The blending of several grape varieties to make a balanced and unified wine is more complex and difficult than it might at first seem, and that’s just considering the purely technical side of things like possible variance of grape percentages from vintage to vintage, and the many ways to process and age them. Much of what permits such a harmonic outcome in the first place is terroir – “place”…
Take a place like Piedmont in Italy as an example. It’s a region with a truly great and broad wine-making tradition, whose vineyards are planted with great varieties like Nebbiolo, Barbera, Dolcetto, Freisa, Grignolino , that at least traditionally, and for whatever reason, are never blended. And it’s not that they couldn’t be either, to even great success, but the tradition for doing so just doesn’t exist there, and there is indeed something about all of these grapes in the end that make them better as solo acts, rather than in groups.
France’s southwest on the other hand – from Bordeaux all the way down to the Pyrenees – is all about the cuvee’ . In these parts, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot, Malbec, Tannat, Braucol, Duras, and other varieties typically share the region’s casks and bottles. Somewhat rare is the wine label from this entire swath of France that doesn’t list the names of at least two or three grapes. Unblended Cabernet Sauvignon is for California, and and straight up Cabernet Franc is best left to the Loire…
As the title says, this “simple” wine (it’s a vin de pays) from Gascony – the land of the Three Musketeers – is, like Athos, Porthos, and Dartagnan, something of a perfect (decidedly masculine) trio. This particular blend is made up of roughly equal parts of Tannat, that carries the bass, with Merlot singing baritone, and with the tenor part taken by Cabernet Franc…All for one, and one for all.
Since I didn’t have the time or the budget for cassoulet, I opted for a Moroccan menu, beginning with a sort of Moroccan-style “cole slaw” made with Savoy cabbage, olive oil, orange juice and zest, and cilantro, followed by a tagine of kofte (tiny lamb meatballs stewed in a complex spicy tomato sauce with eggs poached on top) with white rice on the side.
Domaine du Chateau Larroque Vin de Pays des Cotes de Gascogne 2010
Very deep blackish garnet color. Pungent nose of motor oil, blackberry, blueberry, grated coconut, grilled peaches, limestone, licorice, toasted grains, and juniper. The wine enters the mouth with a rich, chewy, pulpy, mouthfeel supported by a stiff and very dry tannic structure, that gives way to flavors of cracked black pepper, roasted red peppers, plum butter, black cherry, mint, and hibiscus tea, through the supple mid-palate. Long savory/rose petal finish. Could use another year to fully resolve the oak.