Domaine du Tariquet is located in the Gascony region of southwest France. The Gascony region is more or less the area between the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Garonne River to the east, stretching south from Bordeaux to the Spanish border. The Domaine itself is located in the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains in a town called Éauze, which looks like the middle of nowhere on Google maps. Éauze is situated within the Armagnac region, which is, of course, best known for the production of the brandy which carries the region's name. This area does not fall into any established AOC region, so table wines made here carry the Côtes de Gascogne vin de pays designation instead. The Côtes de Gascogne is responsible for producing more than 100 million bottles of wine per year and nearly all of it is for the export market. About 90% of that production is white wine, which is somewhat unusual if you look at all the red wines produced in the neighboring regions, but which makes more sense when you remember that the grapes used as the base for Armagnac production are all white grapes. As the demand for table wines has increased, many of the growers in the Armagnac region have opted to make table wines from their grapes rather than brandy, so since they have acres and acres of white grapes at hand, it certainly makes sense that they would ultimately make white wines.
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When World War I broke out in 1914, Jean-Pierre returned to France and enlisted in the army. He was injured by a bayonet wound during the war and the massive blood loss he suffered caused him to suffer from amnesia. He was hospitalized in France until 1922 when he was sent back to New York to his wife who had waited for him for over eight years. Jean-Pierre was much changed from his experiences, but Pauline stuck it out with him. The two of them soon returned to France and had a child they named Hélène.
Fast forward to the 1930's when a man named Pierre Grassa was working as a hairdresser in the town of Bordeaux after his tour of duty in the Joinville Battalion of the French army was finished. When WWII broke out in 1939, Pierre rejoined his old battalion, which was soon captured, making Pierre a German prisoner of war. Apparently Pierre wasn't much of a fan of being held prisoner so he escaped and fled to southwestern France where he joined the local resistance movement in the town of Éauze, which, it just so happens, is where Domaine du Tariquet is located. Pierre meets Hélène, they fall in love, and are soon married. They are still married to this day and their children, Maïté and Yves, are carrying on the family business, which has grown from the meager 7 hectares under vine in 1912 to more than 900 today, which makes them the largest family owned estate in France.
In 1972, the family decided to start their own company to produce brandy rather than just selling the grapes off to other brandy houses. In 1982, they decided to make table wines as well. Yves, who took over winemaking responsibilities 25 years ago, was the first grower in the region to plant Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc grapes alongside the Armagnac stand-byes of Ugni Blanc (the Trebbiano Toscana of Italy) and Colombard. It seems hard to believe that planting these grapes was ever a controversial thing to do, but at that time, it definitely was. Yves was rewarded for his risk in 1987 when one of his wines was selected as Wine of the Year in England. Today the third generation of the Grassa family, Remy and Armin, are in charge of the estate which is celebrating its 100th year under family ownership this year.
Colombard. It looks like the blend for this wine may vary by vintage, as they winery currently has the 2011 info available on their website with a much different composition. MSRP on the 2010 is $8.99. In the glass the wine is fairly pale silvery lemon color with some greenish tints to it. The nose was somewhat reserved with lemony citrus and peachy fruits with a touch of herbaceousness and a bit of leesy funk (which blows off pretty quickly after opening). On the palate the wine was on the lighter side of medium with fairly high acidity. There were zippy lemon, lime and grapefruit citrus fruits along with some ripe peach. The overall character was a bit tart, but the wine more than made it up for it with an incredible intensity that was very surprising. This wine overdelivers for the price in a big way and is a really great value. I have a lot of trouble finding wines I enjoy drinking in the under $10 range, but I would drink this absolutely any time.
Overall, I found these wines fairly enjoyable. They're all fairly affordable and represent good values for their respective prices. They seem like they would be versatile food wines with enough acid to stand up to a variety of foods and just enough residual sugar to be good for spicier Asian or Indian inspired dishes. The estate offers a late harvest Gros Manseng and another late harvest Petit Manseng that I'd be very excited to try if I ever come across them.