HATS & COTE 2013.

WINE OF THE WEEK.

COTE 2013. CHARDONNAY & SAUVIGNON. Domaine du Tariquet. (£8.50, The Wine Society).

My chef’s challenge this week was potted crab and brown shrimp butter with the beer bread. My response? Click the screwcap on this attractive bottle whilst nibbling away at the potted crab with a few friends. What do you think? Your mates will love it but as the wine gets passed around bet your bottom dollar somebody will ask where it’s from.

It’s a good question for the front label doesn’t help one iota; OK. it tells us that the grapes are Chardonnay and Sauvignon from the 2013 vintage but that’s about it. Luckily the Wine Society can promote the wine in its unique style but on a wine shop shelf you’d be in trouble as you have to turn the back label to discover that the wine’s from the Cotes de Gascoigne in south-west France.

From a wine producing zone of the Armagnac region in south-west France, the Cotes de Gascoigne has long been under-rated for crisp, fresh white wines from the little known Colombard grape (Vignobles des Aubas 2012, Colombard & Gros Manseng. £7.49 at Majestic). In recent times Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc have also taken to the Gascoigne stage.

As you scan the back label you may spy something you haven’t seen before. Under the title ‘Cotes de Gascoigne’ are the words ‘Indication Geographique Protégé’, or ‘IGP’ as it’s known.

For those who remember the French ‘Vin de Pays’ title – ‘country wine’ – IGP is the Europe-wide equivalent. IGP applies to wine produced under specification and certified as having been produced in a defined geographical area. The English translation of IGP is ‘Protected Geographical Indication’.

IGP therefore focuses on geographical origin. Moving up the quality ladder, the Europe-wide equivalent of the French Appellation d’Origine Controllee (AOC) is AOP (Appellation d’Origine Protégé). These wines are tied to a defined origin and terroir, (that crazy French word that covers all aspects of a vineyard including climate, microclimate, aspect, soil, drainage etc.) All French Grand Cru and Premier Cru wines fall into the AOC/AOP category.

To complete the picture, the lowest category of French quality ‘Vin de France’ replaced the old ‘Vin de Table’ (Table Wine) category in 2010. As you’d expect, this is the least regulated of the three categories; Vin de France wines can be made from grapes grown anywhere in France. The labels do not mention a specific region of origin. Vintage and grape variety statements are optional.

So, that’s the end of the lesson on complicated label law …. sorry about that but it’s the smallest print on the label that’s often the most important.

After I’ve blown your mind with this ‘boring but critical’ wine stuff all I can offer as compensation is a glass or two of this crisp, citrus Cotes de Gascoigne matched with the potted crab, brown shrimp butter and beer bread. It’s a fair deal. Hope you agree!

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