The wine region of Southwest France has been nominated for Wine Enthusiast’s 2017 Wine Region of the Year award. It’s one of five shortlisted nominees, the only region from France, and one of three from Europe. To be chosen, those in the region “had to prove it had more than wines of good quality. It had to demonstrate its vision, authenticity and commitment to sustainable excellence.” Of course, all of the nominated regions had to do the same, but from what I’ve learned about Southwest France and from what I’ve tasted in the glass, I’m not at all surprised that this honor has been bestowed. And I’m thrilled.
Southwest France continues to grow on the global radar, with wines lauded for their excellent value and finesse. Its distinct sub-regions, with their stunning, scenic backdrops, produce unique, terroir-driven and age worthy wines, giving neighbors like Bordeaux a run for their money. Sommeliers started the buzz, and consumers in the U.S. and beyond have caught on.” Comments of the Wine Enthusiast panel
The Wine Region of Southwest France
The lush rolling hills of this exceptional area stretch from the Atlantic Ocean to Toulouse and from the Pyrenees to the vast mountains of the Massif Central. In general, the region is in the southwest corner of France, although it excludes their high-profile neighbors, Bordeaux and Cognac.
Reflecting the area’s diverse climate and terroir are its wines. Over 300 grape varieties (120 are indigenous to the region) cultivated in 43 geographical designations satisfy any winelover’s palate. If you haven’t found a favorite wine from Southwest France yet, keep pouring. The region is the fourth largest in production volume in the country. As a bonus, prices are incredibly affordable…you love a rich Bordeaux wine but not the cost? Give a wine from Southwest France a try! (But, hey, you probably have already done that, right?)
Original Source: The Wines of South West France by Wine Folly
From Côtes de Gascogne, Irouléguy, and Saint Mont, refreshing, crisp white wines are cultivated. Fronton and Marcillac are known for their aromatic rosés. Fruit forward reds are found in Gaillac and Côtes du Marmandais and those that are full-bodied are produced in Madiran and Cahors, the birthplace of Malbec. You love sweet wines? Discover a favorite from those found in Bergerac, Monbazillac or Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh.
I encourage you to visit the region, explore its cultural heritage, sample traditional foods, and taste the fascinating wines produced. Southwest France is clearly on my radar as a travel destination. But first…
Recently, I participated in a twitter chat that focused on the region of Gaillac. Vines in the area are planted on gravel, clay, and limestone soils. Unlike its neighbors, Gaillac is closer to the Mediterranean Sea, a location that benefits from dry, warm winds wafting from east-central Africa.
Grapevines were introduced by the Phoenicians in the 4th century BC. By the 2nd century BC, Gaillac was known for making amphorae to transport its wines. Although the Moors destroyed the area, an abbey was built on the River Tarn’s banks in 972 and viticulture was restored. Although history documents the struggles of wine growing due to weather conditions, ravages of war, and trade restrictions, Gaillac received its AOC (appellation d’origine contrôlée) for white wines in 1938. Today, 60% of Gaillac wines are red, 30% are white and sparkling, and 10% are rosé.
Following are reviews of five wines sent to me as samples from this distinctive, and quite frankly, a new favorite, region.
Château de Mayragues, Clos des Mages 2014, Gaillac Blanc ($15) – In Gaillac, near the medieval village of Castelnau-de-Montmiral and on the calcareous soil on the right bank of the river Tan, are the 13 hectares of vineyards of Château de Mayragues. Grapes are farmed using biodynamic techniques; plantings and irrigation are determined based on the location of the planets and moon. This flavorful white wine is of 100% Mauzac and was just as rich and zesty as I expected. Honey, beeswax, herbs, and powerful notes of yellow flowers drifted from the glass upon pouring. On the palate, I noted lively acidity with elements of citrus, honey, and orchard fruit that led to a zesty herb and spice filled finish. Bright and balanced from the first sip to the last, this wine will be a memorable pairing with white meat and herb sauce, grilled fish, or goat cheese and baguettes.
L’Enclos des Braves Les Gourmands, 2014 Gaillac White ($17) – White wine lovers will love this succulent blend of organically grown 50% Sauvignon Blanc and 50% Loin de l’Oeil, a native grape variety. Grown in Gaillac’s signature clay and limestone rich soil with a full south exposure, the grapes in the vineyard matured slowly…a wine that exuded finesse and balance was the result. On the nose, I found minerality, hints of honey, stone fruits, and fragrances of white and yellow flowers. The palate displayed elements of white fruit, fleshy peach, minerality, brilliant acidity, and a long, fresh finish. Complement grilled scallops, fresh fish with a white sauce, or your favorite poultry dish with this lovely white wine.
Domaine du Moulin, Cuvée Reserve 2015, Gaillac Rouge ($13) – One of my favorite wines, this was a unique blend of 50% Duras and 50% Syrah grown on over 25 year-old vines cultivated in gravel, clay, and limestone soils. I discovered intense aromas of spice, juicy red fruit, purple flowers, and plums. The palate burst with mouthwatering acidity, smooth yet firm tannins, pepper, spice, herbs, and more luscious red fruit. Its medium body and tantalizing flavors will be a lovely pairing with a roast chicken with herbs de Provence.
Domaine de Millet Rosé 2016 ($11) – What’s not to love about this easy drinking rosé from the Côtes de Gascogne IGP? 50% Syrah and 50% Egiodola grapes blended to produce a delectable wine boasting tangy aromas of zesty red strawberries and raspberries. Bright acidity and tart flavors of lip-smacking red fruit, spice, and minerality led to a lingering, ever-so-satisfying finish. And yes, I tasted this delightful wine on the boat with an assortment of light appetizers…magnifique!
Ahhh, the wines of Southwest France… The winner of the Wine Enthusiast Wine Region of the Year will be announced November 9, 2017 and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Southwest France will claim the award. For now at least, pour yourself a glass (or two or three…) and join me in a toast to the unique, delicious, and affordable wines of Southwest France.