Thursday, September 3, 2009

Cognac Grapes, Only Much Cheaper

Over the years, I have found that one of the best bargains to be had in the wine world comes from Gascony. This region is best known for producing Armagnac, but also has a considerable, and largely uncelebrated wine industry. Did I say considerable? How about huge? It is actually France's largest producer of white Vin de Pays, with a production potential of more than 80 millions bottles per year. Given that, it's amazing how few people know anything about the area, particularly when so many Vin de Pays des Cotes de Gascogne wines are affordable and surprisingly satisfying. This fact was driven home again the other night when I enjoys a bottle of Uby Cotes de Gascogne that set me back all of $11. It was bracing and refreshing, with plenty of citrus, grassy and mineral notes.

Gascogne wines are typically made of two grapes, the highly acidic, neutral Ugni Blanc (which is the same as the Italian Trebbiano) and the more flavorful Colombard. (The Uby was a 50-50 blend.) These varietals are famous for being two of the grapes legally allowed to go into the making of Cognac and Armagnac, with Ugni Blanc typically making up the lion's share of the mix. I think it is because of this fact that people tend to look down their nose on the region's still wines. Why would you settle for the plonk at the beginning of the still when you have the chance to taste the nectar that comes out of the other end?, the thinking seems to go.

It is likely this underrating of the Wines-That-Could-Be-Cognac keeps the prices of Cotes de Cascogne down. I have never seen one that went for more than $20. They're not considered to be terribly complex wines by some people, but I actually find they have more to offer the taste buds than is typically thought. And they certainly go well with almost any kind of fish or seafood or light chicken dish. You can hardly do better on a hot summer day. As other formerly obscure wines are discovered by the buying public, and thus start to inch up in price until they no longer offer value for the money, it's nice to see the Cotes de Gascognes is still handing out simple happiness for a sawbuck or so.

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