2006 Plageoles Duras
France's Wild, Wild (South)West
Obscurity has its Privileges: VALUE!
"A mind-challenging exercise in aroma and flavor archaeology, rather than ... simple hedonistic appeal."
-Andrew Jefford, The New France
If we were to pick one French region that has yet to be really discovered in this age of wine geekery, blogs, and the near-immediate flow of information, it would be France's Southwest.
We're talking about the region just north of Spain and inland from the Atlantic coast; here resides a forgotten tapestry of vineyards, a wild west of indigenous grapes that are, for all intents and purposes, battling extinction. Gaillac is the western most region here and it represents the obscurest of the obscure, with grapes such as Duras, Prunelart, Mauzac, Ondenc and Len de l'El.
In this context, Robert and Bernard Plageoles are more than the region's most famous producers, they are the region's guardians. As Jefford writes, while son Bernard is the practical winemaker, Robert is the wine archaeologist, the passionate eccentric speaking "of the Romans as if they had just left a year or two earlier."
Today we offer one of our favorites, Plageoles' 2006 Duras. This is a red wine with guts and soul that should be experienced by every quirky California palate, by all those infatuated with the brooding monsters of the Languedoc or bewitched by the luscious curves of the Southern Rhône. Even those in awe of the animal-purity of the Northern Rhône and those that stick to more chiseled reds of the Loire and Burgundy will be impressed.
It is also, at $19.50, one of the best deals we’ve offered this year. (Obscurity has its benefits.)
Made from the rather obscure Duras grape, this wine is beautifully brutal (best to face it armed with a hearty cassoulet), it is also undeniably honest, pure, presenting a powerful and staining array of flavors - blackberry cooked down to its dark, sappy, inky essence, spices from a distant land, violets crazy with perfume, minerals pulverized to a fine dust. This wine grabs the palate, firmly. It is full and forward and plush on the palate, and though its form is well put together, it does maintain a rustic element to it - a grip that is forceful and lasting.
Some history is important here, because in Gaillac there is a lot of history, and this heritage is in the minds of Robert and Bernard as they make their wine. Gaillac was one of the first places that the Romans planted grapes and accordingly, the vineyards are some of the oldest in France. Old, but also esteemed: Plageoles cites historical documents wherein Gaillac was held in the same regard as Hermitage. Robert considers Gaillac the perfect confluence of the Mediterranean climate of the Languedoc and the continental climate of Bordeaux, creating balanced wines with punch and heft, yet with lower alcohol levels than are often found in the Languedoc.
What’s truly refreshing is that Plageoles pursues honest wines, letting the grapes speak without obstruction; this is all the more impressive because it occurs in a region where micro-oxygenation was invented and the few wines that have broken out internationally are full of plush textures and the sheen of new wood. In fact, instead of making any concessions to modern tastes, Plageoles lets his obscure grapes express themselves delivering unusual flavors with precise articulation and with great purity.
This is one of those wines that will “get you out of a rut,” reminding you that while Cabernet and Grenache and Merlot deserve the attention they get, there is a broad world of diverse flavor, of diverse wine cultures. This one deserves a small part of your cellar, a small part of your dinner table. It will not disappoint.
The tomatoes and basil and riches of the summer are just about gone at the farmer's market, we are heading into a time of more hearty fare, this wine will put you in good stead. While it is drinking well now, cellaring a few bottles for the next couple of winters wouldn’t be a bad idea either. To order, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at (212) 980-9463.
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