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One Brilliant Bottle

organic/biodynamic/natural wines in Vinland

Domaine Plageoles Vin d’ Autan

France (Gaillac)


I’ve had this bottle for several months, anxious for the right opportunity to sample it. What to pair it with?

How about ice cream? But not just any ice cream. I’ve recently indulged myself with an ice cream maker, on the heels of acquiring “Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home.” Whoa. For someone with a weakness for ice cream, this book is a godsend. What fun I’ve been having, most recently with mint from the garden, fine chocolate and curry powder, and star anise and candied fennel seed. Store-bought will never do it for me again!

Domaine Plageoles Vin d’ Autan 2000

A sunny apricot glow in the glass, holding forth with a creamy rich and balanced blend of honeyed fruits – dried apricot and quince. An elegant sweet wine, one to linger over, to meditate on, and to revisit. To sip, to savour on its own. A piece of history  $$

The 2000 is not considered one of the premier vintages of this wine, but there is more than enough magic in this bottle to embrace Domaine Plageoles wholeheartedly. There is something unique at work here, something revived that was close to extinction.

It starts with Robert Plageoles, the most renowned winemaker in Gaillac, that little-known region of France northeast of Toulouse. Wine production here dates back more than two millennia, but which in recent decades had succumbed to the lure of international, commonplace grapes. Plageoles, tireless researcher of indigenous varietals that through time and phylloxera had nearly vanished, has brought back into production over a dozen of them including ondenc, the grape used in the making of this premier sweet wine. A wine he calls “the wine of the wind and the soul.”

Today, his son Bernard Plageoles continues and expands the tradition. Together they are prime advocates for a return to traditional, natural wine making. The 23 hectares of the organic Domaine Plageoles produce some 14 different historic Gaillac wines, all single varietals.

None is more sought after than Vin d’ Autan. The unique treatment of the grape results in something very special. The vines are trained in goblets, as tradition dictates. All but four stalks are green harvested in late July. Then, when the grapes are ripe, workers go through the vineyards and pinch each stem with pliers to stop the flow of sap. The grapes wither and, with the help of the southeast Autan winds, slowly dry out, their sugars now highly concentrated. Hand picked, the grapes are allowed to dry further on special tables. Once pressed, they are fermented (using only natural yeasts) in concrete vats, where they remain for 12 months.

At which point the wine is bottled as Vin d’ Autan, the best sweet wine of Gaillac, and one of the best in the whole of France. Great with blue cheese and foie gras. And might I add, equally so with distinctive ice creams.


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