For the last few days I have been with Plaimont Producteurs in southwest France. They are a sizeable company who source from 5000 hectares of vines and make 38 million bottles of wine each year, from the appellations of Saint Mont, Madiran and Côtes de Gascogne. As well as making lots of good quality, characterful commercial wine, they also have special projects, and this is why I was interested in visiting.
One of these is to discover and nurture the viticultural heritage of the region. They have been scouting out old vineyards and identifying old varieties that might have been discarded for the wrong reasons. In the past, France needed a lot of cheap wine, and some varieties were chosen for yields and ease of growing over quality, while others had the potential for lower yields of high quality wine and were ditched. Those are now interesting.
In their quest, they discovered a beaten up old vineyard planted in 1871, before phylloxera hit the area. With fawn sand soils, one of the common terroirs of this region, the vines have survived even though they are on their own roots. In the film, I’m with Olivier Bourdet-Pees, GM of Plaimont Producteurs, who explains all about this small Tannat vineyard. After working to restore the vines and trellis them, the vineyard is now back in production, and each year Plaimont make around 1500 bottles of Cuvée Prephylloxerique from these venerable vines. This is one of very few remaining plots from this era in France.
When a vine dies, it is replaced my layering (macrottage or provinage in French), where a cane from the mother vine is placed under the earth so that a new vine springs up from it, with new roots, filling in the gap.
The wine itself doesn’t disappoint. It’s beautifully made with real harmony and finesse, as well as intensity. And this is Tannat!
Producteurs Plaimont Vignes Préphylloxérique 2014 Saint Mont, France
An ungrafted plot of Tannat (0.49 ha) planted in 1871 produces this remarkable wine. It’s concentrated and dense with lovely freshness. There’s purity here, with nice acidity and structure. Really harmonious with amazingly pure blackcurrant and black cherry fruit, backed up by firm but fine-grained tannins. Such finesse, and the retail price of €55 is very reasonable for this vinous history. 95/100