At a small winery in France's south-west owned by a quirky vigneron, Robert Plageoles, one is confronted by empty bottles of wine from Best's. Best's is in Australia's Great Western region. These mementos of an exotic land are decoratively lined along the window sill in Plageole's modest tasting room. The reason for this is that Best's planted Mauzac, among other obscure French grape varieties, in their original experimental block of vines. It can be said, thus, that Mauzac is one of the grapes that binds the spirit of paysan France with that of Australia's vinous pioneers.
Mauzac is a white wine grape variety that thrives foremost in the appellation of Gaillac. Its name is said to derive from the town of Moissac, a major trading hub in the region whence wines were shipped along the waterways of the Tarn and Garonne. Mauzac is also made throughout the Limoux, blended with lesser parts of Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay, as the sparkling Blanquette de Limoux.
Mauzac's attractions are many given its vigour and sturdiness. These qualities enable it to withstand the humidity and most of the subsequent disease pressures of France's south-west, while producing easy-drinking wines reminiscent of baked apple and pear flavours, across a wide range of styles.
The most iconoclastic style, perhaps, is that made by the Méthode Gaillacoise, or Méthode Ancestrale. This lightly sparkling wine is crafted by halting the primary fermentation in order to retain a light level of fizz and sweetness. After filtration, the wine is bottled and may undergo another fermentation in bottle.