French wine – who doesn’t know about that? Legendary Burgundies and Bordeaux, Champagnes, surely we all know about French wine, right?
Well, there is an area of France that has been producing wine for millennia which most Americans are vastly ignorant of. In the sunny lands of South West France, they are producing wines that are nothing at all like Bordeaux or Burgundies. This is the land of Gascony – think the Three Musketeers – and Toulouse – think Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. The region is south of Bordeaux and directly north of the Pyrenees and the Spanish border. South West France produces 450 million bottles of wine a year. A little more than 50% of the wine is white, and the rest is red and rose. The whites are crisp and fruity when young or intriguing and rich when aged, and the reds tend to be bursting with fruit or powerfully tannic. All are wines worth getting to know.
At a recent tasting, led by New York City-based Master Sommelier, Fred Dexheimer, a number of intriguing wines from the region were sampled:
2010 Plainmont Colombelle Blanc Sec – Intensely fruity and fresh wine with citrus and floral notes. The wine is a blend of 80% Colombard and 20% Sauvignon Blanc and Ugni Blanc
2010 Plaimont Colombelle Rouge – Blending Tannat (a typical South West France grape), Merlot, and Cabernet, this spicy wine of tart red fruit is a fresh and youthful on the palate.
2008 Chateau Montus Blanc – 100% Petit Courbu, this wine develops concentrated flavor and complexity from barreling aging on the lees for 6-8 months. A distinctive white wine that can stand up to rich fare, including fondue.
2010 Lo Sang Del Pais – “The Blood of the Land”, this distinctive wine is made from 100% Fer Servadou. This young wine has fresh fruit and displays minerality that is typical of the terroir.
2008 Domaine des Terrisses Gaillac Rouge – This well-structured wine is a blend of 50% Braucol, 30% Duras and 20% Syrah. Each variety is fermented separately, and the wine is pumped over daily to extract extra flavor. The wine is held in tank for a year before bottling.
2008 Chateau Bellevue La Foret – 100% Negrette, dense purple in color with a smoky nose and spicy palate.
2005 Cuvee Moutoue Fardet, Madiran, Clos Fardet – The Madiran applellation is north of the Pyrenees in the heart of Gascony, and the designation Madiran is only used for red wine. This big, tannic wine, which needs to age for years before it is ready, is made from 98% Tannat and 2% Cabernet Franc. Its careful fermentation is in open topped vats using natural yeast.
2008 Irouleguy Domaine Brana Ohtiza Rouge – Another big wine from vineyards that receive the best ratio of sunshine during the year, this is a blend of 80% Tannat and 20% Cabernet Franc. The tannic wine mellows and develops complexity during twelve months of barrel aging.
Wines of South West France are available at many shops in Manhattan, including 67 Wine. They wines above are distributed by The Vine Collective in Manhattan.