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.
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!
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!