The juicy green Sud Ouest entices with hearty food and many remarkable wines. No wonder that this region produces vigorous men and valiant women who have their hearts in the right place. At least that is what Alexandre Dumas thought and sent the young d'Artagnan out to carry the spirit of Gascony into the world.
France's Sud-Ouest. Or: the endless wine journey
Those who set out to explore the wines of the Sud-Ouest region should bring plenty of time and be prepared for delicious surprises. In addition to such famous AOCs as Bergerac, Cahors or Armagnac, the Sud-Ouest region offers exquisite local flavours, many of which are still waiting to make their international debut.
The South West of France
The French wine region Sud-Ouest includes all wine regions in the south-west of France with the exception of Bordeaux and Cognac. While in the north-west of the region and upwards the Dordogne wine growing in the style of the Bordelais is predominant, further south and in the east there are numerous different wines.
The most important wine regions of the Sud-Ouest
Apart from their classification on the French map, the winegrowing regions of the Sud-Ouest have only one thing in common: the Atlantic climate brings plenty of humidity in the comparatively mild winter and stormy spring, as well as warm summers and plenty of sunshine well into autumn. Numerous grape varieties, some of which are autochthonous or have disappeared elsewhere, thrive on the many different soils. The wine styles vary accordingly.
Bergerac and the Dordogne Valley
The permeable, pebbled sandy soils of the Bordelais continue into neighbouring Bergeracois. As a result, the red wines of both regions are similar: In Bergerac and the appellations Côtes de Duras, Côtes du Marmandais and Buzet to the south, smooth Merlots, powerful Cabernet Sauvignons and tangy, fresh Cabernet Francs thrive.
In the more calcareous sites of Montravel in the south of the Bergeracois, only white wine is produced. Sauvignon Blancs with lively fruity acidity and sweet wines from the Sémillion vine dominate, which is developed into elegant sweet wines in the Monbazillac and Saussignac appellations.
Many winegrowers of the Cahors would oppose the classification of their full-bodied wines as variants of the Bordeaux style. In the winter of 1956, almost all the vines on the gravel terraces along the Lot and the limestone plateaus of the Massif Central fell victim to a frost disaster. The necessary replanting gave Cahors the opportunity to distinguish itself from its big neighbour. In contrast to Bordeaux, where Merlots and the two Cabernets are the predominant grape varieties, the region has opted for its traditional, less fragile grape varieties, especially Malbec, often in varietal production such as L'Atelier Malbec Cahors AOC from Crocus. In cuvées, Malbec must dominate with at least 70%, with more subtle notes usually added by Merlot and Tannat. An excellent example is the Château de Haute-Serre Grand Vin Cahors from the Maison Georges Vigouroux.
In a certain sense, Gaillac red wines are the epitome of a Sud-Ouest wine: rarely are so many different grape varieties found in close proximity as in this sub-region. Among the most interesting varieties are the local Duras and Fer de Marcillac grapes, often blended with Gamay, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and/or Merlot. The classic white grape variety of Gaillac is Mauzac. When matured into a tangy, fresh white wine, it brings apple notes to the fore, while Mauzac sweet wines are characterised by the aroma of fully ripe pears.
Courageous, headstrong and spirited, in short a true Gascon, like the musketeer Charles de Batz-Castelmore d'Artagnan: the qualities with which Alexandre Dumas described the most famous son of the region are found in Madiran, probably the wine with the strongest character of the Sud-Ouest. Its base, the Tannat grape variety, produces a dark, heavy, powerful and extremely tannic red wine with enormous ageing potential. The Madiran Plénitude from the Producteurs Plaimont from 2011 may be stored for another five to seven years. From southern Gascony, from the foothills of the Pyrenees, come Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh and Jurançon, two white wines that are aged both dry (sec) and sweet (moelleux).
Facts worth knowing about the Sud Ouest wine region
Why is the proportion of AOC wines in the Sud Ouest only 25% of the total wine production?
Many, especially smaller wineries in the villages of Sud Ouest do not even bother to apply for AOC status for their best wines. Acquiring and maintaining this classification always involves high costs and a lot of effort for the business. Around two thirds of the regional wines are IGPs (formerly Vins de Pays), the rest are only sold locally.
What makes the IGP Côtes de Gascogne special?
Nowhere else in France is more white Vin de Pays produced than in Gascony. The Gers region produces over 100 million bottles of white wine every year. IGP Gascogne is famous for fresh, uncomplicated summer wines. Grape varieties such as Ugni Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and Colombard, are characterised by grassy green aromas and tangy acidity. The Horgelus Blanc Côtes de Gascogne from the Domaine Horgelus, for example, a cuvée made from the latter two grape varieties, impresses with its lively yet elegant acidity structure and mineral notes - and it is no coincidence that it was awarded the gold medal of the Concours Général Agricole 2018.
Geographically, the IGP Côtes de Gascogne is identical to the AOC Armagnac, from which France's oldest known spirit originates. While the history of cognac begins in the 17th century, the first written mention of Gascony brandy can be found in a document dating from 1461. Armagnac is often referred to as the "little brother" of cognac - mainly because it is much less widely available.
What exactly is black wine from Cahors?
From the Middle Ages to the 19th century, black wine was one of the most popular export goods leaving the port of Bordeaux. It owed its striking colour to the pressing of oven-dried grapes or boiled grape must. Modern Cahors wines, on the other hand, are given their characteristic lilac-black hue by the deep-dark Malbec and Tannat grape varieties.
Discover Sud Ouest wines online on VINELLO
Enjoy top wines from the French wine region Sud Ouest at reasonable prices from our online shop. At VINELLO you will find a representative selection of the winegrowers and wineries from Sud Ouest. You can shop safely with us and look forward to a fast delivery of your order. We also offer you a variety of payment options from which you can choose your preferred method of payment.
Another advantage of VINELLO is that our sommeliers are available by telephone for a detailed consultation to introduce you to the world of [REGION] wines. This makes it easier and quicker for you to find your favourites, whether for a special occasion, an evening with friends or for your own private enjoyment.