Domaine Plageoles

The Wild Bunch—An Ode to the Southwest
Domaine Plageoles
On the wine route, a visit to Southwest France can feel like falling off the grid. Unlike the well-mapped regions of Burgundy, the Loire and Rhône Valleys and Bordeaux, a visit to the deep south feels like a trip into the unknown. You never quite know what you are going to find. For the closet historian in us, it’s an area steeped in viticultural tradition, even if much of that has been lost or blurred by what Bernard Plageoles terms, in his thick Béarnese accent, ‘la voie commerciale’. On the other hand, you don’t have to worry about booking a decent restaurant a week in advance or checking your bank balance before attacking a wine list. And don’t get us started on the Jambon, which is the most meltingly delicious in France.

If you’ve got a copy of Jon Bonné’s The New French Wine, please turn to page 415. Bonné’s new publication is a fine addition to the literary wine canon, and his chapter on the Southwest is a highlight. “In the broadest sense,” Bonné writes, “the Southwest is divided into forces of progress—found especially in Gaillac and Irouléguy and random other corners—and forces of entropy. Progress here looks much like advancement elsewhere in France: more hands-off winemaking, fresher flavours, better farming.”

We found plenty of evidence of such progress during our last visit to the region. On the outskirts of Cahors, Emmanuel Bourguignon is responsible for rebuilding one of the area’s historical terroirs, stone by stone. And his wines are already displaying the quality to match his family’s ambition. In Jurançon, we found Maxime and Lucie Salharang lighting up their appellation with wines of razor-sharp clarity and precision. We could go on: Sandrine Farrugia and Elian da Ros in the Côtes du Marmandais, Julien Auroux in Bergerac and Elorri Reca and Brice Robelet in Irouléguy—each working with uncommon dedication to keeping the ancestral spirit of their respective regions alive.

Few other growers have worked as tirelessly to promote the authenticity and potential of the ‘new’ Southwest as Gaillac’s Plageoles family. For curious souls, here is a detailed account of the domaine and the history of the region with which it is so closely entwined. For now, the wines in today’s offer represent some of the most charming and wildly original wines we ship: a requiem for the traditions and quality that once made this region of France so renowned.

The Wines

Domaine Plageoles Gaillac Mauzac Nature Sparkling 2020
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Domaine Plageoles Gaillac Mauzac Nature Sparkling 2020

Organic. Gaillac méthode ancestrale wines are the mother of pét-nats, and there is no better example than the Plageoles Mauzac Nature. Gaillac’s very long history of producing méthode ancestrale sparkling wines goes back to the 1500s (long before Champagne began producing sparkling wines). In fact, so synonymous was Gaillac with pét-nats, back in the day Méthode Gaillacoise was a widely used synonym for méthode ancestrale. The Plageoles example is from a 40-year-old parcel of the exceptionally rare Mauzac Rose grape variety.

In simple terms, the naturally fermented base wine is chilled to stop the fermentation when there is still 25-30 g/L residual sugar. The following spring, the wine is put into bottle and the fermentation continues under cork, producing the bubbles. There are no other additions and no need for dosage, as the bottle fermentation naturally stops when there is still a touch of residual sugar left in the wine.

It’s a wild, lip-smacking, slightly off-dry delight, fragrant and textural with sweet pear, cider apple, and a hint of musk. A beautiful pillowy texture leads to a complex, flavourful close, balanced by a kiss of natural sweetness. A pét-nat of sheer refreshment! As there is no disgorgement, you can expect a slight cloudiness in the bottle. 

It’s a wild, lip-smacking, slightly off-dry delight, fragrant and textural with sweet pear, cider apple, and a hint of musk. A beautiful pillowy texture leads to a complex, flavourful close, balanced by a kiss of natural sweetness. A pét-nat of sheer refreshment! As there is no disgorgement, you can expect a slight cloudiness in the bottle.

“The first time I tasted [Plageoles] Mauzac Nature was in the late ‘90s—in a wine bar called Le Mauzac. It had just been put on the market, and its exhilarating freshness made me laugh out loud with pleasure. Most recently I drank the 2014 Mauzac Nature… Quand Meme!!! A blend of strong citrus flavors mixed with ginger, apple, and light minerality, it was structured, fresh and vigorous. Pure pleasure. There is only one thing to say to the Plageoles: Thank you.”
Jacqueline Friedrich, The World of Fine Wine
Domaine Plageoles Gaillac Mauzac Nature Sparkling 2020
Added
Domaine Plageoles Gaillac Mauzac Nature Sparkling 2020 (1500ml)
Added

Domaine Plageoles Gaillac Mauzac Nature Sparkling 2020 (1500ml)

Organic. Gaillac méthode ancestrale wines are the mother of pét-nats, and there is no better example than the Plageoles Mauzac Nature. Gaillac’s very long history of producing méthode ancestrale sparkling wines goes back to the 1500s (long before Champagne began producing sparkling wines). In fact, so synonymous was Gaillac with pét-nats, back in the day Méthode Gaillacoise was a widely used synonym for méthode ancestrale. The Plageoles example is from a 40-year-old parcel of the exceptionally rare Mauzac Rose grape variety.

In simple terms, the naturally fermented base wine is chilled to stop the fermentation when there is still 25-30 g/L residual sugar. The following spring, the wine is put into bottle and the fermentation continues under cork, producing the bubbles. There are no other additions and no need for dosage, as the bottle fermentation naturally stops when there is still a touch of residual sugar left in the wine.

It’s a wild, lip-smacking, slightly off-dry delight, fragrant and textural with sweet pear, cider apple, and a hint of musk. A beautiful pillowy texture leads to a complex, flavourful close, balanced by a kiss of natural sweetness. A pét-nat of sheer refreshment! As there is no disgorgement, you can expect a slight cloudiness in the bottle. 

It’s a wild, lip-smacking, slightly off-dry delight, fragrant and textural with sweet pear, cider apple, and a hint of musk. A beautiful pillowy texture leads to a complex, flavourful close, balanced by a kiss of natural sweetness. A pét-nat of sheer refreshment! As there is no disgorgement, you can expect a slight cloudiness in the bottle.

“The first time I tasted [Plageoles] Mauzac Nature was in the late ‘90s—in a wine bar called Le Mauzac. It had just been put on the market, and its exhilarating freshness made me laugh out loud with pleasure. Most recently I drank the 2014 Mauzac Nature… Quand Meme!!! A blend of strong citrus flavors mixed with ginger, apple, and light minerality, it was structured, fresh and vigorous. Pure pleasure. There is only one thing to say to the Plageoles: Thank you.”
Jacqueline Friedrich, The World of Fine Wine
Domaine Plageoles Gaillac Mauzac Nature Sparkling 2020 (1500ml)
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Domaine Plageoles Gaillac L'Ondenc Sec 2020
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Domaine Plageoles Gaillac L'Ondenc Sec 2020

Dry White. Organic. Under Florent Plageoles, the whites of this domaine have improved out of sight, with texture and clarity the prominent benefactors. This bottling comes from a small parcel of this obscure, ancient Tarn variety planted in 1983 when Ondenc was almost extinct. Plageoles started with just two rows of vines rooted in the argilo-calcaire of Cahuzac-sur-Vère, although the plantings have gradually increased over the years.

Simply whole-bunch pressed and fermented wild in concrete before being bottled unfiltered, Plageoles’ Ondenc has been described by Jon Bonné as tasting like “a Rhône white if you added some iodine and peat moss”—a good call even if, in our experience, in the cooler Atlantic-influenced years this wine possesses more assertive acidity than a typical white Rhône. 2020 is not one of those fresher years, so instead you get a delicious brew of fuzzy orchard fruits, scented florals and subtle spice with a lovely textural feel, all balanced by a vein of salinity and juicy acidity. Plate up and pour yourself a glass of history.

Plageoles’ Ondenc has been described by Jon Bonné as tasting like “a Rhône white if you added some iodine and peat moss”—a good call even if, in our experience, in the cooler Atlantic-influenced years this wine possesses more assertive freshness than a typical white Rhône. 2020 is not one of those fresher years, so instead you get a delicious brew of fuzzy orchard fruits, scented florals and subtle spice with a lovely textural feel, all balanced by a vein of salinity and juicy acidity. Plate up and pour yourself a glass of history.

Domaine Plageoles Gaillac L'Ondenc Sec 2020
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Domaine Plageoles Gaillac Contre Pied 2019
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Domaine Plageoles Gaillac Contre Pied 2019

Red. Organic. To be contre-pied is to be diametrically opposed to something. In this case, this carbonic Duras is the opposite of the rustic, sleepy wines associated with this variety (and plenty of Gaillac rouge in general). This wine originates from a block of clay/limestone soil in Cahuzac-sur-Vère. The winemaking takes in a short carbonic maceration followed by six months aging in concrete tank.

Florent Plageoles told us that he felt that Duras grapes would take to the Beaujolais treatment, et voila, Contre Pied has now become a mainstay of the Plageoles roster. Expect crunchy acidity and thirst-quenching satisfaction—sappy red fruits, invigorating and tensile acid and soft grainy tannins surround a plump, cherry-like weight. Hints of dark chocolate and spice round out the steely skeleton. In short, a super delicious and unique carbo-styled red.

Florent Plageoles told us that he felt that Duras grapes would take to the Beaujolais treatment, et voila, Contre Pied has now become a mainstay of the Plageoles roster. Expect crunchy acidity and thirst-quenching satisfaction—sappy red fruits, invigorating and tensile acid and soft grainy tannins surround a plump, cherry-like weight. Hints of dark chocolate and spice round out the steely skeleton. In short, a super delicious and unique carbo-styled red.

Domaine Plageoles Gaillac Contre Pied 2019
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Domaine Plageoles Gaillac Le Braucol 2020
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Domaine Plageoles Gaillac Le Braucol 2020

Red. Organic. Braucol is more commonly known in southwest France as Fer Servadou (or Mansois in Marcillac). This bottling comes from a parcel of 30- to 35-year-old vines grown on clay and limestone soils. You could think of it as a Gaillac Pinot or Beaujolais with some sappy stems—but of course, it has its own irresistible personality that reflects both this unique grape and its singular terroir. Florent Plageoles now vinifies this wine with 50% carbonic, and the result is all the brighter and more gluggable for it. Yields are kept low, bringing flavour and intensity, and the aging occurs only in cement tanks with no filtration.

This is another vibrant, layered and juicy wine where Asian spice and fennel notes mingle with velveteen wild red berries and a limestone freshness ensuring outstanding balance. Although light on its feet, it does not skimp on flavour and texture. It finishes with accomplishment and class. “Du glouglou pour le printemps” (for glugging in the springtime), says Bernard Plageoles, father of Florent and Romain. But why stop at springtime?

This is another vibrant, layered and juicy wine where Asian spice and fennel notes mingle with velveteen wild red berries and a limestone freshness ensuring outstanding balance. Although light on its feet, it does not skimp on flavour and texture. It finishes with accomplishment and class. “Du glouglou pour le printemps” (for glugging in the springtime), says Bernard Plageoles, father of Florent and Romain. But why stop at springtime?

Domaine Plageoles Gaillac Le Braucol 2020
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Domaine Plageoles Gaillac Doux Mauzac Roux 2022
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Domaine Plageoles Gaillac Doux Mauzac Roux 2022

Semi-sweet. Organic. Mauzac Roux is one of the seven varieties of the Mauzac family farmed by the Plageoles. The grapes are picked in three passes through the vines and, in strong botrytis years, roughly half the yield comes from botrytis-affected fruit. Regardless of the conditions, the yields generate only 25 hl/ha of fragrant golden juice in an average year. In terms of residual, at 80 g/L this is the driest sweet wine in the range and the only one fermented and matured exclusively in cement tanks.

It’s a wine that fully expresses the unique charm of the Plageoles style; all honey, nectarine and citrus marmalade tanginess, the silky sheen of the texture offset by ripples of crisp acidity and length of flavour. It tastes drier than its residual would suggest but is nonetheless viscous in the mouth with delicately phrased layers of citrus oil, spun sugar and candied botrytis tang. Like most Plageoles wines, this is both fascinating and delicious. A first-rate value to complement fruit-based desserts such as pears poached in white wine.

Domaine Plageoles Gaillac Doux Mauzac Roux 2022
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Domaine Plageoles Gaillac Doux Le Loin de L'Oeil 2022 (500ml)
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Domaine Plageoles Gaillac Doux Le Loin de L'Oeil 2022 (500ml)

Sweet. Organic. Quietly (yet rather brilliantly), Domaine Plageoles has for decades been dedicating itself to resuscitating—and then making outstanding wines from—the ancient yet unheralded grapes of the local terroir. Loin de l’Oeil is one of the many varieties first brought back from near-extinction by this Gaillac artisan. The name translates as ‘far from the eye’, the eye being the bud and the distance alluding to the long-stemmed bunches of this vine, which are far from these ‘eyes’.

When their Loin de l’Oeil reaches phenolic maturity in the Plageoles vineyards, the team pinches the stem at the top of each bunch. This method arrests the ripening and concentrates sweetness and acidity. Following harvest, the fruit is whole-bunch pressed, and the wine is naturally fermented in old oak barrels fabricated from the nearby Grésigne forest.

The 2022 gifts a classic varietal fruit spectrum of apricot and blossom alongside engaging scents of confit lemon, molasses, and dried fruits. The palate is well balanced, sweet/savoury and tangy, driven by a refreshing, spicy finish. Residual sugar clocks in at around 120 g/L, and the volatiles and extract keep the wine perfectly pitched, fresh and clean. With the same stone fruit/lemon drizzle spectrum, and a gentle twist of balsamic volatility, this will happily replace a Sauternes or Barsac at the table—without the hefty price tag.

Domaine Plageoles Gaillac Doux Le Loin de L'Oeil 2022 (500ml)
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“Their near-legend status in the naturalist community is less about biodynamics and indigenous years, although that’s important, than a window into a viticultural past that almost disappeared for good. So, yes, they are meticulous about their farming, in part because of the belief that healthy yeasts coming into the cellar from the vineyard are an essential part of capturing the vintage.” Jon Bonné, The New French Wine



“The Plageoles family has left its mark on the recent history of Gaillac wine. They continue to produce off the beaten track, wines with a strong personality... The work of the head, heart and hands is reflected today in a range of wines that are absolutely flawless, pure and righteous.” La Revue du Vin de France



“To call Domaine Plageoles an icon of the Gaillac appellation would be an understatement.” Jacqueline Friedrich, The World of Fine Wine Guide

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