Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Domaine de San de Guilhem (2010)

One of the greatest aspects of my culinary adventures, at least with respect to wines, is the opportunity to learn about the lesser known grape varietals.  I have previously posted about two lesser known Italian grapes, Celanese and Falaghina, and the wines produced using those varietals.  Recently, I came across Alain LaLanne's San de Guilhem, a wine made with three lesser-known grape varietals: Colombard, Gros Manseng and Ugni Blanc.  I bought a bottle to learn a little more about these three grapes.  

LaLanne produces the Domaine de San de Guilhem using 40% Colombard, 30% Gros Manseng and 30% Ugni Blanc.  Colombard grapes are white grapes used in Bordeaux blends, as well as Vin de Pays Côtes de Gascogne.  These grapes can be used to produce crisp white wines, but they have a high acidity, which results in it being used more in blends, where other grapes can offset that acidity.  Gros Manseng is a grape that ripens later than most others, that thrives in cooler and lighter soils.  It is a weaker and more temperamental grape,  easily damaged by heat or hail.  Like the Colombard, the Gros Mansang has a higher acidity and is also used in blends.  It is the last grape, Ugni Blanc, that provides a balance to a blend of Colombard and Ugni Blanc.  Unbeknownst to me, I have actually encountered Ugni Blanc before, because it is the French equivalent to Trebbiano, a white grape widely planted in Italy.  Ugni Blanc provides freshness and fruitiness that can help tame the acidity of other grapes.

Colombard and Ugni Blanc have as much to do with distilled liquor as they do wine.  Both grapes are distilled to make Armagnac, which is a brandy from the eponymous region of Gascony in Southwestern France.  Acres and acres of vineyards were cultivated with that brandy in mind.  However, when the global market for Armagnac began to decline, some growers in Gascony, like Alain LaLanne, turned their attention to making table wines rather than hard liquor.

Alain LaLaine grows grapes on a 50-hectare vineyard known as Domaine de San de Guilhem, which is located in the village of Ramouzens in the eastern portion of Bas-Armagnac in Gascony.  The region is described as having of sloping green hills, an oceanic climate, and sandy soils.

The Domaine de San de Guilhem pours a golden color.  There are floral notes, like a flowers in a field.  To the extent of fruit, there is some honeydew and melon.  With respect to the flavors, there is definitely citrus, like lemon and melon.  The wine is light and crisp, but there is a tartness from the Colombard and Gros Manseng that still prevails over the Ugni Blanc.   

I found this wine at a local grocery store.  It sells for about $10.99 a bottle.


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