04 June 2012

Wines of Gascony

Gascony is a region of southwest France that overlaps multiple départments and contains a handful of lesser-known AOC designations like Madiran, Tursan, Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh, and the more recent VDQS Saint-Mont, though that category is disappearing. It's located near the Spanish border and the Pyrenees. I've had the Tannat-rich Madiran before, but was pleasantly surprised when offered the opportunity to try some interesting white blends and a lovely rosé from Robert Kacher Selections. Domaine du Tariquet was founded 100 years ago by professional bear tamers. The winery went through some serious upheavals during the World Wars, but since the 1940s the property has been owned by the Grassa family, who got into the Bas-Armagnac business. Since 1982, they've been making some rebellious wines in this obscure region.

The region is well known for its food, particularly duck, and I realized it had been far too long since I'd cooked any waterfowl. I used to do so frequently when my nearby grocery store carried inexpensive fresh ducks, but for years I've lacked a source... Now that same store is open again under different management, and I'm back on the duckwagon.

I made pato en pipián rojo using a recipe by Rick Bayless. It's a thick sauce made of duck stock, pumpkin seeds, dried chiles, and a dozen other ingredients. I made the duck stock with the wings and backbone of the duck, and I reserved the rendered fat for frying the fingerling potatoes. Lastly, I provided a simple salad of baby kale, arugula, and other bitter greens. The duck was incredible, and the preparation of the duck, while classically Mexican, has an earthy and rustic character that worked well with these rural wines. Here you can see a thigh quarter, my favorite cut of duck. Sure, the breast is good, but there's nothing like that tender thigh meat.

2010 Tariquet Côté
Vin de Pays des Côtes de Gascogne
50% Chardonnay, 50% Sauvignon Blanc
$9, 11% abv.
I didn't think you could mix these two grapes in France without someone alerting the gendarmerie. Deep and brassy with forward fruit of apples and pears. The wine has mild acidity and just a touch of sweetness. It was an unusual experience but it has a beautiful golden hue, lovely aroma, and it's a great bargain.

2010 Tariquet Chenin Chardonnay
Vin de Pays des Côtes de Gascogne
75% Chenin Blanc, 25% Chardonnay
$11, 12.5% abv.
Another unusual blend, this one starts off with a full nose of apricot and lemon peel. Medium acidity with a full-fruit flavor and a round mouthfeel. Great minerality and an overall refreshing experience. Very interesting, but it can be a little confusing. I feel like I'm drinking something from Washington State instead of southwest France.

2011 Tariquet Classic
Vin de Pays des Côtes de Gascogne
45% Ugni Blanc, 35% Colombard, 10% Sauvignon Blanc, 10% Gros Manseng
$9, 11% abv.
Green and grassy with a bright lime zest nose. Lime flavors continue with balanced acidity and citrus flavors. A surprisingly long finish with some herbal, earthy undertones.

2011 Tariquet Rosé de Pressée
Vin de Pays des Côtes de Gascogne
30% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc, 25% Syrah, 15% Tannat
$11, 12% abv.
I reviewed this wine back in 2008 while on the road in Cleveland. This is a crisp and bright rosé with an initial nose of strawberries and watermelon. Great acidity and a short, clean finish. Completely dry with tart red fruit flavors and a little hint of plum in the background. I would be happy with this wine all summer long. Needless to say, it was phenomenal with the duck and potatoes.

Note: These wines were received as samples.


fredric koeppel said...

these are always interesting wines, and the prices are phenomenal. the duck looks great...

Benito said...


You get French, Basque, and Spaniards in the same area with some grapes and food, and I think you're going to get some good results. Or a war, but hopefully some great cuisine.


Samantha Dugan said...

Right on. Always great wines at super fair prices.