Vacations are wonderful, but I often find I have so much work piled up and waiting for me when I get back that I wonder why I went in the first place. With this blog it’s no different, and between wines that were in the queue before I went away and the wines I enjoyed in Canada, I could write for a month without trying anything new. Have no fear – that’s something of an impossible notion, but still I can now skip a day or two of drinking without endangering my output. This is a wine I had by the glass before I went to Canada, but only just now looked into what it actually is – the Plaimont Saint Mont Les Vignes Retrouvées 2010.
This is a wine of Saint Mont, which sounded vaguely familiar but didn’t ring any particularly strong bells. If I had been a more diligent student, I might have remembered it being mentioned in the Oxford Companion to Wine entry for South West France, but Saint Mont itself wasn’t in the WSET Diploma syllabus so I never read further. In the OCW it is listed as a Vin Délimité de Qualité Supérieure (VDQS), which was a classification that stood as a middle ground between appellation contrôlée (AC) wine and vin de pays (VDP). The VDQS designation was often used as a step toward AC status, with regions being eventually promoted up, and as a transitional classification never represented more than a percentage or two of total production. The category as a whole was eliminated in 2011, and around the same time Saint Mont was promoted to AC status, as shown in the fine print on the label of this bottle. (This vintage, 2010, may actually be from before that happened, but it’s likely it was bottled or labelled after the promotion.)
Beyond its classification status and that it’s in the South West of France, what else is there to know about Saint Mont? Geographically it’s directly northeast of the Madiran / Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh region and surrounded for the most part by the Côtes de Gascogne. The climate is continental though the influences of the Atlantic and Mediterranean keep winters fairly mild. Springs are wet, summers are hot, and the ripening season last long enough for late harvests. The soils are sandy earth, along with some sand and clay.
The proximity to Madiran is evident in the grapes permitted in red and rosé wines. Tannat must constitute at least 60% of those wines, with Fer (Pinenc), Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc, as well as Merlot being allowed to make up the remainder. White wine is produced from Gros and Petit Manseng, which combined can make up at most 60% of the blend, with the remainder being Arrufiac (Ruffiac), Petit Courbu, and Clairette Blanche, though Clairette Blanche is being phased out.
This wine is a blend of Arrufiac, Gros Manseng, and Petit Courbu. Gros Manseng is a larger-berried and less prized cousin of Petit Manseng that we know from the 919 Wines varietal example we tasted back in February, and we’ve seen Petit Courbu as a varietal from Château Bouscassé which we tasted in May. Therefore, it makes sense to spare a moment for Arrufiac. It’s a white grape native to the south west of France, and has traditionally been used in wines of Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh, and as is the case with this wine typically blended with Mansengs and Petit Courbu. It is not well known outside of Gascony, and was in decline until the 1980s when it was revitalized, primarily by Plaimont. The name of this wine, The Rediscovered Vines, pays tribute to the traditional grapes of the region. Arrufiac, also known as Rufiac, Arrufiat and a dozen other synonyms, brings body and a gunflint character to blends.
Plaimont is a cooperative formed in 1979 by the merger of three regional cooperatives, Plaisance (Pl), Aignan (ai) and Saint Mont (mont). It represents over 1000 growers, and with an annual volume of over 40 million bottles, represents 98% of the trade in Saint Mont, and almost half of the volume in Madiran, Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh, and Côtes de Gascogne. With roughly 40 wines in their portfolio, if there is a type of wine that can be made in Gascony, it’s safe to say that they make it, across red, rosé, and white, table and sweet, still and even a sparkling Colombard. The plantings of their growers represent all the traditional grapes relatively unique to the region, as well as more widely known French grapes such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Sauvignon Blanc.
This wine, from their Producteurs range, is clear and bright in the glass with a pale lemon colour, and a few slow legs. On the nose it’s clean and youthful with medium intensity, and notes of green apple, mineral, and grapefruit. On the palate it’s dry, with medium plus acidity, medium body, medium plus intensity, medium alcohol, and medium plus length. It’s heavily citric with notes of grapefruit and a little lime, but there are also some green onion and herby characters. It has an orange blossom finish.
I’ll rate this wine as a solid good. It’s crisp, fresh, and offers slightly more than just citrus and acid. It’s very quaffable, and just the thing as we head into the summer months down here. I’m glad that Plaimont has continued to cultivate Arrufiac in Saint Mont, though of course I am hoping at some point to be able to try it as a varietal instead of just as part of a blend. Perhaps there’s some already growing in Australia that I just haven’t found yet.