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Vive la France! Four Fab French Wines for Bastille Day – Times of Tunbridge Wells

As the three-week-long Tour de France reaches its climax this weekend and the nation commemorates today’s Bastille Day – known better in France as ‘la Fête Nationale’ or ‘le Quatorze Juillet’ – our expert, James Viner, raises a glass to France with four sophisticated celebratory Gallic wines that don’t cost the earth.
1) Must-Try Bargain so-called ‘Muscadet of the South’
Specially Selected Picpoul de Pinet 2020 (£5.99, Aldi)

Every summer wine rack should have a Picpoul, a refreshingly inexpensive dry white from the warm eastern half of the Languedoc, or two. The grape variety thrives in the largest white-wine producing area in a triangle formed by the towns of Agde, Pézenas and Sète. Brimming with zesty lemon peel, grapefruit, melon, and hawthorn blossom charm, this is a useful fridge door summer aperitif. Lap up this brisk bargain white – it’s ace with seafood and shellfish. I especially love it with oysters, fish and chips, crab linguine, and moules marinières. See you at Aldi.
Alc 12.5%
 2) Rosé Wine Champion from Bordeaux
Château Bel Air Perponcher Réserve Bordeaux Rosé 2020, France (£9.50, The Wine Society)

Everyone will enjoy this summery sip, which makes an exquisite pale, bone-dry substitute for Provençal pink. Think summer berries, floral and stone fruit aromas, with zippy acidity refreshing a delicate but nuanced palate of strawberry and raspberry and a cherry jam note appearing on the finish. Impressive complexity for the price. Great as an aperitif or with any fresh seafood dish. Hugely digestible, fresh and bright-fruited, no wonder it’s a ‘Wine Champion’ and bestseller at The Wine Society (WS) — and it gets my summer party vote. A pink dazzler that ticks every box!
Alc 12.5%
Spanish oenophiles, meanwhile, should add a bottle or two of Viña Zorzal Garnacha Rosado Navarra 2020 (£8.25) to their next WS order. It’s another sub-£10 must-buy WS (darker) rosé. Don’t miss out.
Alc 13.5%
3) Ravishing Roussillon Red from vineyards in the high Agly Valley of the Pyrénées-Orientales department
M. Chapoutier, Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Rouge 2018, Côtes du Roussillon Villages (£9.90-£11.90, Cellar Selected, The Drink Shop, Jaded Palates)
The in-between province of Roussillon did not become completely part of France until the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659, which ended the Franco-Spanish War. Like Perpignan, the second city of Catalonia (after Barcelona), it still stands alone, proud and free. Be first in the queue for this classy Roussillon red made from a fleshy blend of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan. With velvety tannins and just enough clove spice-scented, herby and smoky black cherry and blackberry fruit, it’s a winner. Great vitality. Lovely. Just the ticket for your Sunday roast or to accompany barbecued food.
Alc 14%
4) Touchstone non-Kiwi sauvignon blanc – cheers to the Loire!
Tesco Finest Sancerre 2020, Loire (£14, Tesco)

Load up your trolley with this cracking value, impeccably-judged, citrus, stone fruit and mineral-rich Loire sauvignon blanc. A terrific wine for simply-grilled fish such as sea bass, fresh crab, smoked salmon, picnics, fresh oysters, when in season, and I also like it with St-Marcellin and goat’s cheese. Tailor-made for an al fresco supper. Chic with uplifting refreshment, this sings from the glass. Very fine for this price. 
Alc 13%
Celebrate with a cocktail – mix up a French 75!
A kissing cousin of the Tom Collins, this classic champagne cocktail was named after a French gun used in the First World War and made famous at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris in the early 1900s.  You can buy simple sugar syrup, but if you want to make your own just dissolve equal volumes of granulated sugar and hot water. This makes a double for one.
Put the first three ingredients in a shaker, fill with ice and shake hard, then strain into a flute or couple, slowing topping with champagne. Garnish with a long curly peel of lemon.
À votre santé!
Follow James on Twitter: @QuxoticWine
Photos: Painting – July 14th in the country by Tadeusz Makowski (PD); Flag: Dawn Hudson/ (PD); Fireworks: © Terifrancis/

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