It wasn’t that long ago that the Plageoles clan were fined by their local wine bureaucracy for apparently ‘under extracting’ one of their red wines, thus rendering the wine too ‘fluid’. The fine came to €17. While the roots of this illustrious Estate run deep, Domaine Plageoles has seldom read from the same hymnbook as Gaillac’s lawmakers. Their long-standing rap sheet includes shunning Gaillac’s so called ‘improving’ varieties (such as Cabernet, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc) in favour of the local indigenous vines. In fact, as many will know, Robert Plageoles (father of current patriarch Bernard), is a local legend for having identified, isolated and brought back from oblivion many indigenous cultivars and pioneered their resurgence in the region. He researched and replanted over a dozen varietals (seven in the Mauzac family alone at the last count) indigenous to Gaillac that had all but vanished – for example grafting and growing Prunelart (for red wine), five variations of the Mauzac grape (Roux, Vert, Noir, Gris and Rose), and Verdanel and Ondenc (for the whites). This is why the Plageoles choose to bottle each wine as a single variety rather than a blend.
For those new to the Domaine, this is one of the very few Gaillac vignerons that work their own soil. Even fewer hand-harvest, and fewer still are organic. This point reminds me of my last visit to the region, driving though hectare upon hectare of sorry looking, herbicide vineyards before reaching a cultivated ray of sunshine on the Route des Très-Cantous. The Plageoles vineyards are mostly goblet-trained, which was the traditional way in the region before growers opted for trellising in order to mechanise and to use harvesting machines. The wines, superbly crafted from miserly-yielding, indigenous vines are produced by means of low-tech, natural-yeast winemaking and are full of country pride and mouth-watering aromas and flavours. They are some of the most delicious and great value, off-the-beaten-track wines we ship and they remind us why this region was once so renowned.