Domaine D ?Arton, a white blend from the Gascony region of France, is great cheap wine, even by the Wine Curmudgeon ?s exacting standards. It ?s not only on a level with the Gascon wines in the $10 Hall of Fame, but it also demonstrates that wine doesn ?t have to come from the same old places and be made with the same old grapes.
The D ?Arton ($9, purchased) is an odd blend, even for Gascony, made with mostly colombard and fleshed out with sauvignon blanc (not the region ?s best grape) and gros manseng. The result is a dry white with some lemon peel in the front, yet underneath is that wonderful white grapiness that makes Gascon wines so distinctive and so much fun to drink. It's the kind of wine that doesn't require a critic or a sommelier; just a simple dinner or an evening on the porch, friends and conversation.
Hmmm, that Gascon wine sounds like a fine choice for my turkey dinner.
The only rule when choosing Thanksgiving wine? “If Aunt Dorothy likes [insert a wine you hate here, like white zinfandel or a sweet red], who are you tell her she can’t have any?”
So forget all that stuff about proper pairings and $50 bottles of 94-point wine. Thanksgiving is not about wine snobbery, but about having a good time and sharing food and wine and memories with your family and friends.
One of the perks of being the Wine Curmudgeon are trade tastings, where producers and importers offer samples of their various wines. At a recent Dallas trade tasting, two of my favorite Gascon wines were in attendance — Domaine Duffour and Domaine du Tariquet.
Getting to taste them reminded me how much I appreciate Gascon wine, which is cheap, made with odd grapes, and just the thing to keep in the refrigerator for wine emergencies. So I did a quick round of the stores to find some more, and came up with the Artigaux ($10, purchased).
It's made with the Gascon grapes, ugni blanc and colombard, and it's not quite the wine that the Duffour or the Tariquet are. The Artiguaux is more simple, with a touch too much white grapey-ness. But that's not necessarily a bad thing, since the wine is fresh with low alcohol (11 1/2 percent) and almost enough acid to balance the fruit.
This is wine for the end of summer, and wouldn't be bad at any other time — such as the refrigerator emergency wine, when you need a glass after work or something to drink with Chinese takeout.
Sept. 2, 2011 update: Tasted the 2010 at The Esquire in San Antonio, where it was surreal to see Tariquet on the wine list, and for only $21. The wine was everything it should be. There was a bit of grapey fruit, lots of citrus, and that wonderful, fresh, clean style. And it paired well with fried dill pickles.
The good news: This is still great cheap wine, and a member of the $10 Hall of Fame.
The bad news: The 2009 isn’t as interesting as the 2007 and 2008. I’m not sure if it’s because the vintage was lacking or if the 2009 is too old. As wonderful as the Tariquet is, it’s not made to age more than a year or two; hopefully, the 2010 will be here soon. There’s less green apple and more grapiness in the 2009 than in other vintages.
Having said all of that, the Tariquet ($10, purchased) shows what can be done when a producer cares about making quality cheap wine. It’s a white blend composed of ugni blanc and colombard, two grapes held in lesser repute most everywhere else in the world. But in Gascony, where the Tariquet is made, they are as important as chardonnay is elsewhere, and it shows in the wine. And the winery has been around since the late 17th century, so the winemakers know a thing or two about what they’re doing.