ONE of France’s most interesting wine regions lies beyond the limits of Bordeaux towards the south west.
There are dozens of appellations here and a plethora of grape varieties from the heavily tannic wines of Madiran and Cahors, to the light whites labelled Cotes de Gascogne.
It is in Gaillac, that the Romans first began the cultivation of grapes in the first century AD making it the birthplace of French wine.
And, as you travel further upstream away from Bordeaux the more unusual and extensive become the grape varieties. There are, just to name a few, Abouriou, Fer or Mansois, Loin de L’oeil, Négrette and Affrufiac.
Generally the land is more hilly than Bordeaux but still very much influenced by an Atlantic climate.
The cuisine here is robust and decadent with lots of confit duck and goose on the menus, Roquefort cheese, truffles, Toulouse sausages and hearty cassoulet.
For each of these delicacies there seems to be an equally delicious appellation to match.
And, like the Languedoc, it’s a place for maverick winemakers and also a great source of reasonably priced bottles.
For more information about south west France’s wines visit: south westfrancewines. com.
Here is a small selection of bottles to represent the region:
Les Hauts de Bergelle Blanc 2011 Saint Mont (£7.99 Majestic)
This delicious white is made from Gros Manseng, Petit Corbu and Arrufiac. It’s crisp, tangy and intense with aromas of hazelnut. Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Fronton Rosé (£7.99 Sainsbury’s)
Fronton near Toulouse in south west France has been producing wines since the 12th century, largely from Négrette.
This black grape is perfect for making perfumed rosé and this example is delicious with aromas of Turkish delight and concentrated raspberry fruit. Java L’envie en rose Cotes de Gascogne (£8 Marc Fine Wines / Drinks of France / Deliciously French)
A very light rosé despite being made from Merlot and Cabernet Franc.
Very easy drinking with aromas of strawberry. Chateau de Hauterive Cahors 2011 (£7.50 The Wine Society)
A cracking bargain in my book. Cahors is dominated by Malbec and is a great wine to match roasted meats and steak in particular. This is supple, fruity and expressive from grapes grown on gravel beds above the river Saint Mont Béret Noir 2011 (£7.90 Christopher Piper Wines)
Made with Tannat, Pinenc and Cabernet Franc this inky red is very robust with lashings of dark fruit and plenty of tannic grip – just right for rich stews. Gaillac Loin de L’Oeil Sauvignon George Vigouroux 2013 (£9.99 General Wine Co)
Loin de l’Oeil means ‘far from the eye’ (as the grape bunches hang on a long stem far from the branch) and it’s known for its floral notes but can lack acidity, which is why
‘Utterly delicious and moreish red’
Sauvignon Blanc is the perfect match.
This has aromas of almond and orange blossom while there’s baked apple on the palate
Chateau d’Aydie, Pacherenc-Du-Vic-Bilh 2011 (£13.50 The Wine Society)
Pacherenc-Du-Vic-Bilh is an appellation which makes dry and sweet aromatic whites.
The sweet is sometimes made from the Passerillé grape but here it is Petit Manseng and Petit Corbu.
This chateau, owned by the Laplace family, is widely recognized as a leading producer of Madiran.
This sweet wine has a wondeful floral nose and honeyed, peachy fruit. Domaine Du Cros Marcillac Cuvée Vielles Vignes 2011 (£13.99 Les Caves de Pyrenes)
This utterly delicious and moreish red is made with the Fer grape, also known as Mansois.
It’s vigorously fruity with a nice creamy smoothness to the texture of the palate.