Being Christmas, what’s the point in posting about matters other than the pleasures of the fleash, the gut, the gullet. For the second year I’m spending these days in the south west of france, amongst the string of bastide villages an hour from Toulouse that once formed a military belt between france and Brit-occupied Aquitaine (Bordeaux at its centre). For the duration I have suspended my fanatical meditation on Italian wine and embraced the offerings the region has to offer. Whilst just eighty minutes from Bordeaux city, thus forty from some of its great vineyards, the wines of the south west are quite distinct. You can see a map of the main production areas of the south west here.
But actually I can’t resist bringing in a little IP Politics, blame William New from IP Watch, who recently published the news that a section dedicated to semi-generic brands had been included in a legislative omnibus ostensibly about Medicare. I have to say that I’m torn about geographical indications; they are both the form for protecting artisinal modes of production from the industrial process food juggernaut (perhaps), and the emerging form of ‘protectionism’ through market segmentation at a time when the the policy of subsidies is in retreat (certainly).
What is really fascinating, and pretty hilarious, is the role of the US in this. The USTR and enforcement apparatus habitually dedicates itself to driving for criminal sanctions for IP offences, retraining foreign police forces and customs officers in a crusade against copying and counterfeiting. Yet when it comes to wine? Consider the fact that in order to be marketed as Amercian Wine, only 75% of the grapes actually need to be sourced in the US. Or that burgundy, chablis, chianti and sauterne are considered to be generic. Mmmmh.
But generic in trademark law is understood to be a charcteristic that applies to something where its specific name has come to be used to describe a product or service as a class, eg Can you xerox that for me. Now the thing is that American (!) Burgundy (!) is not in fact made of pinot noir – it is in fact something completely different, if you get my drift. However, these ‘generic names are being ‘grandfathered’ in and can continue in use.
Am I the only one to find it ironic that they go after counterfeiters cranking out Walt Disney DVDs, or Nike sweatshirts, whose manufaturers are actually providing their customers with the real product (the movie, the swish logo on a baseball cap), yet when their own manufacturers churn out knock-offs which appropriate the immaterial value of the originals while giving the customer a completely different product, that’s hunky-dory?
Anyway, back to what I’ve been drinking:
Located just north of Toulouse, and renowned for its heretic history (the cathars gave it its name and were often massacred), the wines here are based on Malbec, or as it is known in this part Cot, or Auxerrois – same difference; here the wines are more tannic and green with respect to the Argentine specimens that I spent a good part of 2006 imbibing. My father, an ex-drinker, is prone to asking me “do they produce good wines there?” when we’re discussing a given regiom. The answer, of course, is always the same: every region has the potential to produce good, or even great, wines, but it’s always up to the skill and labour of the producer, and the challenge is always to track down these chai, cuvee, cru… In Cahors, I have experience some seriously divine uplift from Chateau Lagrezette’s Dame D’Honneur (their premier cru) and have slyed away a couple of bootles of their second best. Clos Triguedina is another fabulous domaine, look for their cuvee Prince probus.
Described to me as a very virile, masculine, Terroir by the caviste in Villeneuve sur Lot, I had to cede before the offer of trying the achievments of the sole female winemaker, Domaine Labranche-Laffont, described to me a “une femme tres courageuse”. Otheriwse Madiran is home to the fabulous Chateau Montrus, and next door, Lafite-Triguez. Tannic, heavily structured: iron, minerals, wood.
Here 90% of production is controlled by the co-operative, and becaus eof the particular role they play in maintaining the reputation of the domaine, the co-op should not be interpreted as the worki of cheap-skates unabvle to survive of their own initiative. in fcat there are only four independent producers in this area, one of whom is working biodynamically, Domaine du Pech. I had a look at both the 2000 and 2001 and was impressed by both, charcterised by the high-intensity charge I’ve come to associate with a lot of biodynamic wines.
More masculine wines, stout tannins to slap you in the teeth, woody, young red fruit and plenty of iron and minerals. Today we had an excellent sweet white with our foie gras starter (a local speciality alongside prunes which we ate with it): delicious. This vin blanc moelleux was from the Cote de Duras, Domane de Laplace, who incidentally are part of the Vignerons Independants de la France, worthy of supporting an idetifiable through their use of a shared logo as a collective mark.
… and I own up to having bought one Bordeaux for the Christmas meal, a 20001 Chateau Lalande, Les Gravieres, from one of my two favourite areas, St. Julien (the other is Sauternes).
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