The progressive UVICA co-operative in Ruoms in the heart of the Ardèche was founded in 1967 when 14 wineries joined forces and pooled their talents and resources to produce a diverse range of well-crafted and commercially competitive wines. Today, they oversee production from over 6,000 hectares of vines stretching from the sandstone of the Cévennes to the alluvial pebbles of the Rhône.
One of their most popular wines is their white 'Les Terrasses' which is made from a blend of Sauvignon and Grenache Blanc that is bottled under screwcap to conserve its youthful fruit. With citrus and wildflower scents and a zesty stone-fruit palate, it makes for a versatile aperitif or partner to seafood. A sibling red is made from Merlot and Syrah and has a similar fruity appeal being redolent of blackcurrants and blackberries and offset by supple tannins. A Viognier named 'Grès du Trias' - after its origin on elevated sand and gravel soils between the Coiron massif and Cévennes - has lots of varietal character and an understandably loyal following. With a white peach and honeysuckle bouquet and sensuous apricot and yellow plum flavours, it has a dry finish and pairs well with salmon and chicken dishes. Completing the range of 'single varietal' whites is a versatile Chardonnay with appealing orchard fruit aromas and a nervy, mineral edged palate offset by fresh acidity.
Red wines account for the majority of production in the hills overlooking the Rhône and there are examples here to suit most palates at reasonable prices. A pure Pinot Noir has a ruby robe and wealth of summer berry characteristics supported by the gentlest of tannins. A Cabernet Sauvignon has more grip and concentration, autumnal fruit notes and some attractive peppery undertones so is a reliable crowd-pleaser when entertaining. A straight Syrah from the volcanic soils of the Coiron has dark berry scents and rich core of plum and damson flavours over a background of fine-grained tannins. The 'Grand Aven' Côtes du Vivarais is made from a blend of Syrah and Grenache from low-yielding, mature rootstock. With a garrigue berry bouquet and briary red fruit profile, it makes for upmarket everyday drinking.
Another commendable co-operative is the Cave de Saint-Désirat based beside the N86, 8 kilometres west of Annonay. As well as accounting for a significant volume of serious Saint-Joseph, they also make a good value Gamay. It has a pale-purple colour, ripe red fruit aromas and a subtle palate of raspberries and redcurrants. It drinks well lightly chilled and is perfect for picnics or parties.