The wines of the Sud Ouest de France!!!

I have written several posts on my other love, wines ! As said, it is a tradition in my house and we drink with meals or apéritifs every day, It is good for you if don’t read the alarming brainwashing of governments. As a strong proponent of wine drinking as a cultural phenomenon, I like to dwell again into one of my favorite wine regions that I have left out for some reason unknown to me ! Here is my take on the Sud Ouest de France or the South West of France !!! Hope you enjoy it as I,

The Southwest is a region that nature and history have endowed with an incredible wealth of heritage. The discovery of the vineyards is thus inscribed, beyond the quality of the wines and the meetings with the winegrowers, in a larger framework: the monuments will tell you about the past which has shaped the culture of this region, the landscapes will invite you to contemplation, towns and villages will invite you to share a moment in the daily life of their inhabitants.

If the existence of the vine goes back to the dawn of time, the development of the vineyards was gradually established during the Roman conquest. But the Southwest is distinguished by two other historical factors. Located between two mountains, the Pyrenees and the Massif Central, and between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, the southwest is a particularly humid area favorable to wild vines. This unique geographical location has allowed the emergence of native vines and grape varieties such as Cabernet Franc, born in the Basque Pyrenees !  An obligatory crossing point between northern Europe and Spain, the Southwest will see the abbeys and monasteries flourish that welcome pilgrims. These religious communities developed the culture of the vine, while the Jacobean routes became an essential vector for the distribution of grape varieties, exporting indigenous grape varieties from the southwest, and importing other varieties. The Garonne, into which all the rivers of the southwest (Tarn, Gers, Lot, Ariège, Aveyron) flow, is historically the river route through which the wines are transported to the famous barges. Today, the originality of the grape varieties and wines of the Southwest is a real asset in the face of the double challenge of globalization and climate change.

The vineyard stretches from the reliefs of the Massif Central to the foothills of the Pyrenees, and from the banks of the Garonne to the beaches of the Basque Country. The Garonne, a torrent born in the Pyrenees, turns its back on the Mediterranean, then takes with it the waters of Ariège, Aveyron, Tarn, Lot to the Atlantic Ocean. Further south, the Adour and the Nive irrigate the Pyrenean foothills. This water network strongly influences the growth of the vines and seals the aromatic and taste characteristics of the wines. The Southwest basin covers the whole of the former Midi-Pyrénées region, the Pyrénées-Atlantiques and the south of the Landes. It is therefore based on two administrative regions, Occitanie and Nouvelle Aquitaine. Further west we discover the Bergerac and Duras vineyards. There are 300 varieties of grapes listed in the South-West, including 120 indigenous grape varieties. Among the most famous progenitors of the Southwest, prunelard gave, among others, Malbec. The prize goes to Cabernet Franc, native to the Pyrenees, which gave rise to Carménère, Chile’s emblematic grape, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which, with more than 250,000 ha planted, represent the second and third most widely used grape varieties in the world!

The vineyards of the South-West include 16 denominations in AOP and 11 in IGP, spread over 6 basins. There is also a regional IGP, Comté tolosan. The Protected Designation of Origin (AOP) is the European equivalent of the AOC, which results from French regulations. AOP / AOC wines are Madiran, Pacherenc du Bic Vilh, Saint Mont, Gaillac, Fronton, Cahors, Iroùleguy, Côtes du Marmandais, Saint Sardos, Brulhois, Coteaux du Quercy, Marcillac, Estaing, Entraygues le Fel, Côtes de Millau, and Tursan. In black highlight, my favorites fyi. My pictures of nice 12 bottles in the past in a pictorial for space savings , in vino veritas! or dans le vin, la vérité or in wine, the truth!!!

I give you a brief description on the Red grapes varieties in the South West or Sud Ouest, and the nuances of the name due to local dialects

The Négrette is part of the prunelard and the cot family, both native to the Southwest. Very versatile, the Négrette gives fruity and aromatic wines sometimes evoking scents of violets, sometimes more animal flavors with notes of leather. Main component of Fronton (the Toulouse wine!) wines, it makes it possible to develop fruity rosé and red wines to be enjoyed in their youth as well as wines intended for aging that are described as “high expression”.

The Duras grape has no connection with the town of the same name located in the Lot et Garonne, but takes its name from the hardness of its woods. Duras is certainly one of the oldest varieties cultivated in the Tarn and it is one of the flagships of Gaillac, where it gives an excellent colored red wine, with fine tannins and spicy and peppery aromas.

Tannat, native to the Adour basin, is the mainstay of Madiran (60% minimum of grape variety) and Saint-Mont (minimum 70% of grape variety).

Cot, often called Malbec outside of southwestern France ,where it also bears the name Auxerrois ,was the most cultivated grape in the region before phylloxera. producers of Cahors , where malbec represents at least 70% of the blend , Malbec is also cultivated in the Côtes-de-Brulhois.

Cabernet Franc originates from the Basque part of the Pyrenees. In Madiran, it is also called Bouchy (Bouchet in the Libournais); in the Basque Country, in Irouléguy, it is known as Aceria.

Fer Servadou stands out for its deep color and late-ripening berries whose blackcurrant aromas sometimes evoke those of Cabernet Sauvignon. It has a beautiful structure and is often used in blends in Madiran and Saint-Mont (under the name of Pinenc), in Gaillac (where it is called Braucol). It constitutes the almost unique grape variety of Marcillac. It is a major part of the red wines of Entraygues and Estaing in Aveyron. Originally from Lot-et-Garonne, it is emblematic of the Côtes-du-Marmandais. Early, it gives the blends a fruity note and a robust taste.

Now, I give you a brief description on the White grapes varieties in the South West or Sud Ouest, and the nuances of the name due to local dialects

Colombard is now mainly used in the production of Côtes de Gascogne and Armagnac. Due to the recognized quality of the wines it produces, this grape variety is developing worldwide.

Courbu blanc and Petit Courbu, These two varieties of Pyrenean origin, from the same but very distinct family, are part of the Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh, Saint-Mont (20% minimum) and Jurançon appellations.

Gros manseng is native to the Pyrenean foothills, it is cultivated on approximately 3,000 ha in the south-west of France where it mainly produces dry Jurançon, Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh and Tursan. It is also used in Saint-Mont and in Gascony where it gives dry white wines its aromas and freshness.

The Petit manseng is related to the Gros manseng, but has smaller berries with a thicker skin, Alone or assembled with the Gros manseng, the Arrufiac or the Courbu, the Petit manseng raises the Jurançon and the Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh to rank of the most distinctive sweet wines in the world.

Len de l’el is only grown in Gaillac. Its name derives from the remoteness of the first cluster from the twig that gave birth to it. It is also increasingly used for the production of sweet and syrupy wines thanks to its remarkable ability to concentrate on the strain.

Everything suggests that Mauzac has its origins in the Tarn valley. Its berries can develop a high concentration of sugar and are used for making dry wines, sweet wines and sparkling wines, mainly in Gaillac.

Ondenc is originally from the Tarn valley, it was present for a time in the Entre-deux-Mers vineyards. Today it is only present in Gaillac where it produces excellent but rare sweet wines.

The Arrufiac seems to have its roots along the Adour valley. it enters into the composition of Pacherenc and Saint-Mont Blanc. It is particularly appreciated for its refined and distinctive aromas,

Baroque , sometimes spelled Barroque, this local variety is the backbone of the white wines of the Tursan appellation.

Most of the above information was translated from the Vignobles de le sud ouest or vineyards of the southwest webpage:  https://www.vignobles-sudouest.fr/us/vineyards-and-discorveries/

The Hachette Wine Guide on the wines of the southwest : https://www.hachette-vins.com/tout-sur-le-vin/regions-vins/104/sud-ouest/

The Occitanie region on its wineshttps://www.visit-occitanie.com/en/activities/gastronomy-and-wine-tourism/wine-route/

The Nouvelle Aquitaine region on the Bergerac/Duras wine areashttps://www.nouvelle-aquitaine-tourisme.com/en-us/lot-and-garonne-valleys/a-trip-to-the-bergerac-duras-vineyards-by-way-of-duras

There you go folks, a wonderful wine region of my belle France. The wine region and its many other attributes are dear to my family, and we have spent quite a bit of time in it from several years already even from before settling in France as family on wife’s father’s side is from here. Hope you enjoy the wines of the South West or Sud Ouest of France, they are superbe indeed, we love them!!!

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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