OTG-100 Sainte-Eulalie de Cruzy. (Photo:
Next time you visit Toulouse to see how they’re getting along with your
custom-built Airbus, rent a car for the day and drive down the A61 or the
A64 for a few miles. You’ll very soon find yourself in the Comté Tolosan, a
massive wine-growing region that covers the whole of South-Western France
and reaches down to the Spanish border. They produce more than five million
gallons of wine every year there using the usual well-known grape varieties
but also many local ones. You might never have heard of Gros Manseng, Loin
de l’Oeil, Duras, Fer Servadou or Négrette but they all hang out in Comté
Tolosan and almost nowhere else in the world.
Between 2006 and 2012 the French revised their system of wine
classification. If this is news to you, please sit up and listen carefully
because I shall not say it again. In a nutshell, the result was that wines
previously classed simply as Vin de Pays (“country wines”) also had to show
the rather more prosaic classification of Indication Géographique Protégée
(IGP) on their labels. The rock-bottom category of Vin de Table (which
hardly needs translation) has been changed to Vin de France. The top
designation, which used to be Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) is now
being replaced by Appellation d’Origine Protégée (AOP). In 2012, the old
middle classification of Vin Délimité de Qualité Supérieure (VDQS) was
unceremoniously chucked out altogether.
Both today’s wines hail from the strangely-named Domaine Montplo which lies
to the east of Comté Tolosan in the region known as l’Hérault (lair-OH).
Cuvée Montplo 2011, Comté Tolosan IGP (white), France (Bt.
399 @ Wine Connection)
At first sniff, the wine smells vaguely like a Chardonnay but
it’s actually a blend of Colombard and Ugni Blanc. You may be unfamiliar
with Ugni Blanc, but it hails from Italy, where it’s known by the more
familiar name of Trebbiano.
This wine is pale yellow with hints of green and it has a lovely floral
aroma of pineapple, melon, citrus fruits and honey. When the air gets to the
wine, you’ll find that both the aroma and taste open up beautifully. Comté
Tolosan white wines are known for their aromatic qualities and this one is
no exception. It has a soft, seductive and almost creamy mouth-feel, plenty
of tropical fruit up-front and hardly any acidity. It’s not quite as dry as
the proverbial bone, but it’s dry nonetheless and there’s a touch of
pleasing acidity on the long finish. It would work well with seafood but
would be perfect with a simple salad. This is a really lovely wine and at
only 11.5% alcohol content, I’d be quite happy to drink it on its own all
Domaine Montplo 2011, Pays d’Hérault IGP (red), France
(Bt. 399 @ Wine Connection)
The l’Hérault region stretches from the shores of the
Mediterranean to the Cévennes Mountains in the north. At its centre lies the
ancient town of Béziers, known among other things for the local obsession
with bullfighting. Domaine Montplo is tucked away in Cruzy, a small wine
village about thirty minutes’ drive north of Narbonne.
The aroma of this attractive, dark red wine is a bit shy at first. But if
you’d been stuck in a bottle for two years, hauled from France to Thailand
then dumped in a storeroom for a couple of weeks, you’d probably feel a bit
withdrawn too. Eventually, when the wine has had some air contact, you’ll
pick up fruity aromas of blackberry, plum, blackcurrant and raspberry. It’s
worth waiting for.
The wine has a beautifully soft texture with loads of fruit on the palate.
It’s balanced, well-rounded and perfectly dry with a foundation of supple
tannins. There’s a very satisfying long, dry finish with just enough tannin
to remind you that this is a real French wine, not a Californian
crowd-pleaser. It’s made from two local grape varieties, Carignan and
Grenache, the second of which also happens to be one of the most widely
planted red grapes in the world. At just 12% alcohol content it would make
an excellent partner for light meals, especially with cheese.
By the way, both these wines come with a very welcome screw cap (or “Stelvin
closure”, if you want to impress your friends). I’ve grappled with so many
corks in my time that a screw cap comes as a great relief. Yes, I know it
lacks a certain mystique and romance, but there again, so does an Airbus.