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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Putting Pisse-Vin to the Test!

Posted By on Wed, Mar 24, 2010 at 11:00 AM

Does glass shape affect aroma and flavor? Today's wine four different ways: (from left) pinot noir, large all-purpose, small all-purpose, cabernet sauvignon. - DAVE NELSON
  • Dave Nelson
  • Does glass shape affect aroma and flavor? Today's wine four different ways: (from left) pinot noir, large all-purpose, small all-purpose, cabernet sauvignon.

You've gotta love the French ability to call it how it is. Once upon a time, aramon was the most widely planted red grape in all of France, which you'd think would lead to it being a national treasure. But it was so heavily grown that it was known as pisse-vin. Yep: "piss wine."

These days a quality-conscious producer will shoot for a yield of about 2.5 to 5 tons per acre. Good ol' pisse-vin was notorious for yielding as much as 25 tons per acre. While there's some debate when it comes to pinpointing the quality/quantity threshold, 25 tons an acre is well beyond it.

Not surprisingly, aramon has fallen out of favor.

So when we spotted an amaron on the shelf at a local wine store, we bought it.

2007 Le Plan-Vermeersch GT-A Rhône Méditerranée ($23 - the Wine & Cheese Place)

Deep purple, bordering on black. The aroma is jammy but somewhat generic -- berries, rather than any specific one. Not very complex. The wine tastes even less pleasant, with rough tannins and very little fruit. A lack of acidity leaves it flabby and lifeless. The aftertaste is on the sweet side and, worse, medicinal.

All in all, a thoroughly unpleasant wine.

Verdict: Swill

The wine's dark hue doesn't jibe with the pale wines that aramon is said to produce, and a visit to Le Plan's website confirms that the winemaker added another grape, alicante, which boosted the color. Like the saperavi featured in a previous "Thrill or Swill?" alicante is a teinturier grape, i.e., one that has red flesh and red skin. Teinturiers are popular additions to otherwise lightly colored red wines; even a small amount can darken a wine enough to achieve mass consumer acceptance.

If you're the sort of wine lover who keeps a variety of wine glasses around the house, it's worth dirtying several when you encounter a grape you've never tasted. (Not even Riedel makes an aramon model...). We tried this Le Plan in four different glasses, hoping for a better result.

We didn't succeed, but it's worth noting that the wine ended up tasting best in a pinot noir and smelling best in a large all-purpose glass. A big cabernet glass was a total loser, making the aroma particularly harsh and the flavor unremittingly tannic.

"Thrill or Swill?" aims to expand wine drinkers' horizons -- including Gut Check's. If you have been curious about a grape or wine and want Gut Check to try it, let us know via the comments thread. If we can find it (and if we can afford it), we'll buy us a bottle, yank the cork and report back.

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