Making Way for PTG
The only blended wine produced in Burgundy is a simple red they call Passe-Tout-Grains. Grown mainly in the Côte Chalonnaise, the southern part of the region where Gamay flourishes, the wine must be two-thirds Gamay and one-third Pinot Noir (although producers are permitted to blend in up to 15 per cent of white varieties, such as Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay). The Gamay and Pinot are co-fermented, usually starting off with carbonic maceration (the Beaujolais technique, which involves starting with uncrushed berries in stainless-steel tanks and then reverting to the traditional barrel fermentation).
Passe-Tout-Grains is a simple quaffing wine, not for aging but for drinking young and lightly chilled or at room temperature — and with the added virtue of being relatively inexpensive. The LCBO currently offers Jaffelin Bourgogne Passe-Tout-Grains 2009 at $14.95. The SAQ has a Bouchard Père et Fils 2010 and a Philippe Thorin 2009 at $15.70 and $15.95 respectively. I couldn’t find any Bourgogne Passe-Tout-Grains in British Columbia’s liquor board stores, but I did sample what I believe to be the only wine of this style to be made in BC — Joie Farm PTG 2009. This wine is actually an inverse of the Bourgogne model, being 63 per cent Pinot Noir and 37 per cent Gamay (refreshed by 10 per cent Gamay from the 2010 vintage). It was absolutely delicious, a mouthful of strawberries and cherries with citrus acidity and a touch of oak spice.
Now I believe that Passe-Tout-Grains is a no-brainer for Canadian wine producers in regions that have difficulty ripening Bordeaux varieties, let alone Syrah. Ontario is a natural home for this style (and how clever of Heidi Noble and Michael Dinn to appeal to the non-French-speaking consumer by calling their wine PTG). The only producers in the Niagara Peninsula and Prince Edward County regions who currently make a wine that approximates this style are Malivoire with their Cat on the Bench Pinot Noir label (85 per cent Pinot and 15 per cent Gamay) and Long Dog with their Tumbling Stone (a 50/50 blend of Gamay and Pinot Noir, which they have been making since 2007). Long Dog’s Galahad 2010 is a 60 Pinot Noir/40 Gamay blend, organically grown and vinified, hand-harvested and fully de-stemmed. Malivoire Cat on the Bench 2007 doesn’t exactly fit my definition of being relatively inexpensive, clocking in as it does at $100 a bottle; but then, they only made 20 cases.
Not only is Passe-Tout-Grains a delicious wine for sipping, but it’s also a versatile food wine. Serve it at room temperature and it can accompany hamburgers, chicken, veal and ham; chill it to 16˚C to bring out the freshness and it makes an admirable match for salmon or tuna. And it should sell for a lot less than Pinot Noir. So let’s hope our winemakers take up the challenge.