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Tasting Wines Of Southwest France

If you are looking for expressive French wines that will please your palate, includes a vast range of styles, are food-friendly and won't put a dent in your wallet, then read on.

Photo credit: Penny Weiss

Southwest France, (Sud-Ouest in French) is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on the west, the massive Pyrénées Mountains and Spain to the south and Bordeaux to the north. It is the fifth-largest winegrowing region in France with 300 grape varieties of which 130 are native grapes. Add to that, over 120,000 acres of land of which 40,000 acres are vineyards, plus 42 geographical designations and you have an impressive wine region. 


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Without going into too much detail, there are four sub-regions throughout the Southwest with varying types of climate, soil and grape varietals. Typical climates can range between temperate oceanic and continental depending on how close the vineyards are to the ocean or if located more inland. The soil composition also varies with clay-limestone, tawny sands and pebbles throughout most of the region. These diverse, terroir-driven wines derive their character and expression from these elements and therefore the winegrowers in Southwest are taking climate change very seriously.  A major concern is that over the past few decades, dozens of native grape varieties have disappeared. Three progressive groups have formed throughout the region and they are actively tracking the existing grapes, looking for ways to adapt to global warming and reduce carbon footprint. Many winegrowers are practicing sustainability with organic and minimal interference in the vineyards. And some winemakers are studying the genetic makeup of ancient grape varieties in the hopes of creating newer versions of the grapes that can adapt to climate change and are resistant to disease.

The sub-regions of the Southwest are: Bergerac & Dordogne River, Tarn-et-Garonne, Lot River, Pyrénées and IGP- Côte de Gascogne Within these sub-regions are many small villages and communal appellations that must adhere to the rules and regulations of AOP (Appellation d’Origine Protégée) or IGP for larger designated areas (Protected Geographical Indication).

I recently received five Southwest France wines representing different sub-regions and appellations. In addition to the quality of these wines, the price range is an impressive range of $9 - $13!

Domaine des Cassagnoles, Côtes de Gascogne 2018 IGP
Depending on the vintage, this wine is typically Colombard dominant with Ugni Blanc and Gros Manseng grapes. The wine is aged in tanks until bottling. A floral bouquet leads to a crisp wine that is nicely balanced between fruit and acidity. Stone fruit, minerality, green apples and a hint of lime entertain the palate. Drink as an aperitif or serve with light appetizers, fish and light pasta.
Alcohol:  12.5%
SRP:  $10 

Photo credit: Penny Weiss

Château Lastours, Gaillac 2016 AOP
This wine is a blend of 30% Syrah, 30% Braucol, 20% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. It is aged in tanks for 2 to 3 years. The wine is deliciously juicy with ripe red berries, spice and soft tannins.  Serve with grilled or roasted meats, poultry, casseroles and cheese.
Alcohol:  13%
SRP:  $10

Photo credit: Penny Weiss

Vinovalie, L’infini Malbec Cahors 2016 AOP
This wine is 100% Malbec. It has lovely aromas of dark fruit and spice that spill onto the palate with juicy blackberry, blueberry and plum. The wine is nicely balanced with soft tannins. Vanilla, toasted nuts and pepper linger on the finish. Serve with grilled meat, chicken and hearty stews.
Alcohol: 13.5%
SRP: $9

Photo credit: Penny Weiss

Château Tour Des Gendres, Bergerac 2016 AOP
This wine is a blend of 60% Merlot and 40% Malbec. Raspberry, cherry and sweet spice aromas lead to a palate of juicy black cherry, plum and spice. This is a beautifully structured wine that will pair well with roasted meat, game, hearty stews and aged cheese.
Alcohol:  13.5%
SRP:  $13

Photo credit: Penny Weiss

Famille Laplace, Madiran Laplace 2016 AOP
This is a blend of 70% Tannat and 30% Cabernet Franc. Although Tannat tends to be quite tannic, this wine is rich and surprisingly smooth. Lots of juicy dark fruit and acidity blend perfectly with hints of violet and spice. Pepper, vanilla and a hint of anise linger on a long finish. This wine will pair nicely with roasted red meat, white meat, stews and risotto.
Alcohol: 13.5%
SRP:  $13

Photo credit: Penny Weiss

I had to pinch myself a few times and reread my notes on the prices for these wines to make sure that I hadn’t transposed the numbers. Not only are the wines engaging and expressive, but the price to value ratio has left me speechless! No wonder that cases, as opposed to bottles, are being sold. I think it’s time to explore more of these delectable wines from Southwest France!

Until next time...



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