February 10 2011
Not that long ago, I enjoyed an extremely long lunch at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons to celebrate a significant birthday. As ever, the food and service were more than up to scratch. So too were several wines, including one of particular note – namely Le Soula.
The French critic Michel Bettane describes it as the best white wine in the Languedoc. He’s probably right. The 2005 I drank was almost Burgundian in its complexity, length and depth – but with an extra dash of vivacity and verve.
The reds aren’t too shabby either, as I subsequently discovered at a tasting with one of Le Soula’s owners, Mark Walford, who runs the importers Richards Walford. The 2006 is simply scrumptious and will age for some considerable time to come. The same goes for the 2007 and the 2008. But all three are distinctively different.
Walford and his partner Roy Richards created Le Soula more than a decade ago after they began working with pioneering local winemaker Gérard Gauby who was on a one-man quest to rejuvenate some of the abandoned high-altitude vineyards of the Agly Valley. Richards and Walford immediately saw the potential of Le Soula’s unique terroir and promptly put up the required capital.
Today, there are just 22 hectares planted with an eclectic mix of varieties including Grenache Blanc, Gris and Noir, Syrah, Carignan, Macabeu, Sauvignon Blanc, Marsanne and Roussanne. Only 2,500 cases are made each vintage.
What I love about Le Soula’s reds and whites is their sense of place expressed through a fabulous freshness, elegance and ability to age. The wines are never over-ripe and always give pleasure. Best of all, they only cost around £20 a bottle from some of the UK’s leading merchants (Majestic and Berry Brothers & Rudd among them; Le Soula’s own website has a full list of stockists). However, the word is getting out about Le Soula. So my advice is to fill your boots – and fast.