Back to Gascony 2: red wines

Last week I wrote about the main type of wine produced in this part of South-West France, namely dry whites. But my tasting of some 90 plus wines also included some reds and a few sweet whites. This week I will talk about the reds in more detail.

Vineyard in the Gers at this time of year

Côte de Gascogne red wines

Although representing just a small proportion (around 7%) of  the production from this Côtes de Gascogne designation, there are quite a few more than decent (and very inexpensive) reds produced here as well. I also note that the quality of these seems to be improving notably without their prices rising much.

The grape varieties are essentially the classic ones from this region that lies between the Pyrenees mountains to the south and Bordeaux to the north, not far inland from the Atlantic coast. So one finds the classic Bordeaux varieties (the two Cabernets and their cousin Merlot), but also Tannat and sometimes a few others, including Malbec and Syrah. There is also, thanks to the Plaimont cooperative which has saved it from oblivion, a small quantity recently re-introduced old and forgotten variety called Manseng Noir (see below) that is probably destined to further plantings as it produces very low alcohol, most useful to balance high alcohol producers like Merlot and Tannat.

The best wines in my tasting

I have selected 11 wines from the series of 22 that I tasted on August 27th. This is quite a high propportion, but I used the same star rating as in last week’s article (between 0 and 3 stars, including halves). The wines are listed in the order of the tasting which was conducted blind. All retail for between 4 and 8 euros, with a couple of justified exceptions, which means that these wines represent excellent value for money. The first two actually come from a different designation, Vins de Pays de Comté Tolosan Bigorre, which borders that of Côtes de Gascogne to the south.

1489 Bigorre rouge 2018 (100% Tannat, IGP comté Tolosan/5,50 euros)

The name, using figures rather than letters, seems a bit curious. Some reduction on the nose at first, then this clears to a lively, well defined and quite juicy wine with still youthful tannins that will soften for the palate’s benefit in a year or so.

2115 Bigorre rouge 2018 (100% Tannat, IGP Comté Tolosan/7,50 euros)

Same remark on the name as for the previous wine. Both come from the same producer. Dense, violet hue and a very fine and rich nose that shows full ripeness of the fruit. This is intense and packed with flavours on the palate and will surely age well. Excellent length and a very good wine.

Plaimont, Moonseng 2018 (Merlot, Moonseng Noir/6 euros)

I preferred this blended wine to the pure Manseng Noir, also from Plaimont and in the tasting. I think that this recently resuscitated variety is very interesting in blends, but perhaps less so on its own. Very floral nose close to violets. Quite powerful with youthful tannins and a pleasant hint of bitterness on the finish.

Laballe,Terres Basses 2018 (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tannat /6 euros)

Smoky black fruit on the nose. Dynamic and vibrant thanks to its keen acidity. Still youthful and showing its skeleton a bit, but with good length and constitution.

Hauts de Montrouge, rouge 2018 (Tannat, Cabernet Sauvignon/price around 4 euros)

As with the white that came through last week’s selection, this is a very keenly priced wine from the Nogaro cooperative. Lovely nose and a richly powerful, tannic wine that will need a couple of years cellaring to soften its tannins but is very well made and in perfect balance.

Uby No:7 2018 (Merlot, Tannat/5,50 euros)

Uby is one of the larger producers and its wines are well distributed in France. This shows density and good ripeness of its fruit which is balanced by some keen acidity. Again a youthful wine that will benefit from some ageing, but everything is well in place.

Domaine d’Arton, La Croix d’Arton 2017 (Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet/5,50 euros) Part of the estate is shown in the above photo.

Excellent value for money here again. The estate is on the eastern side of the appellation, near the town of Lectoure. A smoky touch to the nose and a more supple touch on the palate than most of the previous wines, probably due to the blending and the lack of Tannat in this blend, as well as another year of ageing. Fresh and nicely balanced.

Domaine Chiroulet, Terroir Gascon 2017 (Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Tannat/7,70 euros)

Another relatively supple wine (the extra year of ageing has probably helped) with good substance and a lively, vibrant feel to it. Good length too. This comes from the same producer and plot as the excellent Côte d’Heux white wine I selected last week.

Domaine Chiroulet, Grande Réserve 2016 (Merlot, Tannat/14 euros)

This estate clearly knows how to make good wines! Both reds and their top white last week (Côte d’Heux) came through the selection process with flying colours. Almost three stars for this one, with a colour that remains youthful and good acidity that must have helped in the ageing. Intense, vibrant and well structured, this can still age for another five years with no difficulty.

Entras, Colina Oeste 2016 (Tannat, Malbec, Merlot/10,30 euros)

This is ambitious and very good. Dense purplish hue, then an equally intense nose that shows good balance between ripe fruit and hints of oak from barrel ageing. Lovely substance here that has yielded intense and lingering flavours. Excellent, a  three star wine and not the most expensive either!

Domaine d’Arton, La Croix d’Arton Reserve 2014 (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah/8,20 euros)

Another good red wine from this estate that also shows how well it can age, as its nose is clearly tertiary with woodland and leather perceptible. The tannins have softened giving this a softer, fleshier style than the younger wines above. Very good and great value.

Wines also tasted

Plaimont Le Manseng Noir 2018, Saint Lannes Les Peyrades 2018, Horgelus Rouge de Gala 2018, Haut Marin Triton 2018, Domaine Le Broca cuvée Peirusquet 2018, Domaine de Maubet 2018, Domaine de Pellehaut Ampélomeryx 2018, Plaimont Domaine de Cassaigne 2018, Domaine de Gensac Pas de Deux 2017, Domaine de l’Espérance cuvée Rouge 2017, Les Hauts de Guillamin 2016.

Some conclusions on the reds

I was very pleasantly surprised by the quality of these reds. They seem to have progressed in finesse and ripeness over recent years and they certainly represent excellent value for money. I suppose that this is partly due to the learning curve on the part of the producers of what is, after all, quite a new process for many of them, at least in this region. Parhaps also global warming is having a somewhat benficial impact in the field of phenolic ripeness. Most of these wines retain a strong local accent, due to the combination os climate and grape variety, and this have a marked tannic structure.

David

PS. Sweet whites will have to wait until next week.

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