For a country as large as France, and with the deservedly great reputation for wine that it undoubtedly possesses, it is per capita, home to relatively few grape varieties in comparison with vine varietal Gardens of Eden like like Italy (with over 2,000!) or even diminutive Portugal (with something close to 500), but France’s Southwest is where the numbers of lesser known grape varieties are probably the highest. So to such names as Fer Servadou, Braucol, and Courbu Noir, let me add Abouriou to the mix.
Abouriou is a vine that is grown mostly in the Marmandais, a relatively small region located in Bordeaux’s outer orbit, specifically situated on the world-famous region’s northeastern edge. In terms of character of flavor and aroma, Abouriou is to my palate most similar to another southwestern staple, Tannat: very deeply colored, with high tannins and relatively low acidity, but with a more velvety texture and perhaps a touch less rustic tannic structure.
Oddly, though the name of this particular cuvee`, which is made by one of the several co-ops that dominate the production in this region is “Just Abouriou”, this wine is in reality a blend of 80% Abouriou and 20% Merlot. And as it turns out, recent genetic testing has determined that Abouriou is actually one of the forebears of Merlot as well as another southwestern staple variety, Malbec, thought the precise links in this lineage have yet to be definitively determined. But however the “tree” is structured exactly, it’s clear that keeping it all in the family greatly benefits the final product, with the softer and rounder Merlot beautifully melding with and settling down the boisterousness of the Abouriou in a way that only kin can.
I matched this somewhat surprisingly sophisticated wine with a cold appetizer of Bleu d’Auvergne cheese mixed with chopped walnuts larded into sticks of celery and a couple of boats of endive, followed by an Aquitainian-style beef stew (I used skirt steak to great effect) with lots of shallots and carrots with wine, bacon and a bouquet garni. Chewy crusted bread with both.
Caves du Marmandais “Just Abouriou” Cotes du Marmandais 2010
Very dark blackish-purple color. Somewhat surprisingly graceful nose of mulberry, watermelon syrup, blood orange, roasted red pepper, smoldering underbrush, toasted vanilla bean, juniper berries, wild onion, damp black earth, cracked black pepper, dried violets and linseed oil. The palate is full-bodied, fairly viscous, rich and dense, with very prominent and tightly wound but mostly tamed tannins and a soft acidity that pushes forward flavors of prune, black cherry, dried blueberry and blackcurrant fruit balanced by notes of sweet spices, tarragon, and wet rocks. The wine finishes with a long, very warm and bone dry finish.