Languedoc natives making accessible wine for the modern dinner table.
Wednesday 13 October 2021
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From their 12th century limestone farmhouse surrounded by sunflowers and corn, Domaine Duffour are causing a modern-ish stir.
Making wines primarily from local grapes famous in the Gascony area such as Colombard, Gros Manseng and Ugni Blanc (which you may be more familiar with under its Italian name — Trebbiano), the Duffour family are creating fresh, drinkable wines for the table. A million miles away from Armagnac, the local brandy made by Gascony winemakers since the 15th century, Nicolas Duffour is proud to be producing wine that pairs well with modern tastes.
“Armagnac is traditional, but it’s not the same quality,” he says. “My father was part of the first generation to produce quality white wines along with several others. Not many winemakers were interested in making wines like this.”
In 1982, Nicolas’ father — the “père” in “Duffour Père et Fils” — began looking at taking a more environmentally-minded approach in his vineyard. This began the Duffour’s sustainability approach.
“We make as little impact as possible to our local environment,” Nicolas says, “We use technology like recovery panels to avoid spraying the surrounding environment when we only mean to spray the vines.”
“We are not an organic production, but maybe we hope in the future to be able to do this,” he says, adding that copper, a common natural fungicide used in the production of organic wines, affects and even nullifies some of Gascony wines’ aromas.
“We manage the fermentation and filtration of our wines, making sure the terroir of gascony comes through. We have the soil and the weather to give us our flavour, and it is sensitive to the copper,” Nicolas explains.
“However, young people are more interested in the environment and the impact we have on it. If we produce good wine and have a catastrophic effect on the environment, people would not buy the wine. It’s simple.”
“It’s showing respect — not just to say that we are looking out for the environment, but to actually do it. That’s what matters. Every five years we are checked for our HVE (High Environmental Value) certification. This is good because in five years, things may have changed. It gives us a way to work and to make sure we are always respecting environmental values.”
As part of a new generation of Gascony winemakers, Nicolas is creating wines for people who may not already be into wine. This confuses some of his contemporaries, but he insists it’s the right way to be.
“Some people say they don’t drink wine because they find it too strong tasting, or too high in acid. We produce fruity, easy access wine for pleasure.”
He then adds, rather forcefully: “There is no future in making wine only for “experts”. We should make wine that people can enjoy every day with their food or with their friends.”
This anti-elitist attitude carries through into the wines Duffour have provided for the Glug box this month.
Le Rêveur is a white wine made with local grape varieties Colombard and Gros Manseng. Displaying ever popular characters of tropical fruits and citrus acidity, it’s dry with an aromatic juiciness that can easily fool drinkers into thinking it’s sweeter than it is. It’s an easy to drink wine that Nicolas says is aimed particularly at younger drinkers.
“Le Rêveur is a wine for the table, but it can be drank anytime,” he says. He recommends trying it with seafood.
Le Quatour, on the other hand, is Duffour’s red wine selection for the box. A blend of Merlot, Tannat and Cabernet Sauvignon, Nicolas is quick to point out that while these grapes in hot regions can be rich with tannins, Le Quatour is not a rough or rustic wine at all.
“Sometimes it’s difficult to make easy drinking red wine,” he says. “We work on the high fruity flavours, bringing out energy and brighter red fruit, avoiding strong tannins and keeping the spicy structure.”
Perhaps it’s unusual to find a winemaker in the South of France keen to make lighter-bodied, fresher, less serious, and dare we say it — more fun — red wines. Nicolas agrees, saying it’s the unique combination of where Duffour sits in the region and their own family’s attitude that drives them to make the accessible wine they do.
“In Gascony, we don’t have this heavy history of the appellation. We are young, so we are uncomplicated. We like to make wine with spirit.”
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