Plaimont – where the past holds the answer to the future


Plaimont cooperative producing wine under the Madiran, Saint Mont, Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh, Jurançon AOCs, and the Côtes de Gascogne IGP
Plaimont cooperative producing wine under the Madiran, Saint Mont, Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh, Jurançon AOCs, and the Côtes de Gascogne IGP

When Plaimont was founded in 1979, bringing the Plaisance, Aignan and Saint Mont cooperatives together, it started a project that, almost 50 years on, is still remarkable for its scope, focus and ambition. Today, with more than 800 growers, 5300 hectares and 10 cha?teaux under its umbrella, Plaimont produces wine under the Madiran, Saint Mont, Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh and, since 2023, Juranc?on AOCs, as well as the Co?tes de Gascogne IGP. The ‘super-cooperative’ is one of Europe’s most respected independent research centres on historical ampelography, known for the characterfulness and uncompromising quality – across price points – of its extensive range.

Ahead of its time

Many questioned the assumptions and principles Plaimont was founded upon. ‘At the beginning, I guess we doubted ourselves and whether the project would be sustainable,’ says Olivier Bourdet-Pees, managing director at the cooperative. ‘The market was focused, almost obsessed, with the dominant [international] varieties.’ The fight against the severe loss of biodiversity this represented and the determination to preserve and propagate local grapes – many of them nearly extinct and not grown commercially – defined the project’s ethos. This philosophy was in turn founded on the belief that these varieties had unparalleled ability to express terroir, on the one hand, and were uniquely adapted to local conditions, on the other – therefore better able to cope with natural challenges. Both aspects would prove increasingly relevant as the end of the millennium approached.

Today, the varieties and viticultural approach Plaimont has championed are held up as an example of how to face the challenges of climate change and market saturation through the prism of history and nature – while building a sustainable business that supports the livelihoods of a large community of growers and collaborators.

Always looking back – and ahead

The prescience of the cooperative’s mission has been borne out, over the years, both by Plaimont’s commercial success and by the importance – recognised internationally and seen as a case study for other regions – of its research efforts and experiment-led approach. With fierce determination, Plaimont has built a network of like- minded viticulturalists, ampelographers and historians that has informed the cooperative’s pioneering projects, including its research winery and vine conservatorium (the largest private collection of vines in France).

Having forged its trajectory along two parallel, complementary paths – a shrewd alertness to market demands and changing drinking habits, and the preservation of Gascogne’s viticultural heritage – Plaimont has been able to strive commercially while remaining true to its mission. ‘We want to establish direct links between varieties, terroir and [historical] origin,’ explains Bourdet-Pees. ‘Fortunately, our approach appeals directly to a new audience that is interested in background, history, stories and context.’

An ongoing mission

The alignment of market trends with Plaimont’s original mission has long proven the cooperative’s founders and growers right – but they are not resting on their laurels. ‘There’s so much work to do,’ Bourdet-Pees continues. ‘We’ll keep working on drinkability, with a special focus on reinventing the reds. And we hope to remove the use of pesticides across all our vineyards. Above all, we want to remain true to our mission.’

This translates into ongoing work on the preservation of local varieties (Tardiff, Manseng Noir, Gros and Petit Manseng, Arrufiac, Petit Courbu, and others) by collecting and propagating plant material and exploring their winemaking potential. The results can be found not only on wine shelves across the world but also, and perhaps more importantly,…

Source : https://www.decanter.com/sponsored/plaimont-where-the-past-holds-the-answer-to-the-future-521971/