Today I co-posted with David who writes the food blog entitled Cocoa & Lavender. See his blog for one of the recipes mentioned in this post!
We always harbor the hope that we will discover a good wine at a really reasonable (read: cheap) price. Who doesn’t?
We’ve had some real duds in this quest—wines that wouldn’t even qualify as marinades and went straight down the kitchen sink—and we’ve made some terrific discoveries. The wines from Gascony and its neighboring appellations definitely fall into the latter category.
Gascony, to be clear, is not in Provence, the familiar stomping ground of The Modern Trobadors. It lies about 300 miles (about 500 kilometers) away in what is called the Sud-Ouest (Southwest) wine region, of France.
That’s a wine region? Yup. You know its neighbors, Bordeaux and Languedoc, but somehow this wine region of 30 or so appellations across 124,000 acres (50,000 hectares) of vines in some of the country’s lushest terroir has not yet established a regional identity outside of France. Southwest is fourth largest region in terms of volume, but very little of it is seen in the U.S. (although I hope this is changing).
What we discovered are some really good wines at reasonable prices from a region of diverse producers who are united by their passion to produce excellent wines. Many Sud-Ouest vignerons have dedicated their careers to preserving rare grape varieties, even saving some from extinction, so that the grapes from which these wines are made are probably ones you have never ever heard of!
With grape names like Loin de l’Oeil (“far from the eye”) and Folle Blanche (“crazy white”) and appellation names like Irouléguy and Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh, we had to know more!
What better way to get to know the wines from Gascony than to have a dinner party? I called David, good friend and author of the fabulous food blog, Cocoa & Lavender, to see if he was interested. He was game and came up with the menu based on the wines we had and we were off on a culinary adventure that begins in Gascogne.
In the Middle Ages, all the wine from Gascony (and other inland areas) traveled along the Garonne River to the port of Bordeaux where it was sold or traded. By the 1300s, it was the Gascon wine that was especially coveted. As a result, nervous wine merchants of Bordeaux finagled the institution of a policy—La Police des Vins-– that basically required all the Bordeaux wine to be sold before any other wine could be sold or traded out of the port. Apparently there were other underhanded tactics back then that were instrumental in propelling the demand for Bordeaux beyond that for Gascony.
|“Province of Guyenne and Gascony” before the French Revolution|
the grapes—particularly Ugni Blanc and Colombard—went into Armagnac barrels and only what was left over was made into wine.
Gascony does not produce any AOP/AOC wines. It is known for its IGP or Vin de Pays wines and, in fact, is the highest producing IGP wine district in the Southwest region. According to the wine trade organization of the Southwest region (known, in France, as Interprofession des Vins du Sud-Ouest), as much as 75% of Côtes de Gascogne wine is devoted to export, making it one of the country’s “most widely exported white wines.”
Our Gascon wines were both white: a Plaimont Colombelle L’Original (2011) and a Domaine de Pellehaut Harmonie de Gascogne (2011).
The Colombelle is a combination of Colombard and Ugni Blanc grapes. We served it as an apéritif along with some very light nibbles of sweet potato chips and olives roasted with marcona almonds and shallots. This is an uncomplicated, light, and pleasant wine. We felt it was a nicely balanced wine with light bouquet and a tropical fruit finish. One person tasted “grapefruit” and another discerning palate tasted “grape skins”. This bottle typically retails for around $10 but I see it is on sale for $7 in Massachusetts. At these low prices, I can see buying a case!
À Table: Mark, Claire, Susan,
David, and Win (clockwise from left)
|Terrine of Foie Gras, Duck, Veal and Pork. Photo: David Scott Allen|
|Strawberries marinated in Armagnac and red wine. Photo: David Scott Allen|
Finally, we served each person a tiny morsel of the Fourme d’Ambert Cheese to be enjoyed with the Saint Albert wine or a small snifter of Armagnac.
Our Gascon meal transported the dinner party to the Southwest region of France. In the South of France, I have only traveled as far west as Toulouse but, now, I long to go deeper into the luscious green countryside to visit medieval hilltop villages, fortified villages, châteaux, and to enjoy what they refer to as the douceur de vivre. Ah, the sweetness of life was certainly around our table.
Post Script: While I was writing this post, Win Rhoades of South Street and Vine Wine and Cheese store, called to tell me that he had just gotten in a Côtes de Gascogne wine. Naturally, I walked over and picked it up: a Domaine de Pouy made of 60% Ugni Blanc and 40% Colombard. What a treat—light, crisp, refreshing, and even inspiring on a hot afternoon. At $14, this bottle will be in my wine cellar this summer. (Win says that it may go on sale, too!) Like all the Gascon wines we discovered, it’s a good wine at a really reasonable price!
|The Modern Trobadors Research Center: A Domaine de Pouy makes the deadline|