This week I had the pleasure of attending my first Guild of Sommeliers wine tasting, and the wines featured were from Sud-Ouest, or Southwest France. The tasting was particularly enjoyable and informative thanks to the presenters, Master Sommelier Fred Dexheimer, with Master Sommelier Scott Carney. I was pleasantly surprised by the very good quality of the wines, and upon hearing the price range of the twelve wines we tasted, I was even more impressed, and will be sure to make an effort to locate more Southwest France wines. In addition, it was an opportunity to be exposed to some grape varieties I’ve never tasted before, and they were truly fascinating.
The first wine we tasted was the Gaillac Blanc, Domaine des Terrisses 2010, a blend of 50% Len del Lel, 30% Mauzac, and 20% Sauvignon Blanc. The wine was reminiscent of a Sauvignon Blanc, with its pale color and characteristics of citrus, some orchard fruit, green apple, a bit of tropical notes, some what blossoms, and very bright acidity, and clean feel, yet had something unique about it, separating it from Sauvignon Blanc but leaving it in the “food friendly” category and finding much favor with my palate.
Next was the Saint Mont "Les Vignes Retrouvees" Plaim' Arques 2009, another wine with bright acidity and a blend of 60% Gros Manseng, 30% Petit Courbu, and 10% Arrufiac. This wine was also relatively pale but slightly riper in characteristics than the first wine, it still had citrus and orchard fruit notes and lots of bright acidity but was longer in its finish - another food friendly wine.
The last white of the first flight was the Pacherenc du Vic Bilh Sec, Chateau Montus 2008 - this was a blend of 90% Petit Courbu and 10% Petit Manseng and based upon its rich golden color, its contact with new barrels was easy to identify. Also based upon the golden color it was easy to guess that the wine would be more dense than the first two, and would possess characteristics of baked orchard fruit and baking spices with a bit of citrus, blossoms, honeysuckle, and plenty of oak. Still, the wine showed enough acidity and a clean feel, and seemed that it would pair well with somewhat heavier dishes including poultry and pork. I was fascinated by this wine as it was quite oaky but not offensively so, and the acidity came through nicely.
We then moved on to the reds, and began with the Marcillac, “Lo Sang del Pais” Domaine du Cros 2010, 100% Mansois - a bright wine with notes of cherry and berry, a hint of herb and a wild characteristic, a bit of earthiness, and bright acidity with lots of texture with a long finish. For me, this wine showed characteristics of both Languedoc-Roussillon and Beaujolais wines and was an interesting introduction to Southwest reds.
Next was the Gaillac Rouge "Rroix d'Azal" Domaine Philemon 2009 which I liked very much - 100% Braucol. The wine is very aromatic with characteristics of fruit with herb and a bit of earth, lots of leather, black pepper, and a characteristic on the nose almost like cologne and incense - I really liked the aromas of this wine. And the flavors did not disappoint, confirming the aromas and showing nice acidity with a soft texture. This was one of my favorite reds of the tasting.
The last red of the first flight was the Fronton, "Ce Vin" Chateau Bellevue La Foret 2008, 100% Negrette and fantastic. The wine has a dark color and is beginning to show a bit of age with a hint of rust color in its rim. The characteristics are both red and dark fruit with some baking spice and some chocolate and a bit of earth. The balance of acidity and tannin is excellent, and the wine finished a bit thinner than the nose would indicate.
The second flight began with the Madiran "Cuvee Moutoue Fardet" Clos Fardet 2005, a blend of 98% Tannat and 2% Cabernet Franc. The wine is fairly dark in color with a bit of brick on the rim indicating its age, and has characteristics of some cooked fruit, earth, and ash, the aromas are bold, and the wine is acidic with lots of texture, and a long finish. This red was among my favorites of the tasting.
Next was the Madiran, Chateau Montus 2006, a blend of 80% Tannat and 20% Cabernet Franc. This wine is good for transitioning from summer into the cooler months - it has notes of soft fruit and spice and earth and an “outdoor” sort of characteristic, a smooth texture, and a lengthy finish. I actually liked the aroma better than the flavor of this wine.
The next red was the Madiran, Chateau Bouscasse 2007, a blend of 60% Tannat, 25% Cabernet Franc, and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. This fairly dark wine has characteristics of soft yet very present fruit, spice, and a green, herbal note that I could also detect on the finish. The wine is nicely balanced and the finish is long.
The last of the Madiran wines was the "Charles de Batz" Domaine Berthoumieu 2007, a blend of 90% Tannat and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. This “stoic” red is almost purplish with a hint of pink on the rim, indicating its youth. The wine has notes of more dark fruit than red fruit, it is a bit spicy and dense with big aromas and lots of texture.
The final red was the Irouleguy, "Ohitza" Domaine Brana, 2008, a blend of 80% Tannat and 20% Cabernet Franc. This was a fascinating wine, with a purplish red color and characteristics of red fruit and a bit of green pepper (presumably as a result of the Cabernet Franc), a bit of spice, a nice aroma and a somewhat light, cool feel, reflecting its Atlantic influence. This was perhaps the most elegant red of the tasting.
The last wine of the tasting (and probably my favorite) was the Pacherenc du Vic Bilh Doux "Brumaire" Chateau Bouscasse 2007, a sweet wine made of 100% Petit Manseng. The wine is golden in color, with characteristics of honey, apricot, peach, candied fruits, and baking spice, a very smooth feel and a long finish. The wine has enough acidity and the perfect flavor to pair ideally with foie gras, a staple in the region. The wine has similar characteristics to Sauternes, except it is not botrytized - it is harvested in November, raisinated, and then fermented. I must admit this wine was not spit into the cup - I drank it. I liked it that much.