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01.05.2005

2003 Caves Plaimont "Colombelle" Blanc, Vin de Pays, Gascony, France

A few weeks ago I came across one of the best values in red wine I have encountered in a long time, and it seems this week I am bringing you its mate in the white wine category. What do I look for in a value white wine? Something that has enough complexity to warrant sipping on its own and something that pairs well with food.

Caves Plaimont has managed to meet both of these criteria with a wine they call "Colombelle" which is a play on the primary varietal used in the wine, Colombard. For many, including myself, this varietal, as well as its homeland, Gascony, France are off the beaten path and relatively unknown.

Gascony is a region situated equidistant from the Pyrénées and the Atlantic ocean in the southwestern-most corner of France, a hop skip and jump away from the Basque region of Spain. Indeed "Gascon" and "Basque" share the same etymological history, just as their peoples share the same background and ethnicity, as well as similar structures in local dialects. Gers, where Caves Plaimont makes its home, is one of several districts in the mostly agricultural region, famous for its Pate de Foie Gras and wild mushrooms.

Colombard as a varietal may conjure up mixed emotions for some who pay particular attention to viticultural statistics in California. At one point it was (and may still be, for all I know) the most widely planted grape in the state. How can this be, especially when you probably haven't heard of it before? Think about that box wine sitting in your grandparent's refrigerator. This slightly sweet white varietal is an incredibly common blending grape used (along with juice from Thompson's Seedless) to make nearly every crappy white wine (a.k.a. Chablis in this backward country) and blush wine that has ever been vacuum sealed for $3.99.

Don't let the domestic abuse of the varietal turn you off, though. It has been grown in the Southwest of France for many years and is prized for its sharp acidity and aromatics. Usually blended with other varietals like Petit Courbu, Gros Manseng, and Listan, it plays a significant role in the region's white wines.

For Caves Plaimont, one of the larger negociant winemakers in the region, Colombard has served as the inspiration for one of their "value wines." Plaimont makes around 12 different wines under several different labels using fruit from nearly one thousand different growers in the region. They are a highly commercial operation, but don't let that stop you from appreciating their wine, which is still hand harvested and subject to reduced yields before it enters their modern production facility.

I don't know much about the winemaking for this wine but I can hazard a guess. It probably was fermented in stainless steel and may have spent no more that 6 months in French Oak before being bottled and sent off into the world. It is labeled Vin de Pays des Cotes de Gascogne, which means that the fruit comes from various areas in the Gascony and it cannot be labeled with a particular appellation.

Tasting Notes:
Pale, light gold in the glass this wine has a pleasant nose filled with aromas of green apples wet stones, old parchment, and a hint of mint. In the mouth it has primary flavors of pears and apples with a decent amount of acidity. It is balanced well until the finish, which while being lengthy, has a slightly hot end to it which marred an very good overall performance.

Food Pairing:
This is one of those drink with anything white wines, that could easily be just the bottle that you keep in the fridge for when you want something refreshing to drink. I'd say it would go well with this cream of cauliflower soup that has a hint of saffron.

Overall Score: 8.5

How much?: $6

This wine is available from several Internet merchants. Find one in your area.

Comments (5)

Karen wrote:
07.21.05 at 11:00 AM

I lived in Paris for 4 years, and this was our "house" white wine (it sold for about 3 euros/bottle). Always reliable, I never hesitated to serve it, even at dinner parties.

Sue Candler wrote:
10.12.05 at 12:28 PM

My husband and I lived in Brittany for 13 years and first started drinking Colombelle at our local restaurant. After the restaurant changed hands we had no luck in buying it locally and could only get it when we went to visit our friends in Duras near Boardeaux. We really liked this wine and as Karen said we too would have no hesitation in serving it at a diner party (even when the french were present!)

Howard-Johnston wrote:
11.18.05 at 6:09 AM

Where in England can we buy Capreice de Colombelle? We shop in Dorset, Somerset or London West End?

Henri Brunel wrote:
11.07.06 at 12:21 AM

It is an awesome wine with an awesome price. It is perfect for aperitif, BBQ, light meals.
I can't wait to try the 2006 !

12.23.06 at 8:04 PM

One of the best white wines in the world. I love it and am taking it to a friend's Christmas dinner party.

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