Domaine (and Château) du Tariquet is known for its brandies more than its wines, but due a worldwide slowdown in demand for Armagnac, that’s changing. The winemaking history of this estate better-known for its spirits follows directly from market difficulties for the region’s best-known product, Armagnac. In the seventies and eighties, vineyards were planted to supplement brandy production.
To maintain the crispness of the very light grapes used in these wines, trucks bearing dry ice-cooled tanks are sent to the vineyards. Machine-harvested grapes are destemmed on-site, start macerating on their skins in these tanks, and six to ten hours later are put through a gentle pressing (taking care to avoid breaking the seeds, which releases some very green tannins). A slow, cold fermentation takes place over the next few weeks, and wines are subsequently held in tanks and bottled to order. This is industrial viticulture, yes, but there is very little mucking about with the results, and the low prices reflect the process.
NB: the distinction between “domaine” on the table wines and “château” on the Armagnacs comes from AOC regulation; only appellations so designated can use the latter word on their labels, and the table wines are only entitled to vin de pays status.
Domaine du Tariquet 2006 Vin de Pays des Côtes de Gascogne Ugni-Blanc/Colombard (Southwest France) – Very crisp green apples. Clean, sunny, and nice with drying skins on the finish. (3/08)
Domaine du Tariquet 2006 Vin de Pays des Côtes de Gascogne Sauvignon Blanc (Southwest France) – Linear, to the point of pure two-dimensionality. Simple grass braced by acidity. Eh. (3/08)
Chenin blanc was apparently once widely planted in Gascony, but lost to phylloxera, and remains highly susceptible to disease even now.
Domaine du Tariquet 2006 Vin de Pays des Côtes de Gascogne Chenin Blanc/Chardonnay (Southwest France) – Apricot and grapefruit, with good acidity and a hint of minerality. Long and balanced, and bigger than most of this lineup. A nice wine. (3/08)
Domaine du Tariquet 2006 Vin de Pays des Côtes de Gascogne Chardonnay (Southwest France) – This wine sees six months in barrique; half new, half one year old. Some cream drizzled over light, crystallized peach. Short finish. Just OK. (3/08)
The next wine was the result of an accident. Rushing to complete a harvest before oncoming rains, one tank full of grapes was unintentionally left in the vineyards. When it finally arrived the next day, there was no room in the fermentation tanks for the grapes to rejoin their brethren, and so this somewhat unusual blend was created.
Domaine du Tariquet “Côté Tariquet” 2006 Vin de Pays des Côtes de Gascogne Chardonnay/Sauvignon Blanc (Southwest France) – Intensely fruity, with some apparent residual sugar (seven to eight grams), apple, and good acidity. In the context of this appellation, a powerful wine. (3/08)
Château du Tariquet Bas-Armagnac “Classique ***” (Southwest France) – This is the entry-level Armagnac. Raw wood, leafy, and creamy. Chocolate and caramel over pecans and hazelnuts. Lush and seductive, with a long finish. It lacks the more complex and subtle characteristics of better Armagnacs, and it’s a bit dessert-like in character, but it’s quite pleasant. (3/08)
Disclosure: wines provided by and lunch paid for by importer and/or producer.