Laithwaite's wines I received under their 100% satisfaction guarantee scheme (see here for how it works).
Minervois, a sub-region of the vast southern Languedoc-Roussillon area, where wine-making dates back 2,000 years, is now part of France's New World - a warm-climate region producing large quantities of mainly easy-drinking, technically well-made, fruit-driven wines.
Minervois wines must be blended to carry the AOC tag and this wine is a mix of the acidic Carignan, the blowsy Grenache and the more noble Syrah.
Made by producer Lauran Cabaret, it does not appear on his website, suggesting that he was perhaps using up some excess stock that he did not wish to put out under his own name.
Rather pale in the glass, on the nose there is ripe bramble fruit, juicy blackcurrant and, with a bit of air, some oaky vanilla. The palate shows more fruit and a distinct earthiness, followed by perfumey aromas of prunes, figs and some spice.
So far, so reasonably interesting; the acidity is juicy and workmanlike, providing a fairly reasonable structure and some length; texture is a little thin but smooth enough and the finish is brief and grippy but fine.
Compared to some of the overblown and underwhelming Laithwaite's wines I've had recently, there's nothing bad here at all, nothing not to like - it's enjoyable and gluggable without being too over-the-top. Overall, though, like most Laithwaite's wines, it's just not very exciting or impressive.
The list price on the site is £5.99 (plus, as ever, delivery) which is not unreasonable in context. However, the Laithwaite's reviewers almost universally dislike this one, giving it an average score of less than 2 out of 5 with comments like "awful" and "couldn't drink it".
By contrast, and perhaps predictably, the Laithwaite's website is rather more up-beat: "Top-value, complex and characterful - one of the best Minervois you could hope to find at this price."
So, the truth seems to lie somewhere between the two - it's not as impressive as the website claims (no surprises there, then), but also not as bad as the other reviewers seem to suggest - merely "lukewarm water" rather than, say, fire or ice.
Match with charcuterie, salami or herby sausages.
This wine on Laithwaite's - http://www.laithwaites.co.uk/Still_Red_Wine/LEpervier/prod670646
Lauran Cabaret - http://www.laurancabaret.com/