Saturday 18 February 2017

In praise of Plaimont Producteurs

When asked why he wasn't interested in the sport of kings, the Shah of Iran said it was well known that some horses run faster than others. Similarly, some co-operatives are better than others. In general, co-operatives are not expected to outshine good individual producers but some are so good as to merit strong admiration. Over half of French wine production comes from co-operatives by the way.

One of these is the estimable Plaimont Producteurs in Southwest France. Here is a version of their self-description;

Benedictine monks from the Monastery of St. Mont made wine from the middle ages on yet for many years the wines were destined for distillation in the production of Armagnac. Then came Andre Dubosc a native son of the area and vigneron for three generations who, helped by a team of young winemakers established the appellations St. Mont, Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh moelleux and Côtes de Gascogne. 1979 was the year when Plaisance, Aignan and Saint Mont dans le Gers amalgamated their cellars and their initials (PL for Plaisance, AI for Aignan and MONT for Saint Mont) to form the Union des Caves which became Plaimont Producteurs at Saint Mont (Gers). In 1999 they were joined by the Caves de Crouseilles (producing Madiran, Pacherenc de Vic-Bilh and Béarn) and Condom (Côtes de Gascogne et Condomois).

From the start Plaimont Producteurs bought the best chateaux and domaines of the region from Aquitaine to the Pyrenees in order to re-establish these emblematic and unique vineyards and elevate their image in the service of the organization. 

An exceptional genetic inheritance.

Our native varieties, spread across a very particular climate, Tannat for our reds from Madiran and Saint Mont, Gros and Petit Manseng for the whites of Saint Mont and Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh.

But one treasure always hides another. We have parcels of pre-phylloxera vines unique in France, one of which dates from the 1st Empire!

Our white varieties

Petit Courbu


Gros and Petit Manseng


Our Red varieties


Pinenc (Fer Servadou)

Cabernet Sauvignon

A unique conservatoire of old varieties.

Nature's magic has preserved an exceptional genetic inheritance.

Based on their genetic researches scientists have been able to determine that the Adour region was the cradle of the great Oceanic varieties, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc which then spread out to Bordeaux, the Loire and the coast of Cantabria in Spain, Northern Portugal (Porto and the Douro) and Latin America.

The foothills of the Pyrenees is the paradise for 'Lambrusques' or wild vines, never cultivated by man, occurring naturally, supported on tree-trunks... 12 completely unknown varieties have been found there which are not even hermaphrodite, hence little-cultivated by man. Wine has begun to be produced from these.

This preserved wealth has allowed Plaimont Producteurs to create the most important private and officially recognized grape collection in France.

It is the latter part of this mission statement which caught our eye. Chapeau!

Nice people too....

Sunday 5 February 2017

Sangue di Giuda

Image result for blood of judas

Fake News is nothing new. In the wine world, 'Sangue di Giuda' is a good example. Various fake news items have been invented to market this sweet sparkling red from Oltrepò Pavese,

Despite the Spanish label, Sangue di Giuda is Italian.
This name according to two of the legends was intentionally invented to discourage the drinking of this wine.

Legend No. 1.

The name "Sangue di Giuda" was given to the wine by monks in Lombardy who disapproved of its stimulating and "aphrodisiac" effects.


Legend No. 2.

The friars used to make the wine and nuns would break into the cellar and have a good time. The monks grew tired of this and marked the barrels with the terrifying phrase "Sangue di Giuda" so they would not have as much disappearing wine.

We don't buy either of these silly stories. No other wine has a name designed to put you off drinking it. (OK, maybe 'Inferno'?)

Legend No. 3.

This tells that Judas wandered this world - a sad example of impiety (according to Bishop Papias of Hierapolis). He had bitterly repented of having betrayed Jesus, and Jesus, as a sign of forgiveness caused him to be resurrected in Oltrepò, precisely at Broni, a province of Pavia. Recognizing him, the citizens of that place decided to kill him for his role in the Passion of Christ. Judah was saved thanks to a gift he made to the local wine growers: he healed their vines from a disease which at that time had affected them. To thank him, the winemakers dedicated to him the name of this wine.

Oh, sure! Fake News indeed.

No, we reckon you can expect the name to have been adopted in more literally bloodthirsty days as a positive incentive. Who wouldn't want to drink the blood of the traitor, Judas?

Leaving the moniker aside, the wine belongs to the basket of other sparkling reds to be found in Italy including Lambrusco of course but also Gragnano, Brachetto, Buttafuoco etc.

This last-named, Buttafuoco is almost identical to Sangue di Giuda and comes from the same area which includes Broni by the way. Croatina vivo or frizzante is one of our favourites also from the Oltrepo Pavese. In Sangue di Giuda and Buttafuoco the Croatina is always blended with Barbera and nearly always with Uva Rara and Ughetta (Vespolina). Buttafuoco has its own legends but we won't bore you with those.

Victor Hazan: Did anyone mention Gutturnio?
There is a sparkling version of Gutturnio, another Barbera/Croatina blend. Pleasant though the wine is, Gutturnio was cast into utter oblivion by Victor Hazan who found the name just too ugly to contemplate. We suggest one shouldn't be put off either by this name or 'Sangue di Giuda'. The wines are perfectly attractive in their way although the latter can be rather sweet.

Like Lambrusco amabile, Sangue di Giuda 'dulce' is popular in Spain

Spanis supermarkets are strangely strong in sweet red sparklers. In one ('Supersol') there were no less that four kinds of Lambrusco Amabile

Might there be a story behind the popularity of all this sweet Italian sparkling wine and why don't the spanish make it for themselves? Just let's not make it a fake one.