A little bit of honesty from wines

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THE SOUTHWESTERN region of France has played host to many films, from the classic Grace Kelly-starrer To Catch a Thief, to the comedy Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. But while they like to use it as a setting for movies about swindlers and con men, Thomas Dassé, Export Manager of Lionel Osmin & Cie, describes the people there as “more than honest.”

This honesty perhaps bleeds into the wines: Mr. Dassé says that one of the aims of Lionel Osmin is to promote the grape varietals in their most honest form. To do this, Mr. Osmin, just in his 40s, ages his wine in stainless steel tanks. Other lines from the wine company displaying an EU-designated AOC (appellation d’origine contrôlée; though on their website they’re listed as appellation d’origine protégée, AOP, which is used more for food products) follow tradition by using oak.

However, their basic line, with grape varietals such as sauvignon blanc and malbec, do not, because as Mr. Dasse said, “If you’re using oak, the aromas that you’re bringing are the aromas of the oak.”

“We don’t want to use oak, which in a way, hides the potential.”

Sofitel hosted a wine dinner earlier this week featuring Mr. Osmin’s wines. The meal began with a Bourbon Vanilla-flavored foie gras mi-cuit with a Coca-Cola reduction. This was paired with the Lionel Osmin La Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2016. The wine has a flavor crystalline in its sharpness, rounded out with a hint of saffron and cream at the end. This cut effortlessly into the rich fatty flavor of the foie gras. This wine was also paired with a second course of prawns flambeed in Pernod, rich and indulgent. With this pairing, it lends a bit of cleanliness to the oceanic flavors of the prawn, though the pairing with the foie gras was definitely the winner here.

Next came a Tuna al Pesto with creamy polento, paired with a Lionel Osmin Villa La Vie en Rosé 2016. The robustly flavored tuna held its own against the rather unconventional rosé. See, while rosé is usually made with syrah, or else pinot noir, Lionel Osmin’s is made with a lesser-known grape, the negrette, which only grows in Southwest France and some parts of Canada where it’s known as the Petit Saint-George. This results in a rosé that is sharper and more pungent, like a strong perfume, and tasting a bit like what you’d imagine a certain shade of lipstick would taste like.

The last course, a herb-crusted cannon of lamb, didn’t receive rave reviews from my table, seeing as the other guests took only a few bites. The other guests at other tables, however, raved loudly about it, and their plates were licked clean. Food and wine are subjective, as seen in the following case: while this reporter says that the wine paired with the lamb, a Lionel Osmin La Reserve Malbec 2015 had a hint of smoke and a lot of tannins, and even ending on a peppery note, the other guests disagreed. They thought this wine lacked complexity, which was why it couldn’t hold its own ground against the lamb.

In any case, as we’ve mentioned above, Mr. Dasse believes that the people from his region are beyond honest.

“They are true, they don’t lie to you, and you can’t lie to them. Same with the wine.” — JLG