Producteurs Plaimont are a co-operative wine producing organisation based in south western France. They produce AOC wines from Madiran, Pacherenc and Saint-Mont plus IGP Côtes de Gascogne. I won’t go into lots of detail on them here as they will feature in a future article in my series on Co-operatives.
Saint-Mont is a small commune of around 300 people in the Gers department, located in the new Occitanie region of south-west France. Côtes de Saint-Mont was created as a VDQS in 1981, lost the “Côtes de” in 2007 and was then promoted to AOC in 2011 when the VDQS level was eliminated. The permitted zone of production is around 1,200 hectares reaching across 46 communes.
Both reds and whites are produced here. Permitted grapes are:
Red wines: Tannat (minimum 60%), Fer Servadou (minimum 20%), Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.
White wines: Arrufiac, Petit Courbu, Petit Manseng and Gros Manseng
Either consciously or subconsciously, many wine enthusiasts think of an inverse correlation between quantity and quality, i.e. if there’s a lot of it, it’s not going to be that good. This wine smashes that theory as it is anything but small production, yet tastes absolutely delicious! It’s very aromatic on the nose, with fleshy peach, apricot, mandarin and grapefruit on the palate. Generous fruit sweetness on the mid-palate gives way to mineral notes and a long, fresh finish. With fruit, texture and acidity this would be a very flexible wine for food matching.
One of the other great strengths of Liberty Wines’ portfolio is its antipodean selection – so much so that they seem to have the largest number of wines open for tasting at both the NZ and Australian trade tastings in Ireland. However, I’ve covered many of them before on Frankly Wines, so this article will review a few that I tried for the first time plus some fantastic European whites.
Jurançon wines are among the most under-rated in France, both the sweet (“Jurançon”) and dry (“Jurançon Sec”) styles. Don’t base your opinions on the bottles available in French supermarkets, though – they tend to lack concentration and be pleasantly innocuous at best. This is one of the best examples I’ve come across in Ireland, especially at a fairly moderate price. Split 50/50 between local varieties Petit Manseng and Gros Manseng, It shows plenty of ripe stone fruit, almost fleshy, but a crisp dry finish.
Mosel Riesling is one of the great wines of the world, but it’s rarely “cheap”. This one is very reasonably priced and serves as a great introduction to the area. The grapes are partly from the producer’s own estate and partly from contract growers in the Mosel region. It shows white flowers, stone and citrus fruit plus minerality – a great example of Mosel Riesling, and/ great value for money!
Château Moncontour Vouvray Sec 2017 (13.0%, RRP €21.99)
Many of my comments above about Jurançon also hold true for the Chenin-derived wines of the Loire. This Château Moncontour helpfully says “Sec” on the label, and it is dry – but not bone dry or austere. There’s a touch of residual sugar (apparently 6.7 g/L for those who are interested in such things) but lots more fruit sweetness, balanced by fresh acidity. Such a more-ish wine!
Matt Thomson is a legend in the world of wine – but he’s also a top bloke. After doing both northern and southern hemisphere vintages for 20 years, he finally decided to make his own wine, partnered by his wife Sophie. The Blank Canvas Chardonnay featured in my 2017 Top 10 whites so I was keen to try the Grüner. The long, cool growing season in Marlborough is perfect for GV, as it is for other aromatics such as Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Pinot Gris. This is a cracker – smooth yet textured, nicely balanced between fruit sweetness and refreshing acidity.
Framingham are unusual in Marlborough – actually in the whole of New Zealand – in that Riesling is their biggest focus. And boy, does it show! The Classic is their “entry level” Riesling, but it gives a flavour of what the rest of the range holds. This is particularly true of the 2015 as 10% of the grapes were botrytised, with nobly rotten grapes normally going into a special cuvée. This is a lovely wine to drink but just AMAZING on the nose. It has that hard-to-define “otherness” which only Riesling has (“Rieslingness”?)
Kaiken Ultra Mendoza Chardonnay 2016 (14.0%, RRP €24.99)
Rather than go west – which would have taken them into the Pacific, Montes headed east from Chile to Argentina and created Kaiken. The fruit is sourced from the Uco Valley in Mendoza, mostly in cooler parts which give freshness and minerality – despite the 14.0% alcohol and partial (35%) maturation in new oak, this is far from the butter-bomb new world Chardonnays of the 1990s. It has lots of tangy, tropical flavours, but mainly from the grapes rather than the oak.
Santiago Ruiz “O Rosal” Rías Biaxas 2017 (13.0%, RRP €24.99)
From the O Rosal subregion of Galicia’s Rías Biaxas, this is an Albariño blend with several other local varieties playing supporting roles: it consists of 76% Albariño, 11% Loureiro, 5% Treixadura, 4% Godello and 4% other. I like Albariño as a grape, but – for all its popularity – it’s wines are more often simple than complex. Simple doesn’t necessarily mean bad or boring, but there is definitely a place for interesting. The O Rosal is quite long and serious; it’s a cerebral rather than obvious wine which definitely deserves a try.
Domaine des Ballandors Quincy 2017 (13.5%, RRP €24.99)
After Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Quincy was the second Appellation Controllée created in France. Since then it hasn’t really been at the forefront of drinkers’ minds – Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé stole the limelight and the column inches. The upside is that quality wines from Quincy can offer great value for money. The nose is very grassy, the palate herby with quince (no relation) and gooseberry notes. This Sauvignon Blanc for adults.
L.A.S. Vino Margaret River Chardonnay 2016 (13.5%, RRP €59.99)
Margaret River is well known for its Bordeaux blends – Cabernet-Merlot reds and Semillon-Sauvignon whites – but also for some fantastic Chardies. L.A.S. is actually an acronym, standing for “Luck of the weather, the Art of creating and the Science that underpins this creativity.” This is world class, amazing stuff. You need to try this wine. Sell an organ. Sell your car. Even sell your house, but don’t sell your soul as this Chardonnay will capture it.
After part 1 (the reds), here are the whites that I really enjoyed at SuperValu’s recent Secret Garden Part event:
Duo des Mers Sauvignon Blanc Viognier 2017 (12.0%, RRP €11.99 at SuperValu from 20th August)
This is a lovely fresh blend of Sauvignon Blanc from Gascony (Atlantic) and Viognier from the Languedoc (Mediterranean), hence two different seas. As such, the best label of origin it can have is “Vin de France” which is usually seen on cheap bulk wine (a rule of thumb is that the more specific / small the area is, the better the wines are.) However, this really is an exception – the Sauvignon (70%) provides fresh green fruit with zip and the Viognier (30%) gives rich peach and pineapple – a great combination which is more than the sum of its parts (and after all, isn’t that what blends are supposed to be?)
Combeval Grande Cuvée SCG 2017 (12.0%, RRP €11.99 at SuperValu from 20th August)
Nothing to do with the Sydney Cricket Ground, this is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc (60%), Colombard (20%) and Gros Manseng (20%), all from Gascony. It’s another successful blend from LGI, this time with local grapes Colombard (a very under-rated grape) and Gros Manseng. The grapes are cold macerated for 24 hours which helps to extract aromas and flavours from the skins without any harshness, and then the juice is taken off and kept on big lees (bits!) at just above freezing for a further 20 days. And the result of this high-tech winemaking? Just farking gorgeous!
Nugan Estate Dreamer’s Chardonnay 2013 (14.0%, RRP €13.99 at SuperValu)
Regular readers should need no introduction to this wine, just to say that it still tastes great and is a total bargain! There’s plenty of toasty oak and rich fruit, but a crisp, clean finish. Lovely drinking!
Trisquel Series Origen Semillión 2017 (12.5%, RRP €16.99 at SuperValu from 20th August)
This wine was a big surprise, not necessarily the quality (which I expected to be high), but the style; the juice has two months contact with the skins which makes it somewhat an orange wine – and I never expected to see one of those in a supermarket! Depending on where it’s grown and when it’s picked, Semillon can be light and fresh or a bit more tropical – and of course that’s just the dry wines, it’s a very important grape for sweet wine production in many countries.
One of the reasons Semillon is so treasured for sweet wines is the thinness of its skins, thus making it relatively easy to attract botrytis if the conditions are right. This also means than when made in an orange style, it’s lighter and more accessible than many other grapes.
I think this is one of the most interesting wines available in an Irish supermarket – fresh apple and pear with a slight tartness like a Granny Smith’s apple chopped into grapefruit juice. It’s not for everyone, but it’s definitely for me!
Albert Glas Pfalz Riesling Trocken 2017 (12.0%, RRP €15.99 at SuperValu from 20th August)
This is a “Trocken” (dry-but-fruity) Riesling from the Pfalz in Germany – one of the best regions for Riesling in the country. Now made by third generation winemaker Dominik Glas, there is in fact a wide range of different Rieslings and other grapes made by the winery – this is their “standard” level. But there’s nothing basic about it – lovely green apple and lime fruit shine brightly while a kiss of sugar and a streak of acidity compete for your attention on the finish. A lovely wine.
Albert Glas Black Label Pfalz Riesling Trocken 2017 (12.0%, RRP €19.99 at SuperValu from 20th August)
Apart from the obvious (the colour of the label), the main differences of this wine are the sourcing of fruit from better vineyards and the use of oak. Don’t run away, though, the wine isn’t “oaky” – only 20% is fermented in oak (the rest in stainless steel) and the barrels are old so they don’t impart a flavour to the wine – just more body, depth and openness. Dominik Glas is proud of the fact that the oak trees come from a Pfalz forest, so the trees and the vines are in the same soil. The net effect of all of this is to produce a more complex and satisfying wine which needs to be tried.
Kim Crawford Spitfire Sauvignon Blanc 2017 (12.0%, RRP €19.99 at SuperValu from 20th August)
The standard Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc is one of the better to come out of Marlborough, but the smaller production (“Small Parcels”) Spitfire Sauvignon is well worth the extra few quid for the upgrade, particularly in a year like 2017 which didn’t hit the heights of 2015 and 2016. It’s very citrusy like the little brother, but also shows sweet tropical fruit on the mid palate. Absolute text book Marlborough Savvy.
Quintessential Wines are are specialist wine importers, distributors and retailers based in Drogheda, just north of Dublin, and with an online store. Here are a few of their wines which really took my fancy at their portfolio tasting in April:
Doran Vineyardsis the baby of Irish born Edwin Doran, partnered by South African winemaking legend André (“Adi”) Badenhorst. “Baby” is actually quite apt as the winery was redeveloped as recently as 2012.
This wine is quite an unusual blend, one that could only really be from South Africa: 57% Chenin Blanc, 22% Grenache Blanc and 21% Roussanne. The nose has citrus, herbs and floral notes; the wine is soft and supple in the mouth with fresh apple, stone fruit, citrus and a hint of nuts. This blend is lovely to drink on its own but is also very food friendly.
Clos Cazalet Tursan Carpe Diem 2015 (12.5%, RRP €16.95 at Quintessential Wines, Drogheda)
Tursanis one of the lesser known appellations of south west France, spanning the border between the new regions of Nouvelle-Aquitaine and Occitanie. It also has a lesser known grape at the heart of its white wines – the delightfully named Baroque which must be between 30% and 90% of the blend. The balance is made up by a combination of Gros Manseng, Petit Manseng and Sauvignon Blanc. Reds are based on Tannat (40% maximum), Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Clos Cazalet is one of the few independent producers in Tursan. Their Carpe Diem comprises 60% Gros Manseng, 30% Baroque and 10% Petit Manseng. This blend gives a full “here comes the Lilt man” tropical experience – pineapple, peach, pear and grapefruit. it’s soft and round in the mouth, a perfect summer drink!
Mas des Agrunelles Barbaste 2016 (13.0%, RRP €22.50 at Quintessential Wines, Drogheda)
We’re on a go-slow here – well a go-sloe to be exact, as Agrunelles are sloes which are common round this area. And what an area – a part of the Languedoctraditionally not used for viticulture given the cool micro-climate, and instead given over to sheep grazing and charcoal production.
The Domaine was set up by Frédéric Porro of Domaine La Marèle and Stéphanie Ponson of Mas Nicot as the antithesis of bulk cooperative grape production – each small plot is harvested and vinified separately so production is spread over a large number of different wines, though volumes of each are small. It is also worthy of note that Mas des Agrunelles is both organic and biodynamic.
Barbasteis a blend of Chardonnay, Roussanne and Marsanne; it’s a thing of beauty, tangy yet soft(some oxidative softening, perhaps?) with spicy pear and fennel flavours. Very moreish!
Mas des Agrunelles Camp de Lèbre 2015 (12.5%, RRP €27.95 at Quintessential Wines, Drogheda)
Another wine from Mas des Agrunelles…whereas Barbaste means “white frost” in Occitan (the local language), Camp de Lèbre means “Field of hares”, as the local varmints help themselves to the tasty wine buds in spring. This is a varietal wine, being 100% Carignan Blancplanted on clay and limestone.
The first line of my tasting notes was: “What the hell is that? it’s Magnificent!” There’s lots of texture and roundness in the mouth (possibly from some time in oak?). Aniseed and herbs partner soft pip and stone fruit – deliciously tangy!
After another successful O’Briens Wine Fair, I find myself with the usual predicament of too many good wines to recommend. I have therefore picked my 10 favourite whites listed at €15.00 or under – before any promotional offers.
Examining the list shows that:
Several varieties are repeated: Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Colombard and (unoaked) Chardonnay
Several places are repeated: Chile, the Loire and Gascony
From which you could draw certain conclusions:
Obviously, there’s a link between variety and place!
Certain varieties are better for making good yet inexpensive wines
Oak is a significant cost so is seldom used for the least expensive wines
Here are the ten wines:
Domaine Duffour Côtes de Gascogne 2016 (12.0%, €11.45 or 2 for €20 during summer at O’Briens)
From the land of d’Artagnan (and Dogtanian as well, for all I know) come probably the best value white wines of France – Côtes de Gascogne of south west France. Nicolas Duffour is a big fan of local star Colombardwhich gives ripe melon flavours; Ugni Blanc (more commonly distilled into Cognac or Armagnac) adds freshness while Gros Manseng (well-established in Jurançon) gives complexity. Summer in a glass!
Viña Chocálan Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (13.5%, €13.95 at O’Briens)
This wine is so grassy that you might wonder if you have face-planted into a pile of mown grass. It’s fresh and linear, with a juicy citrus finish. Tasted blind I would probably have guessed it hailed from the Loire Valley, perhaps a Touraine, but this is actually from a family run winery in Chile’s Maipo Valley.
Famille Bougrier Les Hauts Lieux Chenin Blanc 2015 (12.0%, €13.95 down to €10.95 for May at O’Briens)
The Bougrier Family make several Loire wines (their Sauvignon Blanc was just 45 cents too much to make it into this article) labelled as Vin de France, giving them flexibility over grape sourcing and varietal labelling. I found the Chenin just off dry, emphasizing the ripe stone and pip fruit, with the acidity keeping it fresh. So drinkable!
Viña Leyda Chardonnay Reserva 2014 (14.0%, €14.95 at O’Briens)
This Chardonnay is unoaked but is not a lean-Chablis like wine (the 14.0% alcohol might have been a clue). Viña Leyda are based in the Leyda Valley (no surprise there) and so are close enough to benefit from cooling coastal breezes – these help extend the growing season and help to increase intensity of flavour while maintaining aromatics. This is a great example of ripe but unoaked Chardonnay, full of tropical fruits and citrus.
Domaine Langlois-Château Saumur Blanc 2014 (12.0%, €14.95 at O’Briens)
The Maison des Vins de Saumur is one of my favourite places to taste wine in France – it has close to a hundred wines of all types from the Anjou-Saumur sub-region of the Loire. The white wine of Saumur itself are unfairly overlooked in favour of Vouvray and other appellations for white and Saumur’s own reds and rosés. Of course this is Chenin Blanc and its perfect balance of acidity and fruit sweetness makes it a great drink to sip on a nice sunny day.
Los Vascos Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (13.0%, €14.95 at O’Briens)
Los Vascos is a project of the Lafite branch of the Rothschild family, sourcing wines from both Argentina and Chile. This Chilean Sauvignon is very racy and less exuberantly aromatic compared to many – it’s probably closer to a Touraine Sauvignon or even a Chablis than most Savvies (Marlborough it ain’t!) Appealing mineral noteswould make it a great accompaniment for oysters or other shellfish.
Hijos de Alberto Gutiérrez Monasterio de Palazuelos Rueda Verdejo 2016 (13.0%, €13.95 down to €10.95 for May at O’Briens)
Rueda and its Verdejo is often overlooked in favour of Albariño and Godello from north west Spain. And that’s ok with me as Rueda wines are consistently good quality and good value for money. This one has lovely melon and citrus notes, so soft and approachable that you will be pouring a second glass quickly!
Boatshed Bay Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (13.0%, €14.95 down to €11.95 for May at O’Briens)
Different Sauvignons from Marlborough offer flavours from a wide spectrum, but often concentrating on one part of it. This seems to have nearly all of them! There’s tropical and green fruit such as passionfruit, grapefruit, gooseberry and pineapple, but also green pepper and asparagusnotes. Compared to – say – the Los Vascos Sauvignon, it’s probably the other end of the spectrum – a wine great for quaffing on its own.
Producteurs Plaimont Labyrinthe de Cassaigne Côtes de Gascogne 2015 (11.5%, €13.95 down to €9.95 for May at O’Briens)
This is a single estate Côtes de Gascogne from the north of the area, close to Condom (make your own jokes please). Tropical fruit from Colombard and Gros Manseng make this a real Vin de Plaisir – and fairly light in alcohol at 11.5%. Good value for money at €14, great value at €10!
Los Vascos Chardonnay 2015 (14.0%, €14.95 at O’Briens)
Like its sister Sauvignon above, this unoaked Chardonnay has a great deal of mineralitywhich make it ideal for shellfish and other seafood. It does have more body, however; enough to almost give it the feel of an oaked wine, though not the flavour. The finish is zesty citrus and stays with you for quite some time.
Following on from a pair of whites from France’s mountainous eastern marches in Part 1, we now turn to some excellent Jurançonwines distributed by Nomad Wine Importers.
The wines of South West France receive only limited recognition outside of their region(s) – and to be honest the plural is more fitting here as they are actually a diverse collection of wine regions with some geographical proximity.
In fact, looking at a map of south west (no caps) France shows that the biggest wine region of the area – Bordeaux – is not included in South West (with caps) France.
Located in the foothills of the Pyrenees, south and west of Pau, Jurançon is an area whose wines I am quite familiar with after visiting the area several times.
At least I thought I was, anyway – cheap examples of an appellation picked up at a supermarket aren’t a good indicator of the quality available within a region.
The most important thing to know is that there are two different appellations, Jurançonitself which is sweet (moelleux) and Jurançon Sec which is dry. Not the easiest for novices to remember, just like Bordeaux’s Graves-Supérieures is actually sweet.
There are five grapes permitted for both AOCs – Petit Manseng and Gros Manseng (which must make up at least 50% of each blend), (Petit) Courbu(which ripens early and adds acidity) and the minor legacy varieties Camaralet de Lasseube and Lauzet.
Camin Larreyda is currently run by Jean-Marc Grussaute, son of Jean & Jany Grussaute who terraced and replanted the family property in 1970. The Domaine has been certified organic since 2007 and has 9.5 ha planted to 65% Petit Manseng, 27% Gros Manseng and the remaining 8% Petit Courbu and Camaralet. They also make wine from their neighbours’ grapes.
Here are the four wines I tasted recently, each named after the plots where the grapes are grown:
Domaine Larredya Jurançon Sec “la Part Davant” 2015(14.0%, RRP €28 at Jus de Vine, Green Man Wines, SIYPS)
The “entry level” wine from Larredya consists of 50% (very ripe) Gros Manseng, 35% Petit Manseng and 15% Petit Courbu & Camaralet. The Part Davant plot is 4.5 ha and is farmed organically.
This is a lighter and fresher style than the other wines made by Larredya – there’s the typical peach stone fruit notes but also citrus and a touch of minerality. For me this is a pleasant drinking wine but even better with food such as white fish, poultry, pork or veal.
Domaine Larredya Jurancon Sec “la Virada” 2015(14.0%, RRP €40 at Jus de Vine, SIYPS)
This is a blend of equal parts Petit Manseng, Gros Manseng and Petit Courbu, harvested at a very low 20 hl/ha. The grapes are whole bunch pressed then fermented with natural yeast. Fermentation and maturation take place in barriques and foudres.
The alcohol is quite high at 14.0% as all the sugar has been fermented to dryness, but it doesn’t stand out on the palate. Peach and apricot fruit flavours are to the fore, but there’s also honey all the way through with a bracing, fresh finish. Superb!
Just below the name of the appellation on the label, “Les Grains des Copains” shows that this wine was made from their friends’ grapes rather than their own. The average age of the source vines is 25 years and the different vineyards are either organic or “lutte raisonnée” which roughly translates as sustainable. Yields are between 30 and 35 hl/ha and the blend is 70% Petit and 30% Gros Manseng.
This is definitely a sweet wine but the sweetness enhances the exotic fruit flavours rather than dominating them. This could be the perfect wine to match with a fruit salad!
Domaine Larredya Jurancon “Au Capceu” 2015(13.0%, 130g/L RS, RRP €42 at 64 Wine and SIYPS)
This cuvée is 100% Petit Manseng and is from a three hectare plot, mainly higher altitude terraced vines with a southerly or eastern orientation; the location is excellent for producing late harvest wines without grey rot. The vines are 30 years old and yields are low at 20 hl/ha. Fermentation and maturation (for a year) are in a mix of barriques and foudres.
This is an intensely concentrated wine with a combination of stone fruit and citrus – it also reminded me somewhat of whisky marmalade. Although quite sweet it is nicely balanced and not at all cloying. An absolute treat!
Honest 2 Goodness (H2G for short) are a small family wine importers based in Glasnevin, Dublin. They specialise in family owned wineries throughout Europe, and in particular those with an organic, sustainable or biodynamic philosophy.
Here are a few of their wines that I enjoyed at their most recent Organic & Low Sulphite Tasting:
Domaine de Maubet Côtes de Gascogne 2014 (€14.95, 11.5%)
Typical South West France blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Colombard, Ugni Blanc and Gros Manseng. Ripe green and red apples, fresh pears. Crisp acidity, light and fruity – so easy to drink on its own, but versatile with food.
Borgo Paglianetto Verdicchio di Matelica 2014 (€18.45, 12.5%)
Restrained nose; soft but textured on the palate, lemon and grapefruit combined. Tangy, don’t drink too chilled. Marche wines are really coming to the fore at the moment.
A favourite producer that I’ve covered several times. Grapefruit again, though not as juicy. A grown up wine that would excel with food.
Château Canet Minervois Blanc 2014 (€17.95, 13.0%)
50% barrel fermented; blend of Roussanne and Bourboulenc, both well known in the Rhône. Tangy, textured, pleasantly sour (Haribo Tangfastics). Plenty of mouthfeel and soft stone fruit. Moreish.
Casa Benasal by Pago Casa Gran Valencia 2012 (€18.95, 14.0%)
The Spanish equivalent of a GSM blend: Monstrell, Syrah and Garnacha Tintorera. Plum, blackberry, and blueberry on the nose, following through onto the palate. A full-bodied winter wine; lots of fruit with a light dusting of tannins on the finish. Perfect with stew or casserole (depending on where you heat the pot, apparently).
Château Segue Longue Monnier Cru Bourgeois Médoc 2010 (€25.95, 13.5%)
A trad Médoc blend of Cab Sauv, Merlot, Cab Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. Very perfumed on the nose, showing black fruits, spice and parma violets. Soft and voluptuous in the mouth – definitely from a warmer vintage. Classy.
A white for summer barbecues – though to be honest there’s no bad time to drink this tasty, versatile wine. Crisp, dry and fruity, it’s great for quaffing on its own or with lighter food. It has more going on that virtually any other wine you can get for the same price.
Where is Gascogne?
Gascony is in South west France, and is now generally thought of as the area below Bordeaux. As a larger historical region it included Bordeaux’s Medoc peninsula and the Basque Country of the Pyrenees. Culturally, it was the literary home of d’Artagnan (perhaps Dogtanian as well, I’m not sure) and Cyrano de Bergerac.
Beverage wise its most famous product is Armagnac, the other quality grape brandy which is lesser known than Cognac. But now its undistilled wines are increasingly popular.
Here are a couple I’ve tried and enjoyed recently:
Domaine de Maubet IGP Côtes de Gascogne 2014 (€14.99, Honest 2 Goodness)
This is a blend of Colombard, Ugni Blanc, Gros Manseng and Sauvignon Blanc (proportions not given) and weighs in at a very lunch-friendly 11.5% abv. For a Vin de Pays it has remarkable concentration, with lemon and grapefruit keeping it fresh and some tropical notes adding another dimension. There’s no sign of oak – and nor should there be, the fruit is allowed to express itself.
Venturer IGP Côtes de Gascogne 2014 (€6.99, Aldi)
No the price is not a misprint / typo / mistake! Again this is a very fruity, easy-drinking style of wine. It has far more character that you’ve a right to expect for this price tag – and it comes with a handy screwcap so there’s no synthetic cork you normally get with less expensive wine.
The blend is 80% Colombard, 20% Gros Manseng giving citrus and a touch of melon. At this price you can fill your fridge!
The region’s viticultural borders now align with those of Armagnac, across the three departments of Gers, Landes and Lot-et-Garonne. In the Gers the production volumes are approximately: 91% white, 8% red and 1% rosé wine. This is very atypical for the southwest of France, because in neighbouring departments mainly red wine is produced (e.g. Madiran). Around three quarters of production is exported.
The white grapes of Côtes de Gascogne are:
Colombard is the mainstay of the area, sometimes seen in cheaper blends from California, South Africa and Australia, but at its best here
Ugni Blanc is used for Armagnac production, and even more so for Cognac production (the other side of Bordeaux). It also features in Italy under the name Trebbiano (yuck!)
Petit and Gros Manseng are traditional grapes of SW France, particularly Saint-Mont and Jurancon.
Muscadelle, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc are of course the three white grapes permitted in white Bordeaux wine.
Len de l’El (aka Cavalier, prominent in AC Gaillac) is a rarity.
So firstly to dispel any possible misunderstanding – H2G is short for Honest 2 Goodness as apposed to H2G2 which is shorthand for the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy and its associated online encyclopedia. So not really alike. At all.
So now we’ve established that, what is H2G? It’s based around a farmers’ market held every Saturday in Glasnevin, north Dublin, run by brother and sister team Colm and Brid Carter. In the main Colm handles the wine and Brid the food, though of course there’s some crossover. They sell wines at the market, online and wholesale. The portfolio is imported directly by them, and mainly consists of sustainably-made wines from family producers in Spain, Italy, France, Austria and Germany.
And why “Barn-storming”? Well the high ceiling and large open door of the venue bring to mind a barn. Apart from the lack of hay. And animals. So perhaps a chai in the Médoc would be a more appropriate analogy…
The tasting covered a large chunk of their portfolio, including sparkling, white, rosé and red. Here I’ve picked out a few which really caught my attention, though the overall standard was very high.
Great version of a familiar wine: Enrico Bedin Prosecco DOC Veneto Frizzante NV
Yes that’s right, I’ve picked a Prosecco to start with! Regular readers may remember that I don’t usually care too much for Prosecco. Yes, it’s the base of the famous Bellini cocktail, but usually a single glass is all I can manage before switching to something else. If it’s only average quality, I might not even finish the glass.
Now this example surprised me – it was very pleasant to drink without being too sweet or flabby. It’s not a terribly complex drink, with notes of citrus, apple, pear and peach, but sometimes simple is just fine.
The Bedin winery is located in the foothills close to the mediaeval town of Asolo, known as the “Colli Asolani”, fairly close to Venice. As well as Glera (the official new name for the Prosecco grape) there’s also Bianchetta Trevigiana grown here, though that is most often used for blending or making vermouth.
This is the lighter sparkling Frizzante version; due to the lower pressure it doesn’t need a Champagne-style cork and cage so can be sold with a simple crown cap. Happily, these means less Irish duty than most fizz so the tippler wins for a change!
Familiar Grape From A New Producer: Weingut Setzer Setzer Weinviertel DAC Reserve Grüner Veltliner “8000”
Grüner Veltliner is Austria’s signature white grape, known as GruVee by the cool kids. It’s a real mouthful in figurative and literal senses – it’s generally dry but more full-bodied than many other whites. It deserves to be better known, though it’s always going to be more niche than Chardonnay.
If you like Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling then you need to give Grüner a try.
So what’s special about this example? The other GVs made by Setzer are very drinkable, but this premium version sets itself apart by both the quality of the soil and the unusually high vine density. In this 15 hectare vineyard vine density is right up at 8,000 vines per hectare, supposedly imitating that of the Côte d’Or in Burgundy, rather than the region’s usual 3,000 vines per hectare. The competition between vines lowers yields per vine, extends their potential lifespan and results in more intense flavours.
The soil itself is described as loess(look it up!) over gravel and limestone, coming from a raised seabed – perfect for drainage (vines don’t like wet feet).
A New Producer, New Appellation, New Grape: Chateau Saint-Go AOC Saint Mont
Although there’s a lot of tradition in the world of wine, things do move pretty fast at times. This appellation is located in Gascony’s Gers Department and got promoted to AOC from VDQS (the next quality level down) in 2011.
The producer, Plaimont, is a consortium of cooperatives in South West France. Their wine production covers the appellations of AOC Saint Mont, AOC Madiran, AOC Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh and IGP Côtes de Gascogne
At the H2G tasting their entry level white “En La Tradition Blanc” was very nice, though on the simple side. The Chateau Saint-Go itself was stunning, a wine you could happily contemplate all evening (as long as you could get a top up!) Roundness and texture come from some oak ageing, but oak doesn’t dominate the palate.
And what is the new grape? It’s made with Gros Manseng (which is familiar to lovers of Jurançon from further south), Petit Courbu (found in Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh AOC) and Arrufiac. I have to confess I hadn’t heard of Arrufiac, but it transpires that its increasing popularity is mainly due to the raised profile from Plaimont.
So there you go, you never stop learning in the world of wine – and the educational experience is a fun one!