Wines of the South West of France

The More I learn, the Less I Know

Wines of the South West of France

NOTES ON THE REGIONS AND THE WINES with approximate retail prices

BERGERAC
Bergerac is the general appellation for wines of the Dordogne department, the vineyards of
which are an eastern extension of the Bordeaux’s Right Bank—Saint-Emilion and Côtes de
Castillon. There are 13 appellations for red, dry white, sweet white, and rosé wines, all made
from the traditional red and white Bordeaux varieties, especially Merlot and Cabernet Franc.

Ch. Du Bloy 2020 $ 12.00

This estate is 18.5 hectares, 14 red, on a hillside on the right bank of the Dordogne east of
Castillon, in a district that produces also the famous sweet wines of Monbazillac. It was formed
in the 1960s but purchased in 2001 by the current owners Olivier Lambert and Bertrand
Lepoittevin-Dubost. The vineyards are planted to Merlot, Cabernet Franc, a little Cabernet
sauvignon (like Saint-Emilion), averaging age 30 years of age, organically farmed. This wine is
approximately 60% merlot and 40% cabernet franc. It underwent a long 5-week vinification and
was aged in enameled concrete vats for 12 months.

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MARCILLAC
Located in the mountainous Aveyron region, in the western Auvergne. This small appellation
of 180 hectares and only a dozen winegrowers is little known even in France, but was originally
planted by monks in the 10th century. The basic grape is the indigenous Fer Servadou, also
called Mansois, but the AOC rules allow up to 20% of merlot or cabernet. The soil is red clay
and layers of limestone.

Dom. Du Cros “Vieilles Vignes” 2012 18.00
Dom. Du Cros is the largest independent producer in the appellation, with 26 hectares in
production, mostly added in the last 30 years by owners Philippe and Julien Teulier. They use
only Fer Servadou grown on very steep slopes up to almost 1500 feet. The vines in this cuvee
are over 80 years old. Vinification is longer than their regular bottling, 5 weeks instead of 3, in
temperature controlled stainless tanks. Then it is aged in large oak and chestnut barrels for a
year or more.

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CAHORS
Cahors is the major appellation of the Lot Department, in a region called the Quercy, southeast
of Bergerac and straddling the meandering Lot river, which flows west into the Garonne. The
climate is cooler than that of Bergerac, with steep cliffs and high plateaus offering several
distinct soil types, which yield wines of distinctly different styles. Cahors comprises one of the
oldest wine vineyards in France, planted by Romans in the 1st century CE. In the 19th century,
with competition from Bordeaux and phylloxera, the vineyard practically disappeared. It was
revived starting in 1930, reached AOC status in the 1971, and now covers 10,000 acres. The
major grape is the Malbec, here called Auxerrois, once widely grown in Bordeaux but now
nearly extinct. The Malbec grown widely in Argentina is a somewhat different variety. The
appellation Cahors allows up to 30% merlot, but most use 100% malbec for their flagship wines.

Ch. la Caminade “La Commandery” 2010 21.00
The name Caminade refers to a parish priest’s residence, and the estate belonged to the church
until the revolution. The Ressès family has been working it for four generations. It is in the
heart of Cahors and covers 35 hectares of various soil types, limestone, clay, gravel, and sand.
This wine is made from old vines in their best parcels, on a high terrace typically. In some
vintages there may be a small amount of Tannat. It is aged in 1/3 new oak barrels for a year.

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Mas del Périé “La Pièce” 2010 23.00
This small estate is located away from the river, southwest of the town of Cahors on the edge of
the appellation. It is owned by Fabien Jouves who founded it in 2006 and follows biodynamic
methods, with minimal intervention, aging in concrete tanks or wooden vats. This wine comes
from 1.3 hectares situated on high limestone slopes planted with 50-year old vines. It is
harvested by hand, destemmed, and vinified for 30 days. It is aged in vats and barrels on the
lees for 22 months, neither fined nor filtered.

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GAILLAC
The AOC Gaillac is a 10,000 acre region lying southeast of Cahors in the Tarn department,
northwest of the city of Toulouse, where the slopes are gentler and well exposed to the sun.
Winegrowing here dates back to the 4th century BCE, introduced by the Phoenecians, and by the
1300s, Gaillac was exporting the first wines ever sold under a brand name. Like many other
regions, Gaillac suffered a decline in the 18th and 19th centuries and revived only after the First
World War. Now it produces white, sparkling, rosé and late harvest wines, but mostly red, to
the tune of 10 million bottles a year. The principal grapes are for red wines are Fer Servadou
(here called Braucol), Duras, and Syrah, but merlot and cabernet are also often blended in.

Dom. Philémon “Croix d’Azal” 2012 11.00
This estate, located in the northeastern part of the appellation, has been operated by the Vieules
family since 1804, grows wheat and sunflowers in addition to the 20 hectares of grapes,using
Braucol, Duras, and Jurançon noir for the reds. A significant portion of the stock is over 50
years old, and yields are low. Farming is certified organic and harvesting is by hand. This
wine is made from 100% Braucol.

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Dom. Des Terrisses “Grande Tradition” 2012 12.00
This estate’s 40 hectares of vineyards, owned by the Cazottes family since 1750, lie along south-
southwest facing hillsides planted to traditional varieties Braucol, Duras and Syrah for reds.
Vines are 15 to 20 years old planted half on clay soil with gravel-lime subsoil. This wine is 60%
Braucol, 20% Duras, and 20% Syrah. The varieties are perforce harvested and vinified
separately for 15 to 18 days, then blended in the spring, and aged in tanks for a year before
bottling. The producers say this vintage will age up to 6 years.

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FRONTON
Fronton is the wine region nearest Toulouse located north and northwest on alluvial terraces
between the Garonne and Tarn rivers, where the summers are long, warm and dry. The
principal grape is the indigenous Negrette, found almost nowhere else. The appellation is only
for red wines.

Dom. Roumagnac “Ô grand R” 2011 18.00
The Roumagnac family has exploited this 14-hectare estate on the Tarn river on the western
edge of the appellation for four generations, but have not bottled their own wine for sale until
this century. Half the vineyards are planted to Negrette and the rest to Syrah, Cabernet Franc,
Cabernet Sauvignon, and Gamay. This wine is the “prestige” cuvee of their best parcels, 50%
Negrette old vines and 50% Cabernet Sauvignon. The grapes are vinified separately in resin
tanks for 2 to 3 weeks and then blended and matured in vats for 12 to 15 months before bottling
without fining or filtration.

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MADIRAN
Madiran is an appellation for red wines named for one of the 37 villages in three departments
in southern Gascony, consisting of roughly 3,200 acres of vineyard west of Toulouse and closer
to the moderating influence of the Atlantic. The distinction of the appellation is based on the
Tannat variety, which must be the major component, typically 60-70%, but may be blended with
Cabernet Franc (called Bouchy), Cabernet Sauvignon, and Fer Servadou.

Ch. Laffitte-Teston “Vieilles Vignes” 2010 21.00
A family-owned estate for five generations in the Gers department that also produces the local
white Pacherenc-du-Vic-Bilh, in both dry and sweet manifestations. Jean-Marc Laffitte typically
makes two or three bottlings of Madiran at different quality levels. This wine is the flagship
cuvée, from 100% Tannat from 70 year old vines with very low yields. The result is greater
concentration and complexity. The grapes are destemmed and vinified for 3 weeks, then aged
in new and 1-year-old oak barrels for 13 months, racked every 2 months.

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Clos Fardet “Cuvée Moutoué Fardet” 2011 19.00
Pascal Savoret produces his Madiran from only 2 hectares in the commune of Madiran itself on
steep south-facing slopes of clay soil mixed with pebbles and chalk that afford good drainage.
This cuvée, named for the owner’s grandfather, is 98% Tannat and 2% Cabernet Franc. The 350
cases of this vintage come from just under 1 hectare of the oldest vines, vinified in an open vat
with only indigenous yeasts and minimal sulphur before being racked into large oak barrels
and aged for nearly four years before bottling, unfiltered and unfined.

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IROULEGUY
AOC Irouléguy covers a small district in the far southwest, in the heart of Basque country in the
foothills of the Pyrenées only half an hour’s drive from the Atlantic coast. Until recently, nearly
all the wine was produced by the single cooperative in Saint-Etienne-de-Baigorry from grapes
contributed by small growers. Grapes permitted for red wines are Cabernet Sauvignon,
Cabernet Franc, and Tannat. The proportions vary depending on quantities available and
characteristics of the individual cuvées being blended.

Dom. Brana 2009 32.00
Etienne and Adrienne Brana, distillers and retailers of fruit brandies in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port,
planted their vineyard in 1984 and have become the leading independent producer in the
appellation. Now the wine and spirits enterprises are under the direction of their son and
daughter Jean and Martine. Grapes are planted on south and southwest facing slopes on a
variety of soils, from red sandstone rich in iron to schist, clay and marl, and hand-harvested.
This wine is 60% Cabernet Franc and 20% each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Tannat. It is vinified
for three weeks and aged 12 months in one-year-old barrels.

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JURANÇON
This small district stretching along the Pyrennees next to the city of Pau in the region of Béarn,
is devoted to production of white wines from local varieties Gros Manseng, Petit Manseng, and
Petit Courbu. Dry whites (AOC Jurançon Sec) are aromatic and complex, but the fame of the
region is owing to the fabulous sweet wines. The term “moelleux” is a step just below
“liqueureux,” the designation for Sauternes, so these wines are less lush and brighter with
acidity than the great white Bordeaux. They are traditionally drunk as aperitif wines rather
than with dessert. Here this is offered as a lovely contrast and conclusion to this tour of the
Sud-Ouest.

Camin Larredya “Costat Darrer” Moelleux 2012 24.00
Camin Larredya has been in the Grussaute family since 1900, but was principally a producer of
fruit until a the current owners parents replanted the vineyards in 1970 and sent grapes to the
cooperative. They have been bottling under their own label since 1988. This “Moelleux” is a
lusciously sweet a blend of Gros Manseng (usually 2/3) and Petit Manseng grown in a parcel at
almost 1000 ft above sea level. The grapes are harvested in October and November, when the
grapes are “overripe” and shriveled, sugars and flavor elements. Fermentation is in 20% new
barrels, where the wine stays for 8 months on the lees before blending and bottling.

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