Amazon.co.uk Widgets

Plaimont Producers SW France

Plaimont Producers SW France

Plaimont Producers SW France

Plaimont Producers

I'm always up for a spot of wine tasting, plus I felt the need to visit a winemaking cooperative after writing Understanding Winemaking Cooperatives. So, this week I was pleased to be invited for a tour at Producteurs Plaimont here in Southwest France.  

In Southwest France and Gascony, there are hundreds of small producers, spread across a lot of land. I am a big fan of the wines from the SW, particularly Saint Mont. Chateau Saint-Go, a St. Mont wine, gives some Bordeaux wines a run for their money in my opinion. I wanted to write a piece and share the love for Chateau Saint-Go on my website but couldn’t find any independent info anywhere about them.

It was then that I found out they were part of a co-op called Producteurs Plaimont. That led to me doing some research and taking a visit to Plaimont where my knowledge of cooperatives grew.  

Producteurs Plaimont couldn’t be further from the old original, poor quality cooperative mould.

These guys have a massive business and have become renowned in the wine industry as one of the leaders in the cooperative field. With over 1000 growers, 200 employees and a production of nearly 40 million bottles annually they export to over 30 different countries in addition to selling 45% in France alone.

PLAIMONT represents wines from the Plaisance, Aignan and St. Mont (98% of production) regions of the SW along with wines from Madiran and Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh (48% of production), Bearn, Côtes de Gasgogne (almost 50% of production) and Côtes du Condomais. This is a huge portfolio and in addition to their large repertoire Plaimont also owns the emblematic chateaux of Arricau, Bascou, Sabazan, Cassaigne and Saint-Go, which produces the cooperative’s finest wines.

Plaimont Producers

So what makes Plaimont so special? To be honest I haven’t visited many other co-ops so I can’t compare but I can tell you what I saw and how I felt.

Plaimont don’t hide who they are. They are all about the people and the heritage of the region. For sure the co-op is a business seeking to make a profit but how they have structured themselves should hit the heart of anyone true to earning an honest living.

Plaimont are a united group who believe that their co-op plays not only an economic role but an important social one as well. Their ethics are true to the roots of their ancestors who farmed before them and those strong values have been passed along. The passion of the people shows. Plaimont encourage young people to set up businesses (as growers) and teach them the importance of helping each other out on a daily basis. They are committed to improving and maintaining the region through sustainable growth and to raising the quality of life in Gascony. Co-op members are required to volunteer days of work for the co-op depending on the size of their land. This work is pretty global and consists of things like learning languages and going to trade shows; all in order for the business to be effective in the worldwide market place. Find Plaimont wines at a wine show and you are likely to be speaking to the one of the original growers not just a salesperson. Basically they are business people, grape growers, who are proud of their region and work hard to produce a product that resembles that.  

In terms of viticulture (farming) Plaimont aren’t on the back foot. A simple farmer would just know where to plant and when to harvest but for big business it’s big technology. The co-op has created a strict set of rules in order to obtain the best results from their growers and land. These rules include annual evaluations and rankings not only for the land but the produce grown on them and for the way in which they are farmed. Consistency and quality on all levels are truly important to them.

The co-op uses the latest technology to select the best “terroir” so that each wine shows the uniqueness of its origins whether it’s an entry level wine or a crown jewel wine. It’s all about the soil and there are lots of different types in the SW from clay and pebbles to limestone and sand, the latter of which hosts some of the only pre-phylloxera vines in France. Every parcel of land has a logbook, which is religiously updated with details of pruning, spraying, vine management and adherence to regulations etc… With the assistance of some of the latest technology, Plaimont sets an optimal harvest date to be able to pick grapes at precise maturity and sugar density that the winemakers are looking for. Plaimont are also very lucky to own a few parcels of pre-phylloxera vines, dating back to the Napoleonic Empire. A rarity in France and quite rightly due for bragging rights. Not all pre-phylloxera vines are used to produce grapes for wine but Plaimont are producing the exceptional Cuvée Préphylloxérique near to St. Mont from some of them.

Plaimont Producers

Vinification (they way in which the wine is made) is defined by the epitome of “terroir”, which is very expressive in the southwest. “Terroir” is the personality that the land gives to the grapes allowing them to express where they come from in the wine. For example (and I am generalising): a vine that is grown in a limestone-based soil would give the wine a unique minerality and dryness to the wine as opposed to one grown in clay soil that would impart a different structure and roundness.

For Plaimont this process, like any other, is made to measure in order to produce wines representing the region and Plaimont’s strong historic values.

Wines are produced from white grape varieties such as Colombelle and red varieties such as Tannat that are always denoted by their origin and “terroir”. In addition red Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Pinenc grapes are grown for blending and the more regional white grapes of Petit Courbu, Arrufiac, Gros and Petit Manseng blended for their whites.

Along with producing historic wines of the southwest, the region is also a proving ground for new styles and varieties never grown in the area before. In St. Mont, there is a small vineyard where unknown and ancient grape varieties found in the region have been planted much like a “grape vine museum”. This small parcel of land has been listed as a historic monument by the French government who wishes to protect the extraordinary biodiversity of the Pyrenean foothills. There’s not enough to make wine from but the history alone makes it something to see. I felt quite privileged to be able to walk among vines of such history and rarity.  

In marketing terms, Plaimont have moved with the times realizing that the “old guard” wasn’t the best business model. New World marketing measures are necessary to be on top of the market. However, true to their identity Plaimont haven’t just gone all "rainbow and bold letters" about it. For example they have changed some of their labels to host cool and catchy sketches along with the grape variety BUT instead of having the grape variety in bold letters overshadowing the wines name they have reversed it and chosen to have the grape variety in a smaller font.

Why? In order not loose their identity and just become another “Cabernet” for example. If you see two bottles marked “Cabernet” side by side you’ll look at the price and choose the cheaper of the two. While Plaimont is in the business of making money by selling wine they still want you to know where the wine came from and are proud of that. I think that’s pretty cool, they are saying: “this is not just Cabernet, this is Cabernet from SW France and it’s going to taste better than the other stuff."

Plaimont Producers

An example of Plaimont's new labelling. Note the grape varieties shown in smaller font.

Plaimont Producers

All in all, the winemaking co-op is alive and well here in southwest France. Plaimont run a tight and efficient ship with members who are as passionate about their product as they are about the beautiful region they grew up and live in. The range of wines Plaimont markets represents everything Southwest France has to offer while remaining true to their values.

Plaimont have a huge portfolio of wines that are distributed worldwide. I have noted some of them below along with their website. They are readily available and if you Google “Plaimont wines” for your specific country you will find reference to them easily. I would highly recommend trying them.

Website: www.plaimont.com

The French site has an online boutique or you can visit one of their stores here in the Southwest.

I tasted many different wines as per the photos, and they were all good. I won’t mention them all on here but I will mention the ones that, to me, stood above the rest.  

WHITES:

Côtes de Gasgogne l’Original, IGP Beautiful, fruity, citrusy and very easy to drink. For it’s price it should be a staple in anyone’s cooler.

Le Faîte Blanc, St. Mont AOC This wowed me with structure. It would be incredible with seafood and will age well. For it’s price it’ll rival it’s more expensive Bordeaux neighbours.  

ROSÉ:

Rosé d’Enfer – Saint Mont AOC For a Rosé this had it all: dryness, fruit, acidity and enough body to make you want more. Nicely done.  

REDS:

Béret Noir – Saint Mont AOC This is their entry level St. Mont. It is such a happy chappy that it lends itself to summer bbq’s and happy times with good friends. It’s got some teeth though so might be a bit much for those looking for a smoother wine but it definitely speaks of the SW.

Château Arricau Bordes – Madiran AOC I was surprised, really surprised with this wine. For a Madiran, I expected tannin, which it has, but they were smooth, really smooth and there was a lot of ripe fruit, which I didn’t expect. This would be great either with, or without food. My new favorite wine from this region I think!

Madiran 1907 – Madiran AOC This is a new wine to the Plaimont list. Plaimont makes it in collaboration with some of the top independent growers in Madiran. Definitely needs food, like most Madiran’s but all I can say is “If you can get it, try it, it’s worth it”.

Plaimont Producers

Yours truly, as ever, asking loads of questions....while tasting.

Drink This: 

Try this little Colombard from Plaimont - super easy to drink!!

Plaimont Productors
Wine Tags: 

Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.