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Anne McHale MW explains ‘sunshine in a glass’ from IGP Méditerranée

Ahead of London Wine Fair, Anne McHale MW details how IGP Méditerranée offers southern French wine “without the pretension or the price tag”.

“Sunshine in a glass” is the phrase Anne McHale MW uses to describe the wines of IGP Méditerranée. Ahead of hosting a masterclass at London Wine Fair she adeptly discusses what gives the wines their Mediterranean qualities, living up to the region’s slogan ‘The Med Way of Life’.

“Ripeness is the key thing,” she explains, “but you combine that with the freshness that’s available from proximity to the sea, vineyards planted at altitude and a lot of calcareous and limestone soils.”

The combination of ripeness and freshness will be a recurring theme at the masterclass, but in part the tasting is intended to demonstrate the region’s versatility. With a wide range of both international and local varieties, as well as varied terroirs, IGP Méditerranée wines are far from homogenous.

A wealth of styles

“We’re showing different styles on purpose,” says McHale. Half the eight wines will be rosé – after all, it makes up 75% of the IGP’s production – but with two whites and two reds on show, the masterclass will present the region’s full variety of styles.

In particular, it will contrast the many options, both local and international, producers have in choosing varieties. For the whites, for instance, one is a textured wine made with the more international Viognier, while the other uses 60% Rolle and 40% Grenache Blanc to showcase more local grapes.

Blending is, for McHale, one of the advantages of the IGP category, allowing producers to source grapes from a variety of terroirs and variety to create their desired style. In selecting grapes over 10 départements – “dipping in and out of the various parts of the region” in her words – they have a huge degree of control.

If that means there is less immediate consumer recognition than, for instance, a varietal Sauvignon Blanc, that might not mean the wines are ill-suited to a UK audience. She says: “That’s our job in the industry; to show them those wines and teach them that it’s worth exploring something a little different.”

Hitting key trends

That willingness to explore something new is a key way the wines of IGP Méditerranée might appeal to new audiences. With recognisable styles, but also unusual local varieties such as Caladoc, Marselan and Muscat, the wines offer an easy way to explore something different.

“The selling point is the accessibility of the wines,” says McHale. “These are fun and easy to drink, with that glorious combination of ripe and fruity character from the intense sunshine, combined with freshness from the proximity to the sea and the altitude.”

It cannot hurt, however, that the wines also meet other trends. As consumers tighten their belts, the wines offer popular, fresh styles, McHale says, “without the pretension or the price tag”. Most of the wines in the UK market, including those at the masterclass, retail below £15.

The wines also meet a desire for lower alcohol content. With many of the rosés sitting around 12.5% ABV, the wines offer a lighter option than many competitors. Producers have carefully adjusted their viticultural practices to keep the wines light, but they also benefit from sites with coastal influences and with altitude.

In part thanks to these qualities – accessibility, affordability and lightness – McHale sees plenty of opportunity for these wines in the on-trade. “I think that they would be absolutely brilliant on wine lists,” she explains, “hitting that sweet spot where people are wanting not to spend a huge amount, but they’re looking for quality.”

Certainly, one can imagine the food pairings. The regional body proposes Mediterranean dishes, such as ratatouille with the reds, creamy pasta dishes with the whites and charcuterie with the rosés. However, diversity is again the buzzword. McHale’s suggestions include ever-popular small plates dining, but also vegetarian curries.

It seems to point to an abundance of options for the UK market, where the wines are already thriving. Indeed, since 2019 the value of exports to the market has grown by a factor of almost nine.

Yet it is also quite understandable simply to forget the commercial imperative. Tasting the wines of IGP Méditerranée, as McHale attests, can easily pull drinkers towards ‘The Med Way of Life’, even in the UK.

“It’s just good times: relaxing, laughing, having fun. You channel the brightness in the south of France, how the sun is shining and how fragrant the herbs are,” muses McHale. “Even just saying the word ‘Méditerranée’ helps evoke that.”

The Méditerranée Way of Life masterclass will take place in the Masterclass Theatre at London Wine Fair at 12:30pm on Monday 20 May.

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