French wine cooperatives have historically been associated with supplying entry level wines at low price and quality. The 12 member-strong association Marques & Coop held a London tasting to disprove this by showing off the quality of their premium wines.
Marques & Coop is a 12-strong association of French cooperative wineries. At a central London tasting they showed the quality and food-matching abilities of their premium wines.
While the Queen was celebrating her 90th birthday half a mile away in the Palace, the French had invaded Westminster in order to demonstrate the quality there is the cooperative system in France.
Marques & Coop currently has 12 French cooperatives, representing over 4,000 growers that collectively produce over 200 million bottles from a surface area of 30,000ha, generating an annual turnover of €410m. And they are actively expanding.
Bringing the French media with them, and as a result missing the opening game of Euro 2016, this was a demonstration of what force there is in the cooperative system in France. The reason that they had come to London rather than Paris? To show the French that they are serious about communicating to the wider wine world, and to also act as an invite to cooperatives from other territories – some in Spain, Italy and Germany have apparently already expressed an interest in joining ‘le club’.
The tasting was split into two parts: Each of the 12 cooperatives showed two of their premium wines; then it was lunch at Michelin-starred Quilon, an Indian restaurant a stone’s throw from Petty France with a selection of the wines matched to show off their quality and pairing with spicy food.
Eight of the cooperatives have distribution in the UK on-trade, four not. And, overall, the wineries represented a good cross-section of French wine-growing areas.
- Cooperatives can offer great value to wine buyers
The scale of operation and the association’s focus on quality, creativity and originality meant that some of the wines offer great quality for the price.
- The quality of the wines is clearly there
The wines shown were premium admittedly but the distinction on the palate between these wines and single wineries is clearly become less polarised than one or more decades ago.
- French cooperatives are getting their act together
How the Marques & Coop association rolls out will be interesting to watch, in what is similar in many ways to Grandes Pagodas in Spain. It is similar in that it is primarily a B2P brand and not actively labelled on the bottles.
- All of the wines matched the spice
Clever for the French to choose an Indian to match their wines with. Indian wine lists can often disappoint. What stood out for me was that six of the wines were red and stood up to some chunky flavours – without resorting to the Syrah.
And so what of the wines themselves? Which ones did we think particularly matched the spice and are worth buyers and sommeliers taking note of.
Six Marques & Coop wines worth looking out for:
Toques et Clochers édition limitée 2012, Sieur d’Arques
Crémant de Limoux has traditionally offered a lot of bang for their buck. Consultancy from Bordeaux’s white expert Denis Dubourdieu has helped create a delicious limited edition here, that has been aged for 36 months, twice as long as their regular cuvée. Very dry, a generous mousse, good balance, this would give a lot of entry level Champagnes a run for their money at €15 ex-cellar. UK distributors: Caves de Pyrene, The Vintner, Harvey & Son and others.
Rasteau Prestige, 2011, Ortas, Cave de Rasteau
A fine Grenache dominant blend from the appellation that was established in 2010. The cooperative is over 90 years old and produces over four million bottles, being the number one supplier of Rhone wines in the Quebec market and number one in Ireland. Although this has a somewhat suppressed nose, there is a terrific hit of juicy fruit, and a structure that almost comes out of nowhere, holding together this refined medium bodied wine and disguising the 14.5% alcohol. This is €10.30 ex-cellar which for a wine of this age and quality is great value. UK distributor: Flying Corkscrew.
Château Tour de Yon 2012, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru, Union de Producteurs Saint-Emilion
A classic Right Bank Bordeaux blend (75% Merlot) that has a worthy place on many a wine list. It is deep ruby, has fruit, structure, greenish tannins and all fits together very pleasingly. Lots of taste from vines that are 40-50 years old. €22.40 ex cellar. UK distributor: Bibendum.
Terra Helvorum 2014, Ardeche rouge, Vignerons Ardéchois
This 100% Syrah has a light Burgundy-style purplish-red colour, an inviting nose that is sweet and almost marzipan-like. On the palate there is meat, quite restrained, elegant red fruit held together by a decent structure. This is a well made wine from a region that we don’t get to sample often. Ex-cellar is a bargain €11.80. UK distributor: ‘regional on-trade’ only.
Lieu-Dit Ter Pointe 2014, Côtes de Bourg, Les Vignerons de Tutiac
I’m not a mad fan of Malbec but this classic varietal is in good hands here – terrific rich nose, spicy, big tannins and lots of structure. Best drunk 5-6 years after release. This coop is the largest producer of French appellation wines and the number one producer of Cotes de Bordeaux. It represents 500 growers, 4,000ha and 70 chateaux. Ex-cellar on this Malbec is €15.50 UK distributor: none yet but watch this space. The coop currently supplies Sainsbury’s with their Taste the Difference Bordeaux Rosé and Blanc.
Confidences Rosé Brut 2009, Chassenay d’Arce
Really top quality dry Rosé Champagne. Light salmon coloured, light fruity aromatics, generous mousse, delicious and dry. Very well constructed. €55 ex-cellar is a decent price for a wine of this quality. This important coop in Champagne celebrated its 50th anniversary two years ago, representing over 60 growers. UK distributor: First Class Products (Oxford) Ltd.