A grape by any other name...
On some of Vignobles Arbeau's labels for their varietal wines, they've come up with the clever concept of listing all the different names of that grape on it. In their neck of the woods of southwest France, Braucol is the common name for the little known Fer Servadou grape. Dark-skinned, it is used mostly in blends to add color or to temper more tannic grapes like Tannat. Arbeau's Braucol is grown on hillside vineyards in the appellation Gaillac, but because of the fanciful label, Comté Tolosan IGP, a broad regional designation, is used instead.
Vignobles Arbeau traces their vinous roots back to 1878. Today the estate is run by siblings, Anne and Géraud Arbeau. After farming sustainably for decades, they took the steps necessary to become fully certified organic.
The On L'Appelle Braucol, which translates to "We Call It Braucol", is medium-bodied with distinctive fruit flavors of blackberry, Morello cherries and fig. The aromatic notes include peony and violet with some spice. I wouldn't describe it as rugged, as the mouthfeel is supple, but it does have an earthy quality. The Arbeau Braucol is fermented in tank and is lightly filtrated to preserve the fruitiness.
In researching Braucol, a grape I was not familiar with before tasting Arbeau's On L'Appelle Braucol, I read several articles that made the case that the wines from South West France are perhaps the most least known of all of France. Some hypothesize that because the region did not have an accessible major seaport to the east (Mediterranean Sea), historically growers and vignerons had to ship their wines north to the port at Bordeaux. Wine merchants there had their own wines to sell and enacted a series of policies to squelch competition from other regions. The producers of South West France were at the mercy of the Bordelais and thus struggled to establish a reputation for their wines abroad.
I was charmed by Arbeau's Braucol as it displays briary berry flavors in a pleasant, medium-bodied frame. I made a rice pilaf with lamb riblets, a type of Uzbekistan Plov, that was a great match for it. Though the lamb provided meaty protein, a hearty and tannic red would have been too much for the dish. The Braucol delivered both fruit and spice without overpowering the pilaf. Looking to the regional cuisine of Gaillac, I plan to take this wine out for spin with some pork sausages and baked beans. Anyone who is inclined to making a proper Cassoulet should consider serving the Braucol with it!
- Anya Balistreri