Discover the Wines of the South-West, Bottle by Bottle

Cradle of Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Tannat, the South West of France is one of the most important wine regions in the world. But dig deeper, because there is so much more to discover in this vast and diverse wine landscape.

A long history of the vine

The vine has been cultivated since the land is known as Gaul. During the era of the Roman conquests, individual communities, often isolated from each other, grew unique varieties that formed a kaleidoscope of vineyards. In 1189, Pope Alexander III consecrated Santiago de Compostela in what is now Galicia, Spain, sparking a flood of travel. The south-west of France becomes an important passageway between Northern Europe and Spain. Many abbeys and wine monasteries welcome travelers who, in turn, promote the wines of the region throughout the continent. Southwest France, like everywhere else in Europe, was battered by phylloxera in the late 1800s, but thanks to the resilience of its people, the region bounced back and emerged stronger than ever.

The Region and the Terroir

The South West region of France stretches from the Dordogne in the north to the Pyrenees in the south. The Atlantic Ocean creates a natural boundary to the west, while the high plateaus of the Massif Central designate the eastern edge of the region. Within these borders lie six sub-regions: the Pyrenean foothills; Gascony; The Garonne basin; The Tarn basin; The Lot Valley; and Aveyron. In total, a constellation of 42 protected appellations constitutes one of the most dynamic wine regions in the world.

The broad strip of South-West France encompasses an infinite number of soil types. Tertiary sedimentary and alluvial deposits originate from the Aquitaine basin. The limestone plateaus of the north give unique mineral qualities to the wines of this pocket of the region. Meanwhile, complex geological terrain lies in the foothills of the Pyrenees to the south.

Given the diversity of the land, many climatic influences come into play: oceans, rivers and mountains all contribute to the unique attributes of wines from South West France. Rather humid region, the climate of the South-West of France creates favorable conditions for the lambrusques (wild vines) and indigenous grape varieties to flourish.

Main grape varieties and styles

The southwest of France can claim some of the most important grape varieties in the world. Cabernet Franc, a relative of Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon, not to mention a remarkable variety in its own right, originates from southwestern France. Malbec, another internationally renowned grape variety, originated in Cahors (where it is known as Côt). Tannat is increasingly recognized around the world, especially in South America. But apart from these flagship appellations, the South-West of France is home to more than 300 varieties, including 130 native ones.

With such diversity in the vineyard, it’s no surprise that the South West of France is capable of producing endless styles of wine. Alongside the aforementioned red grape varieties, Duras and Fer Servadou, with enticing fruity and peppery notes, show the ability of the Southwest to delight and surprise red wine drinkers. As for white wines, Colombard and Gros Manseng produce elegant and aromatic wines. whites. Even this warm-weather favorite rosé becomes something completely unique when made from native grapes like violet- and licorice-tinged negrette.

Sweet wines are also a specialty in several appellations in southwestern France, and each has a different method for producing these dessert-like sippers. The winegrowers of the Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh appellation partially dry their grapes using a process called passillerage in order to evaporate the water and concentrate the sugars. Meanwhile, areas near rivers – with their cool, misty mornings – are the perfect environment for the development of botrytis – noble rot. Loin de L’oeil and Petit Manseng may be the varietals behind one of these sweet and complex wines.

Naturally, there is also a sparkling wine for the table. Essentially produced in the AOP Gaillac from the Mauzac grape variety, the producers follow the ancestral method of sparkling winemaking, where the second fermentation takes place in the bottle without the addition of liqueur de liqueur to launch the fermentation, and the wines are not disgorged. For lovers of pet-nat, it is an appellation to know.

The large number of indigenous grape varieties as well as the rich overall diversity of grape varieties in the Southwest constitute a natural reservoir of biodiversity, an essential asset in the face of the double challenge of globalization and climate change.

Of course, a region is nothing without its inhabitants. The South West of France has 700 wine estates, 28 cooperatives, 500 winegrowers and 8,261 winegrowers. It is thanks to their dedication and passion that the South West of France continues to be one of the most exciting wine regions in the world.

If you’re ready to taste for yourself, here are 12 of our favorite wines that showcase the diversity and deliciousness of southwestern France. Read our reviews and learn more about this exciting region, bottle by bottle.

  • Chateau Bouscasse 2018

    (Madiran)

    Chateau Bouscasse 2018

    (Madiran)

    A magnificent still young Alain Brumont wine. It is deep in dark tannat flavors and a dense structure, powerful wine with dark fruit and texture.

    editors Choice

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    Points

    $25

  • 2019

    Prephylloxera vines (Saint-Mont)

    2019

    Prephylloxera vines (Saint-Mont)

    A true blend of Tannat and pre-phylloxera Pinenc from the 19th century, this impressive wine has weight and a dense structure.

    Cellar selection

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    Points

    $95

  • Château de Chambert 2017

    Great Wine (Cahors)

    Château de Chambert 2017

    Great Wine (Cahors)

    An impressive wood-aged wine that has rich dark fruit and dense, concentrated tannins.

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    94 Points

    $47

  • Château de Cabidos 2016 Sweet

    Gaston Phoebus Petit Manseng (Count Tolosan)

    Château de Cabidos 2016 Sweet

    Gaston Phoebus Petit Manseng (Count Tolosan)

    Pure Petit Manseng in all its glory, the wine offers richness and sweetness as well as an intense and ethereal acidity.

    editors Choice

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    93 Points

    $22

  • Gaudou’s Castle 2019

    Great Lineage (Cahors)

    Gaudou’s Castle 2019

    Great Lineage (Cahors)

    It is a firm wine, its structure still finely intact. It promises lots of juicy dark fruit and tannins ready to soften.

    editors Choice

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    93 Points

    $18

  • Château Lastours 2020

    Cuvée du Pigeonnier Rouge (Gaillac)

    Château Lastours 2020

    Cuvée du Pigeonnier Rouge (Gaillac)

    Named after the estate’s dovecote, this wine is a serious blend of Braucol, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.

    Cellar selection

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    93 Points

    $48

  • Domaine Gayrard 2020

    out of sight

    Domaine Gayrard 2020

    out of sight

    Slightly aged in wood, this wine from the widely planted white Gaillac grape variety presents notes of yellow fruits as well as tight apple and citrus.

    editors Choice

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    91 Points

    $23

  • Chateau Flotis 2019

    Si Noire Négrette (Fronton)

    Chateau Flotis 2019

    Si Noire Négrette (Fronton)

    Just west of Toulouse and almost within the city limits, the Fronton appellation produces rich wines from the Négrette grape.

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    91 Points

    $20

  • Domaine de Beyssac 2017

    Essential Red (Côtes du Marmandais)

    Domaine de Beyssac 2017

    Essential Red (Côtes du Marmandais)

    A wine dominated by the recently revived Abouriou, it is fragrant, aged in wood and juicy.

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    90 Points

    $20

  • Domain Laurens 2016

    La Bruyere (Marcillac)

    Domain Laurens 2016

    La Bruyere (Marcillac)

    This is a ripe, smoky wine from a small wine region bordering the central Massif Central.

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    90 Points

    $55

  • Chateau Labastide Orliac 2020

    Royal Red Heritage (Brulhois)

    Chateau Labastide Orliac 2020

    Royal Red Heritage (Brulhois)

    From a small appellation south of the city of Agen, this wine is a blend of four grape varieties, including Cabernet Franc and the rare Abouriou.

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    89 Points

    $40

  • Domaine Tariquet 2021

    Chardonnay (Côtes de Gascogne)

    Domaine Tariquet 2021

    Chardonnay (Côtes de Gascogne)

    The wine is sweet and ripe with aromas of white fruit balanced by acidity.

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    88 Points

    $16

Click here to see the October 2022 ratings from South West France

Funded with the support of: SWF

Posted on October 17, 2022

About Michael Brafford

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