Wine: Gascon greats from south-west France
The south-west of France's Gascony/Gascogne region is second only to Burgundy in terms of gastronomy with its rich meats, pates, prunes and home of Armagnac brandy.
White grapes Colombard and Ugni Blanc, when not used for brandy, are made as a crisp dry white wine to cleanse and refresh the taste buds from the local rich and savoury cuisine. In style, Colombard can be like a grassy Sauvignon Blanc, while Ugni Blanc plays a subservient role with its neutral character and mouth-watering acidity. It is widely planted throughout Italy as Trebbiano.
Other white grapes of distinction are non-identical twins Gros Manseng and Petit Manseng. The latter being more characterful with piercing acidity and pineapple and some apricot flavours. Traditionally made as a late harvest sweet wine of great complexity in Jurancon, modern versions qualify a bone dry style as Jurancon Sec.
Historically famous for moistening the lips of the newly born infant King Henri IV in 1553, a custom continued by the Bourbon dynasty. A nice niche market.
Wine of the Week: 1) Colombard-Ugni Blanc No. 3, 2013, Domaine Uby, Cotes de Gascogne 11pc
Pronounced grassy aromas and herbal scents. A lively palate of lime and grapefruit pulp and peel. Serve with buffalo mozzarella, basil leaves and beef tomatoes.
€12.99 at 1601 Off-licence, Cork and McCambridge's, Galway. In Dublin at Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; Gibney's, Malahide; Sweeney's, Glasnevin and Vintry, Rathgar
2) Haut Marin, Cotes de Gascogne 11.5pc
Zesty and citrusy aromas and pithy grapefruit flavours and finish. Try with Thai crab cakes.
€13.49 at Ardkeen Stores, Waterford; Cashel Wine Cellar and O'Donovan's Off-licences, Cork. In Dublin at Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; Nolan's, Clontarf and Searson's, Monkstown
3) Gros Manseng & Sauvignon 2012, MJ Janeil, Cotes de Gascogne 12pc
Aromatic with freshly squeezed lemons. An attractive mineral edge to the crunchy green apple fruit flavours. Enjoy with warm tartlets of caramelised leek and goats' cheese.
€15 at The Vintry, Rathgar; Thomas's, Foxrock; La Touche Wines 4 U, Greystones and Ardkeen Stores, Waterford
4) Terrae Escencia 2012, Chateau Jolys, Jurancon Sec 14pc
Dry and full-bodied with very crisp lemon acidity to balance the very ripe melon flavours. Match with a duck liver and orange pate.
€16.15 at Wine Shop, Mullingar; Arnott's, Liffey Street, Dublin 1 and online: winesdirect.ie
5) Terres Blanches 2010, Domaine Chiroulet, Cotes de Gascogne 12.5pc
Restrained flavours of mineral and green apple skins. Enjoy with a creamy risotto with asparagus and peas.
€12 online at frenchwines.ie
Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, The Exquisite Collection, Clare Valley, Australia 14pc
Bold aromas of cassis. Smooth and gentle tannins. Full-bodied and explosive blackcurrant fruity flavours and finish. Pair with Peking duck. €9.99 at Aldi nationwide