Chapoutier, Bila-Haut 2020 Côtes du Roussillon-Villages

Bila-Haut vines Latour de France

A great-value, delicious and widely available red from the south of France.

From €8.30, 175 rand, £9.99, 129 Swedish kronor, 12.06 Swiss francs, $11.89, CA$16.65, HK$100, 99 Danish kroner, SG$49

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In our wines of the week on, we often champion small producers but today's wine comes from a man with an impressive vineyard empire, rooted in France's Rhône Valley and extending not just across France but into Spain, Portugal and even to Australia.

Michel Chapoutier's 'universe', as it is referred to on the company's website, comprises a little over 1,000 ha (2,470 acres) of vines and includes the 77 ha (190 acres) of Domaine de Bila-Haut on the slopes of the high Agly Valley around the villages of Latour de France and Lesquerde in Roussillon, as well as in Collioure and Banyuls, in France's deep south (see this World Atlas of Wine map of the region).

Chapoutier Bila-Haut vines

The Roussillon domaine produces several single-vineyard, or single-parcel, wines, along the lines of the well-established small-volume Sélections Parcellaires in the Rhône and the more recent Lieu-Dit Rieslings from Alsace. (We'll be reviewing the 2021 vintages of these exciting wines soon.) But the Bila-Haut 2020 Côtes du Roussillon-Villages, a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan, comes from vines in several plots and villages, as the appellation name suggests, and is made in much larger quantities. That's why it is so widely available and such a great bargain. I asked Chapoutier's UK export director Guillaume Lafragette how much was produced. He couldn't give me an exact figure but replied, 'we do make quite a lot of this wine. Bila-Haut is central to M. Chapoutier’ s global project and the Côtes du Roussillon-Villages in red and in white are key and an introduction to the entire range'.

I tasted a selection of Chapoutier wines thanks to UK importers Hatch Mansfield in London last month, ranging from his rare Hermitage bottlings, the Greffieux red and the De l'Orée white (both ominously listed as POA, or price on application), to this red, the least expensive wine on the table. They impressed in different ways but this one stood out for being deliciously suitable for the current transition season – a sunny but chilly autumn in London right now, and spring in the southern hemisphere – and great value.

The vineyards are in conversion to organic farming (many of the Chapoutier vineyards are certified organic or farmed biodynamically). The winemaking, carried out on site by Michel Chapoutier and his team, is uncomplicated: the grapes are hand-harvested, destemmed, fermented in tank with 2–4 weeks on the skins to extract colour, flavour and tannins, and then aged in tank, without any oak influence. This lack of complication or oak means the fruit and its unspoilt place of origin are the stars. (See this 45-second video of the Bila-Haut vineyards to get an idea of the wild, rugged, sunny landscape where the vines are planted on gneiss and schist soils with some calcareous clay.)

I described the wine as dark-fruited, lightly smoky/stony and extremely moreish, pure and deliciously fresh. The tannins are nicely dry and incredibly fine: a lot of fruit and refinement for a little price. The alcohol is a respectable 14% for this part of the world and I scored the wine 16.5. It should age for two or three years but there is absolutely no need to wait.

Bila-Haut red 2020 bottle
Although it is hard to see in this image, the wine information is also in braille, as on all the M Chapoutier labels.

The wine is imported into the UK by Hatch Mansfield and into the US by Sera Wine Imports. It's widely available in the UK, the US, Canada, Europe and also in Hong Kong, as you can see from the Wine-Searcher link at the top of this article. If you live in the UK and are looking for a stockist near you, Hatch Mansfield have a useful request service on their website.

For tasting notes on many other red and white Bila-Haut wines, including earlier vintages of this wine and several vintages of the single-vineyard wines mentioned above, search for Bila-Haut in our tasting notes database. All photos are courtesy of M Chapoutier.