Catching up with Plaimont, the super-cooperative focusing on recovering lost grape varieties in France’s southwest


Plaimont have a thing about looking for disappeared (or nearly disappeared) grapes, and this tasting was a great chance to look at some of their latest research in the bottle.

They are a large cooperative involving 600 winegrowing families, and specialize in Saint Mont (98% of the appellation is down to them), Madiran (50% of the appellation) and Pacherenc du Vic Bilh (60% of the appellation). They also make wine in Gascony, and more recently have been making Jurançon).

But they have used their resources well in indigenous varieties and have a special focus on older varieties that almost disappeared post-phylloxera. They have a conservatory of old varieties that is a historical monument – it was planted for the first time in 1830. They also have a Conservatoire Ampélographique, which they planted in 2002 in Pouydraguin. This collection has 20 or so vines each of 37 different vinifera varieties, one wild vinifera (V. sylvestris), and one tetraploid version of the Pinenc variety. From these vines, they make microvinifications each year. The results show that some varieties were rightly forgotten: they make low yields of very ordinary wines. But others show a lot of promise, and not least Tardif. This is one variety that will be making an appearance in the vineyards, because it makes lovely wines with moderate alcohol and a distinct pepperiness (from very high levels of a chemical called rotundone). Some of these varieties offer a solution for climate chaos, with maturity at very low potential alcohol. I was quite excited by this tasting. Sadly my favourite wine here is illegal and I can’t buy any (it’s made from two dioecious female-only varieties, and the INAO doesn’t allow these).

‘We are fighting so much,’ says Olivier Bourdet-Pees, talking about getting these and other varieties allowed. But he has some victories. ‘It was a surprise to be able to have Tardif in the appellation this year,’ he says. ‘I was expecting it to be five years more.’


Plaimont Manseng Noir 2022 Côtes de Gascogne
Manseng Noir is a traditional variety that fell out of favour. But its great skill is that it retains freshness even in warm vintages, and has modest alcohol levels. Plaimont studied it for 10 years and started to replant it in 2010. Back in 2002 they found one vine in an old vineyard and from this planted 40 vines in the conservatory. Now they have more than 30 hectares of it. In the past it didn’t make enough alcohol, but this is now a positive attribute! This is bright and energetic with bright cherry and raspberry fruit with nice acidity. Lovely impact here with a supple, fresh personality. Ripe but with nice vitality, showing good acidity. 93/100

Plaimont Pinenc RH4 2023 Piémont Pyrénéen
11.5% alcohol. This is a clonal selection of Pinenc, a local variety that is very promising. This is elegant and bright with raspberry, red cherry and redcurrant fruit. Juicy and bright with lovely elegance and harmony. A really pretty, elegant wine. 94/100

Plaimont Né Sous XX 2023 Piémont Pyrénéen
A selection of female grapes from the foothills, but because they are dioecious (and not monoecious [hermaphrodite, with male and female flowers together]) they are not allowed for producing wine in France. The blend here is 70% Pederbernade No 5, which is incredibly aromatic with a naturally low level of alcohol. 30% Dubosc 1, close to Petit Manseng. The latest grape they have in the conservatory, picked in November. Beautifully floral and peppery with lovely cherry and raspberry fruit, and a hint of dried herbs. The palate is fresh and elegant with red cherries and redcurrant with amazing white pepper notes and a lovely supple personality. Astonishing drinkability and detail. Just 10.5% alcohol. It’s remarkable. 95/100

Plaimont J’Aurais dû être Tardif 2023 Vin de France
The Tardif variety will enter the Saint Mont appellation in 2024 as part of a blend, with 60% Tannat minimum. This is a varietal Tardif from 2023, but bottled as Vin de France even though it’s Saint Mont. This is bright, vivid, juicy and intense with blackberry and blackcurrant fruit with good acidity and nice grainy tannins. Lovely fruit here with a twist of coffee and chocolate around the fringes (even though there’s no oak here, just stainless steel), as well as some notes of liqourice and pepper. Nice freshness and crunch. 92/100

Plaimont Le Faite Rouge 2019 Saint Mont
14% alcohol. This is the famous cuvée of Saint Mont. So supple, fresh and sophisticated with ripe blackcurrant and blackberry fruit with a hint of undergrowth and spice. There’s some good structure here, a hint of pepper, and some silkiness. Powerful and also balanced, with a lovely personality. 94/100

Plaimont Yura Jurançon Sec 2022
14% alcohol. Plaimont are focused on defending the foothills of the Pyrenées and this was a natural progression to move to Jurançon, where they now look after 34 hectares. They didn’t farm the vines this year, which is the debut of this wine. But they have done from 2023 onwards. This is powerful and spicy with sweet lemon and yellow plum fruit, and a nice marmalade tang. It’s fresh and dry, but has a really interesting personality, especially on the finish with a bit of white pepper and nice citrus pith notes. 93/100

Vignerons Marie Maria Grèvière 2019 Pacherenc de Vic-Bilh Sec
14% alcohol. Complex wax, straw and citrus nose. The palate is powerful with lovely intensity, showing nice acidity and then some pithy citrus. Structured, a bit peppery, and with good acidity, this is a really distinctive, powerful dry white wine with lovely intensity and freshness. Very impressive. 93/100

Plaimont Les Vignes Retrouvées 2021 Saint Mont
12% alcohol. Unwooded. A blend of Gros Manseng, Petit Courbu and Arrufiac. Fresh, juicy and aromatic with bright, lemon, green apple and pear fruit. There’s a touch of mandarin here, too and it finishes with good acidity. Mouthwatering and delicious, and excellent value at about £10. 93/100

Plaimont Projoe 2022 Saint Mont
Fermented and aged in 5000 litre foudres. Gros Manseng and Petit Courbu. This is really fresh and bright with some grapefruit, pear and green apple character, with a stony, mineral edge to the fruit. Lively, juicy and focused with a nice tapering lemony finish and a hint of salinity. Bright and energetic. 92/100

Plaimont Cirque Nord Saint Mont 2020
13.5% alcohol. A 1.5 hectare plot, 50% Gros Manseng, 25% Petit Manseng, 25% Petit Courbu, fermented separately. Long ageing in old barrels (20-30 months), then blended to tank and left for a year before bottling. This was initially made as Vin de France until 2013, and then they presented the wine to INAO who finally allowed them to include this plot in AOC Saint Mont, so first year was 2014 as Saint Mont. Powerful and intense with dense, lively citrus fruit as well as some notes of honey and peach in the background. This was a warm year, and it shows in the generosity of fruit. But there’s high acidity here, too. Lively and tangy with some marmalade in the mix, and some grapefruit brightness. Good acidity here on the finish. A remarkable wine. 94/100

Plaimont Cirque Nord Saint Mont 2019
14% alcohol. Honey and wax on the nose with nice citrus drive, showing fleshy citrus fruit with beautiful balance. Bright and linear with concentration and ease to it, showing harmony and detail, with lovely weight to the citrus fruit. This is unfurled at the moment and needs time to show what it can do. Tapering finish with lemons and herbs. 94/100

Plaimont Sauvignon Blanc BM1 2023 Piemont Pyreneen, Côtes de Gascogne
12% alcohol. A selection massal that they have made. Fresh, bright and floral, with some delicate tomato leaf notes. Lively and beautifully balanced with some elderflower and even white pepper. Very classy with nice personality. Good acid line. 92/100

Plaimont Eliar 2023 Côtes de Gascogne
Naturally low alcohol at 9%. This has been a great success and more than a million bottles are sold a year. A selection of Colombar. Fruity and lively, this is grapey and has some sweetness from stopping the fermentation with chilling (leaves around 13 g/l sugar). Fruity and expressive with some citrus and a bit of spice on the finish. Nice acidity. 88/100

Plaimont Quadra Colombard Vieilles Vignes 2022
A selection of older plots, aged for a year on lees in tank. This has nice density and weight with pure citrus fruit and a nice acid line. It’s quite delicate with good purity to the fruit and nice acidity. Impressive expression of Colombard with nice balance and some complexity. 91/100

See a full write up of Plaimont based on a visit