If you believed that all you needed to go travelling was a passport and a credit card... think again!
The wild, in the middle of nowhere, parts of south-west France are so far from large centres of habitation (a city!) that even a sat-nav can struggle to cope.
The small town of Eauze, just west of Domaine Tariquet is roughly, as the poor, knackered old crow flies, half way between Bordeaux and Toulouse. It's a long way in either direction and just as far to go, travelling due west, to the coast and the Bay of Biscay. You just might get lost on the way, or simply run out of fuel. You need to be prepared for any eventuality.
I saw a TV programme recently where, to mitigate the poor rates obtained using credit cards when on holiday abroad, banking apps were being downloaded onto a phone (in Spain) and you could even use them the same day when set up through "Google pay". All very modern and tech-savvy I hear you say, but would it work in rural France? There are still many places that don't want to deal in anything other than cash and, for a certain generation, they still talk/price in French Francs, rather than Euros!
Bring cash if you want an easier time of buying wine outside of a supermarket. It's no fun if you can't pick up your choice bottles because you only brought plastic.
If you've made the effort to go to a different country, I hope you would want to explore, taste, and seek out wines that are not obtainable elsewhere. I have certainly found some special bottles over the years. It's not just about price!
As for your passport, do you have an "old" red version, or a "new" blue one? Has it still got at least 3 months left before it runs out? If not, you probably won't even be let into the country, or maybe out again when you want to return.
It's something to think about.
Anyway, this isn't all about travel restrictions, it's about new wines from a producer who has been a success on our shelves for over 10 years. It's much easier now as you can get these new additions straight from Frazier's. You could even come and buy them in the shop... remember that? Touch the bottles, read the back labels, compare with other suggested bottles, even talk to a real person. Online is fine, but we'd like to see you as well. We can help you choose more wines you'll really like!
Above: Vineyards at Domaine Tariquet
Meanwhile, back in rural France, assuming you've made it that far (notwithstanding imminent UK train strikes and dodgy cross-channel ferries), take in the glorious scenery, eat & drink in great restaurants (no McDonald's, please) and visit some chateaux/vineyards/wineries.
Tariquet have long been makers of exquisite Armagnac brandies, but in the 1980s, they turned their hands to making a dry white wine from their Ugni Blanc grapes which were surplus to requirement for distillation.
A star was born!
Above: Domaine Tariquet Classic, IGP Côtes De Gascogne, France, 2020
The "Classic" white was an instant hit in the UK where, I think, it sold originally for £3.99/bottle. Possibly even cheaper!
It's still very popular, with a change to the blend of grape varieties over the years. Nowadays, it's a mix of Ugni Blanc/Colombard/Gros Manseng/Sauvignon Blanc which delivers the very fresh, crisp wine with its zingy acidity which we know and love so well.
The price in 2022? £10/bottle
The forthcoming release of the latest 2021 vintage will be their 40th year of production of this wine.
Above: Chateau & winemakers with their wines
Yves Grassa, who came up with the idea, has now handed over the reins to his sons, Armin & Remy (pictured above) who have further developed the wine selection to include a "Brut Zero" sparkling wine called "Entracte", a "Tete de Cuvee" range at the top end (price wise) and more whites featuring grapes native to the Gascogne region.
Another family owned property, Domaine du Mage is the source for a new, oaked Syrah, which is part of the "Tete de Cuvee" selection and adds a useful red to their portfolio.
Above: Domaine Tariquet, Entracte Effervescent, Vin de France, 2020
Tariquet's "Entracte" bubbly is a winner for me. It's very dry on the palate, but pleasantly so. Ignore the bottle crown cap; it doesn't need a wired cork and it most definitely doesn't taste like lager!
Grapes: 70% Chenin Blanc and 30% Chardonnay, tank fermentation, aged on lees.
Flavours of apples & pears, finishing with a strong note of lemon/citrus. Tiny, long lasting bubbles, almost a foaming character.
Serve chilled as an aperitif or during a meal with black Gascogne ham, country-style paté, foie gras, oysters, shrimps, smoked salmon, tuna rillettes, or fresh & crunchy vegetables. Also works well with desserts.
Available now at £14.49 per bottle.
Above: Domaine Tariquet Amplitude IGP Cotes de Gascogne, France, 2021
Gros Manseng is a rare grape variety which is seldom seen outside of its home in the Sud-Oeust and rarely seen as a single varietal wine.
Vinified as a dry white (some Gros Manseng is made as a dessert wine), you get fresh & fruity notes of citrus and exotic fruits along with white flowers on the nose. It's full-bodied, but still has an elegant feel on the palate.
This is one of those wines which seems designed to match with the local Gascogne dishes.
Try these: Salmon carpaccio with lime, a monkfish/scallop duo, Black Gascogne pig ribs, a veal Blanquette, a Reblochon or a Pyrenees' sheep milk cheese.
A versatile wine with more palate weight than the "Classic" white blend.
Buy some here for just £11.99/bottle.
The last new white wine addition from Tariquet is their "Tete de Cuvee" Chardonnay. As a grape variety, Chardonnay is everywhere, but when made correctly, it's well worth a punt considering the pricing compared to Burgundy these days. Inflation! Cost of living crisis! What to do?
Above: Domaine Tariquet Chardonnay, Tete de Cuvee, IGP Cotes de Gascogne, France, 2019
100% Chardonnay, barrel fermented and aged in French oak for 12 months... just like most Burgundy.
Through a careful selection of handcrafted barrels, followed by a short and perfectly controlled ageing, Chardonnay Tete de Cuvee offers delicate and balanced toasty aromas. The freshness on the palate highlights the yellow peach, mango and dried apricot aromas. Finishing both rich and tense.
Serve slightly chilled with a langoustine salad, a wild salmon, a fattened Bresse hen with cream, Black Gascogne pig (not the pig again!!!), sauteed girolle mushrooms, or a platter of local cheeses.
Ageing potential: 10+ years
You wouldn't think a £14.99 Chardonnay could age that well, would you? That's what the winemaker suggests, so it must be true.
My bottle in the fridge at home right now? A ten year old Australian, Margaret River Chardonnay. Let's see if it can also work "Down Under".
Red wines have never really been made at Tariquet. It's always been about the whites.
Introducing Domaine du Mage. Part of Famille Grassa, we've selected their "Tete de Cuvee" Syrah to add to the range at Frazier's.
Above: Domaine du Mage Syrah,Tete de Cuvee, IGP Cotes de Gascogne, France, 2019
Grape: 100% Syrah, oak aged
A fruity and savoury nose of raspberry and pomegranate with a touch of blackberry. Violets, smoke and smoked meats are also there. On the palate, olive tapenade and black pepper notes. All in all, everything you expect in a Syrah.
Domaine du Mage is a family owned estate located in the heart of Gascogny in south-west France. A limited production bottling, Tete de Cuvee is elegantly structured and a perfect match with meat dishes, either grilled or in a sauce, mushroom risotto, spicy cuisine and cheese.
Where's that Gascogne pig gone? Surely you can drink a red with pork if you want? Sacre bleu!
Buy Domaine du Mage Syrah for £11.99/bottle here
Above: Black pigs. Gascogne? Ask a French farmer!