The Tasting Panel magazine

April 2010

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Page 105 of 116

Saint-Mont Saint-Mont fits like a puzzle piece into the southwestern corner of the Armagnac region, where Tannat, Pinenc and Cabernets are grown on the eastern and southern slopes of the Ardour River and Petit Corbu, Arrufiac and Petit and Gros Manseng on the western exposures. Nineteen eighty-seven marked the first year that yields were significantly reduced here, at Château du Sabazan, and the region has steadily pursued quality with high-density planting and hand-harvesting. The Plaimont cooperative produces several heritage wines, including Le Faîte du Saint-Mont, the cuvées for which are chosen each year by a panel of sommeliers and restaurateurs. Much work is being done by Plaimont’s André Dubosc to trial previously unidentified clones unique to the region. Madiran The structure and vivid expression of the Tannat grape are the hallmarks of Madiran, and new wine styles have been introduced to make its younger wines more approachable. Produced for export by Plaimont, the region’s largest cooperative, “1907” shows blackberry and mulberry aromas and flavors, black spices, soft and decidedly sweet-wooded tannins that represent a point-of-entry for modern consumers to the region’s more traditional, age- worthy wines. At Domaine Berthoumieu, Didier Barré’s signature cuvée, Haute Tradition, needs two to eight years to reach optimal expression, while his 90% Tannat “Charles de Batz” cuvée is considered positively youthful at fifteen. The dry and sweet white wines of Pacherenc-du-Vic-Bilh are produced side-by-side with the reds of Madiran and made primarily from Gros and Petit Manseng. Winegrowers here note that vigor allows for greater fruit expression, contributing stone fruit and riper elements to the floral, citrus and mineral framework of the wines. As with their Madiran reds, intensity Didier Barré of Domaine Berthoumieu understands the characteristics of the Tannat grape. of flavors, concentration and considerable length were seen in wines from Château Montus, Domaine Labranche-Laffont and Château Laffitte-Teston. Fronton Just north of Toulouse lies Fronton where the local variety Negrette has adapted itself particularly well to the region’s gravelly and alluvial soils. Negrette produces colorful, meaty wines that are relatively low in acidity, with aromas that can range from violets and licorice to animal. At Château Plaisance, winegower Marc Penavayre cultivates Negrette, Syrah and the Cabernets on the low-vigor, worn alluvial terraces or causes above the Tarn River. Plaisance is organic, and Penavayre works the soils to help maintain acidity in his vibrant reds. Fronton producers of note include Château Montauriol, Domaine Le Roc, Château Bellevue la Forêt, Domaine Laurou and Château La Colombière. Gaillac Gaillac’s unique varieties have been called “a taste of another time,” and many are emerging from obscurity in the hands of producers like Robert and Bernard Plageoles of Domaine des Tres Cantous. Rare whites include Ondenc, with aromas of bitter orange rind that carry through on the palate; Verdenal, which exhibits a creamy croustade (a local pastry) character and ripe grapefruit marker; and Lion de l’Oeil (“far from the eye,” for its long-stemmed grapes), which is lower in acidity and used in blends for softness. Of the reds, Prunelart is soft with earthy The gravelly vineyard soils at Château Plaisance, Fronton. blackberry and fresh prune fruit, a cinnamon and spice mid-palate and a complex finish. Braucol shows black currant with lighter, red-pepper-laced april 2010 / the tasting panel / 105

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