Saint-Mont is an AOC for wines from an area just north of Madiran in the south-west of France. It held VDQS status as Cotes de Saint-Mont until 2011. This tier was then phased out and the local wines were granted full AOC status.
Saint-Mont and its wines could justifiably be seen as a substantial northern extension of the Madiran appellation. After all, its red wines are full-bodied and tannic, and are produced predominantly from Tannat blended with Cabernet Franc and Fer Servadou. The only difference of any consequence is that the red wines of Saint Mont may contain Merlot. However, even this distinction will be permitted only until the vintage of 2020.
The Saint-Mont portfolio is slightly more diverse than that of its more-famous southern neighbor. Unlike Madiran, Saint-Mont produces rose and white wines alongside its robust reds. These lighter wines make use of the Arrufiac, Petit Corbu, Petit Manseng and Gros Manseng grape varieties. Until the harvest of 2020, Clairette may also be included. The two Mansengs are together permitted to constitute a maximum of 60% of white wine blends.
All Saint-Mont wines are dry in style, and those with residual sugar levels exceeding the stated maximum (5g/L for reds and rose, 4g/L for whites) are not permitted to claim the AOC title.
Vine densities have traditionally been more relaxed here than in other more quality-conscious French appellations. This is a legacy of the transition from VDQS to AOC and is likely to be tightened up over time. Cotes de Saint-Mont vineyards were permitted to have planting densities as low as 3600 plants per hectare, whereas vineyards in a prestigious appellation such as Pauillac must reach 6500 to 10,000 plants per hectare before claiming the title AOC Pauillac. This figure is important because the more vines there are in a given space, the harder those vines have to work – sending their roots down deep to find water and nutrients. This struggle results in more-complex, flavorful fruit, reflecting the character of the deeper soils. Stressed vines produce better wines.
The terroirs of Saint-Mont are divided into two clear groups: those on the higher ground in the hills, and those in the valleys and lower-lying land around the Adour river. The flinty, sedimentary rock of the hills gets very hot and dry in summer, providing growing conditions which are clearly distinct from the heavier, cooler, moisture-retaining clay soils in the valleys. The hillsides are also more exposed to weather conditions, including the intense sunlight for which this region is famous. The distinct terroirs are reflected in the wines, which are sometimes blended together to achieve a balanced style.