Nosing Around

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Gascony, as you might remember (or possibly never knew) lies down in the South West of France with Bordeaux to the North, the Atlantic to the East and the Spanish border to the South. On a good day you can see the Pyrénées.  

Gascony is famous for Armagnac; the oldest brandy ever distilled in France which used to be consumed for its therapeutic benefits. In 2007, scientists at Bordeaux University confirmed the health benefits of Armagnac and discovered that it can evidently protect against cardiac disease. In Thailand, it costs an arm and a leg, so it’s probably cheaper to stay on the pills that the doctor prescribed.

Cédric Garzuel, winemaker at Plaimont Producteurs. Cédric Garzuel, winemaker at Plaimont Producteurs.

Now then, let me introduce Plaimont Producteurs. Established in 1979, the company is a group of award-winning wine producers based in the heart of Gascony. Their vineyards stretch north from the Pyrenean foothills over the undulating hillsides and today the company produces forty million bottles every year, half of which are sold in France. They produce a huge range of wines, including these two.

Colombelle L’Original Rosé 2010, France (Bt. 319 @ Friendship)

You could be forgiven for assuming that Colombelle is some kind of exotic French grape, but actually it’s just a trade name, perhaps derived from the white grape variety Colombard.

There’s an interesting local grape in this wine. Blended with our two old friends, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, the wine-makers have added 60 percent of the less familiar Tannat (tan-nah) grape.  This deep purple grape is one of the local lads in this part of France and on its own, produces powerful wines with dark fruit aromas and high tannin levels. For this reason, it’s usually blended with other grapes to make it more palatable.

Perhaps this is why it’s unusually dark for a rosé. It’s an attractive orangey colour with faint flecks of purple and there’s a delicate brambly-fresh aroma of red fruit, hints of spice, dried herbs and a dash or oregano that seem to make one’s nose twitch. At least, my nose twitches when I smell brambly-fresh aromas. I’ve noticed that my dogs also twitch their noses when they smell something interesting. But there again, I have reason to believe that I was probably a dog in a previous life, so that might account for it. (Oh, do get on with it – Ed.)

Ah yes, the wine. On the palate, it’s dry and refreshing, as rosé ought to be, and there’s a pleasingly soft mouth-feel with just a dash of citrus flavour. Although the wine is well-balanced and light bodied, there’s a touch of acidity that gives it an attractive assertiveness. With its very long dry and fruity finish this is rather a charming wine. At just 12.5% alcohol content, I’d be quite happy to drink this wine without the distraction of food but it would make a splendid apéritif. If you prefer your wines with food, try this with light cheese dishes or Thai chicken dishes which are not too fiercely hot.

Colombelle L’Original Rouge 2010, France (Bt. 319 @ Friendship)

The lovely aroma is very similar to the Colombelle rosé, but with the volume turned up. It is very much the big brother, and you’ll find enticing aromas of fresh red and dark fruit, plums and cherries and even a touch of peppery spice. Although the mouth-feel is surprisingly smooth, there’s a definite kick to the taste. The same three grapes are used and they make their distinctive contribution to this attractive wine. The Tannat adds hints of black fruits and gives the wine structure; the Merlot brings aromas of fresh red fruits and the Cabernet Sauvignon gives the wine freshness and a touch of spiciness.

This is an unusual wine; really is quite assertive, splendidly dry and with a long and dry, firm finish. If you normally enjoy light easy-gluggers, you might find this a bit more demanding even though it is only 12.5% alcohol content. But I like a wine that has something to say; something with a bit of character. As you might guess, it would probably show at its best with food. Red meat dishes or distinctive cheeses spring to mind. The wine’s herby aroma might even make your nose twitch.