The on-the-up wine region of Malepère benefits from Languedoc wine law liberalism, cooling Atlantic influences and – for the time being at least – relatively cheap land prices. Philippe Girard was quick to recognise the region's potential and left the confines of the local Cave Co-opérative in the early 21st Century to go it alone as a vigneron independent. He has recently completed work on a smart new winery on the outskirts of the village of Alaigne (10 kilometres north-west of Limoux), where he produces a range of well-crafted wines from a variety of cépages améliorateurs.
Philippe's Malepère 'Tradition' is fashioned from a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc and has a bright bouquet of garrigue berries and a core of black fruit with peppery undertones and supple tannins. New to this list is a cracking 'Pays d'Oc' Pinot Noir that has plenty of varietal character and is terrific value. With soft red fruit scents and flavours offset by fresh acidity and no oak influence, it drinks well lightly-chilled and would be perfect with a kitchen table lunch of pâté, salad, crusty bread and soft cheese. Another wine that we road-tested last year and couldn't resist listing is Philippe's 'Garriguette' rosé. Made from pure Cabernet Franc - grown at 350 metres of altitude on clay and limestone soils - it is named after an early-ripening aromatic variety of strawberry. With a limpid, coral pink robe, uplifting summer fruit aromas and a zesty palate of fresh berries, it is perfect for picnics and outdoor gatherings (as and when either are officially permitted)!