As the quality in the region has improved over the years so the wines’ notorious value for money is even keener, especially against a backdrop of rising costs.

From a sample call of over 100 wines, Peter Dean’s task was to pick out 20 wines that would work well in a restaurant, wine bar and pub setting.

When I agreed to do a tasting of Pays d’Oc IGP wines from the South of France that would work in the on-trade I was expecting to receive a couple of dozen wines, many of which I thought I would already know having had a house in the area for 12 years or more.

So I was somewhat surprised, when I arrived home from the early morning market in nearby Limoux, to find an entire pallet of samples outside the front door.

So began a fascinating (and exhausting) vinous tour of the Pays d’Oc with an enormous range of wines both in grape varieties and styles.

Figure Libre Freestyle Blanc 2020, Domaine Gayda, 12.5% – Organic

Grenache Blanc/ Maccabeu/ Marsanne/ Viognier

No better example of the freedom afforded winemakers in the Pays d’Oc than this white blend – ‘Figure Libre’ literally meaning ‘Freestyle’ – which sees the coming together of grapes that you wouldn’t normally expect to see together, the blend changing each year, and differing percentages of wine aged in concrete egg and aged barriques. Golden to look at with a complex array of aromas and flavours – you’ll find apricot skin, tangerine rind, lemon zest, honeysuckle, white peaches and a hint of aged oak. Hugely versatile, try this with white fish dishes, vegetarian dishes and blue cheese. RRP €14 at cellar door.

Available from: Cambridge Wine Merchants