Wine of the month: L’Empreinte de Saint Mont 2012 (75cl)
In the South West of France, Plaimont Producteurs is producing high quality wines in an area stretching from the foothills of the Pyrenees to the hills and valleys of Gascony. It is a cooperative – a union of more than a thousand winegrowers who are committed to managing their vineyards with respect for both the environment and their own traditions in the terroirs of Madiran, Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh, Saint Mont and Côtes de Gascogne.
Until the arrival of André Dubosc, a local boy from a family of three generations of winemakers, the wine produced there was mostly exclusively destined for the production of Armagnac. With a group of young winegrowers, Dubosc woke up the appellation of Saint Mont, revitalising the sweet white wines of Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh and creating dry whites in the Côtes de Gascogne appellation. In 1979, the three wine cooperatives of Plaisance, Aignan and Saint-Mont joined forces – and initials (PL for Plaisance, AI for Aignan and MONT for Saint-Mont) – to set up a united group of cooperatives and vineyards which became “Plaimont Producteurs”. In 1999, Plaimont Producteurs were joined by the cooperatives of Crouseilles and Condom.
The cooperative is extremely concerned with the fair payment of grapes brought in and the redistribution of the wealth throughout the group of participating cooperatives and to the winegrowers who support them. Every member of the cooperative is involved as well in the commercial development and donates one day per year of communal action (presentations and talks at the sales outlets, events for the general public etc.) per one and a half hectares owned.
Situated on the first slopes of the Pyrenean foothills, the Saint Mont appellation covers 46 communes in the west of the Gers and benefits from a cool microclimate and an extremely rich terroir. Local, ancestral grape varieties are used in the appellation: Tannat, Pinenc, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon for the reds and rosés and Gros Manseng, Arrufiac and Petit Courbu for the whites. Saint Mont reds are characteristically elegant and full and exhibit notes of dark fruits accompanied with a delightful freshness. The whites are fresh, well-balanced and mineral, expressing citrus and yellow fruit aromas. The rosés are lively and easy to drink with fragrances of fresh red fruits.
L’Empreinte de Saint Mont is made by Plaimont Producteurs in the Saint Mont AOC, from three types of soil: clay-limestone, variegated clay and fawn-coloured sand. A cool and damp spring allows local grape varieties to reach full maturity during a hot, dry late-summer season.
A precious, full-bodied and fruity wine, Saint-Mont’s L’Empreinte symbolizes the handcrafted work of the winegrowers of Saint Mont, of the men and women who can genuinely claim to be artisans of the vineyard. Its name means ‘Impression’ or ‘Footprints’, designing it to be the best representation of Saint Mont. Its design is based on a true fingerprint of one of the Empreinte’s winegowers.
L’Empreinte is made with two local and unusual grape varieties: Gros and Petit Manseng. It produces white wine with a fresh, light and lively nose with notes of citrus and passion fruit. The Manseng grape varieties bestow body and liveliness on the mouth.
The two grape varieties used to make the wine are cultivated under traditional vineyard management: Guyot pruning (one or two arms), bud-removal, early pinching out of bunches, careful vine-training, early leaf removal and severe later bunch-thinning to control the number of bunches per vine. These are all essential practices to obtain large, healthy ripe grapes with a full aromatic potential.
The soil is ploughed between the rows of vines in order to avoid early drought conditions which are particularly harmful to the aromatic expression of white grape varieties.
Sustainable development practices are used and made possible thanks to the use of the latest technology and methodology in the objective of protecting the environment.
The vinification process mainly takes place in tank (with the exception of 10% of Petit Manseng in one-year old barrels) and starts with cold-skin contact maceration of the grapes harvested in the morning (a period of 8 to 12 hours for the Gros Manseng). Slow pneumatic pressing (juices from the final press are not included) maintains the purity of the free-run wine. The alcoholic fermentation takes place at 19°C following light settling.
A six-month period of lees contact is done for the tanks. For the wine aged in barrels, lees stirring is done regularly. The lees contact plays a determining role for the construction of the mid-palate of this cuvee and also improves its capacity for bottle-ageing.
A pale yellow colour with a silver hue, the nose juxtaposes notes of citrus with acacia. The mouth is full and rich with a complex, fresh and lingering finish. It’s a wine with great potential that can age a couple of years.
L’Empreinte makes the perfect accompaniment to Trout Meunière, fillet of sole with tarragon and, after a few years’ ageing it will go beautifully with poultry, veal sweetbreads and mature cheese. Serve chilled (8°C-10°C).
L’Empreinte de Saint Mont 2012 – £12.95 from Corney and Barrow