South West France (wine region)

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South West France
Wine region
Vignoble du jurancon3.jpg
Official nameSud-Ouest
TypeRegion
Country France
Sub-regions Dordogne river areas, Garonne river areas, Gascony, Basque Country
Size of planted vineyards16,000 ha

South West France, or in French Sud-Ouest, is a wine region in France covering several wine-producing areas situated respectively inland from, and south of, the wine region of Bordeaux. [1] These areas, which have a total of 16,000 hectares (40,000 acres) of vineyards, consist of several discontinuous wine "islands" throughout the Aquitaine region (where Bordeaux region itself is situated), and more or less to the west of the Midi-Pyrénées region.

Contents

Thus, South West France covers both the upstream areas around the rivers Dordogne and Garonne (which also flow through Bordeaux where they combine to form the Gironde estuary) and their tributaries, as well as the wine-producing areas of Gascony including Béarn, and the Northern Basque Country. However, only areas closer to the Atlantic than to the Mediterranean are included in the region, with the city of Toulouse being situated roughly halfway between the South West wine region and the Languedoc-Roussillon wine region on the Mediterranean.

The brandy-producing region Armagnac is situated within Gascony and the wine region of South West France, and some of its grapes are used to make Vin de Pays under the designation Vin de Pays de Côtes de Gascogne or mixed with Armagnac to produce the mistelle Floc de Gascogne.

South West France is a rather heterogeneous region in terms of its wines and how they are marketed. It is rare to see wines being sold as Vins du Sud-Ouest. Rather, the smaller areas and individual appellations market their wines under their own (smaller) umbrella, in contrast with common practice in e.g. the Bordeaux region.

The areas closest to Bordeaux produce wines in a style similar to those of Bordeaux, and largely from the same grape varieties. Further south, wines are still rather similar to those of Bordeaux, but several grape varieties not used in Bordeaux are common, such as Tannat. Finally, in the areas closest to the Pyrenees, wines are made from local varieties, such as Gros Manseng and Petit Manseng.

History

The south-west region was first cultivated by the Romans and had a flourishing wine trade long before the Bordeaux area was planted. As the port city of Bordeaux became established, wines from the "High Country" would descend via the tributaries of the Dordogne and Garonne to be sent to markets along the Atlantic coast. [2] The climate of the inland region was generally warmer and more favorable than in Bordeaux, allowing the grapes to be harvested earlier and the wines to be of a stronger alcohol level. Many Bordeaux wine merchants saw the wines of the "High Country" as a threat to their economic interest and during the 13th & 14th century a set of codes, known as the police des vins , were established which regulated the use of the port of Bordeaux for wine trading. The police des vins stated that no wine could be traded out of Bordeaux until the majority of Bordelais wine had already been sold. This had a devastating effect on the wine industry of the High Country with barrels of wines being stranded at Bordeaux warehouses for several weeks or months before they could be sold at much lower prices due to that year's market already being saturated with wine. In many years another vintage would actually take place before the "High Country" wines were sold. [3]

Appellations in South West France

Map of South West France with the various appellations of the region. Vignobles sud ouest.png
Map of South West France with the various appellations of the region.

South West France includes the following Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) and Vin Délimité de Qualité Supérieure (VDQS) designations.

Dordogne/Bergerac, subregion

Garonne subregion

Gascony subregion

Béarn subregion

Basque Country subregion

Common grape varieties

The following grape varieties are commonly found in at least one sub-region or appellation of South West France.

See also

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Jurançon AOC

Jurançon is a wine region in South West France in the foothills of the Pyrenees, around the commune of Jurançon. It produces a dry white wine and a more sought after sweet white wine. The grape varieties used are Gros Manseng, Petit Manseng and Courbu. The sweet wines develop aromas of tropical fruit such as pineapple and mango. The vines are grown on steep mountain slopes and for the sweet wines the grapes are often hand selected well into October and November to ensure the best noble rot characteristics - although Tim Wildman MW states that noble rot is not the origin of sweetness in these wines.

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Madiran is a commune in the Hautes-Pyrénées department in south-western France.

Côtes de Toul is an Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) for French wine produced in the département of Meurthe-et-Moselle in the Lorraine région. The Côtes de Toul vineyards cover 110 hectares in an area close to Toul, to the west of the city of Nancy. The area of production includes the following communes: Blénod-lès-Toul, Bruley, Bulligny, Charmes-la-Côte, Domgermain, Lucey, Mont-le-Vignoble and Pagney-derrière-Barine. Annual production is 4,500 hectoliter, corresponding to 600,000 bottles.

Abouriou is a red French wine grape variety grown primarily in Southwest France and, in small quantities, California. It is a blending grape that, along with Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Fer, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot, is used to make the Appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) wine of Côtes du Marmandais. Abouriou can also be made into a varietal, as it is used in some vin de pays wines. The grape is known for its low acidity and high tannin content.

Bordeaux wine regions wine growing areas in France

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Côtes du Marmandais is an Appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) for wine located in South West France around the commune of Marmande. With its location just southeast of the Entre-Deux-Mers along the banks of the Garonne river, it is a satellite of Bordeaux, but just outside the borders of that region. The region was elevated from Vin Délimité de Qualité Superieure (VDQS) to AOC status in 1990. From the Middle Ages to the 19th century, the wines of the Côtes du Marmandais were widely exported to the Netherlands. The Phylloxera epidemic wiped out most of the vineyards in this area with many farmers switching to other agricultural crops. It was not until the later half of the 20th century that viticulture in the area reaffirmed itself.

Petit Manseng varietal

Petit Manseng is a white wine grape variety that is grown primarily in South West France. It produces the highest quality wine of any grape in the Manseng family. The name is derived from its small, thick skin berries. Coupled with the small yields of the grapevine, most Petit Manseng farmers produce around 15 hl of wine per hectare. The grape is often left on the vine till December to produce a late harvest dessert wine. The grape is grown primarily in Gascony, Jurançon and Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh but has recently drawn interest in New World wine regions like California, North Georgia, Virginia, and Ohio. In May 2020, CSIRO scientists discovered through DNA analysis that Australia's plantings of Petit Manseng, first imported in 1979, are in fact Gros Manseng. The reason is that it is expected to follow Viognier's path to popularity among white wine drinkers. It was already present in Uruguay, when Basque settlers brought "Manseng" and Tannat vines with them to their new home. Despite being easily recognizable as a white grape while true Manseng is a black grape, wine that is Petit Manseng is still normally labeled as just "Manseng". The grape is often left on the vine to produce a late harvest wine made from its nearly raisin like grapes.

Gros Manseng varietal

Gros Manseng is a white wine grape variety that is grown primarily in South West France, and is part of the Manseng family. It produces dry wines in the Jurançon and Béarn regions of Southwest France. In Gascony it is permitted in the Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh Appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC), in the Côtes de Gascogne and in the Floc de Gascogne.

Côtes de Gascogne wine-growing district in Gascony

Côtes de Gascogne is a wine-growing district in Gascony producing principally white wine. It is mainly located in the département of the Gers in the former Midi-Pyrénées region, and it belongs to the wine region South West France. The designation Côtes de Gascogne is used for a Vin de Pays produced in the Armagnac area. The decree of 13 September 1968 created the difference between a Vin de Pays and simpler table wine, the so-called Vin de table. The designation Côtes de Gascogne obliges the producers to respect the stricter rules and production standards, which were adopted with the decree of 25 January 1982.

Floc de Gascogne

The Floc de Gascogne is a regional apéritif from the Côtes de Gascogne and Armagnac regions of Sud-Ouest wine region of France. It is a vin de liqueur fortified with armagnac, the local brandy. It has had Appellation d'origine contrôlée status since 1990. Elsewhere in France analogous drinks are made.

Madiran wine

Madiran wine is produced around the village of Madiran in Gascony under two Appellations d'Origine Contrôlées (AOCs): Madiran for red wines and Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh and Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh Sec for white wines. The production area for Madiran wine is spread over three départments – Gers, Hautes-Pyrénées and Pyrénées-Atlantiques – and is a part of the South West France wine region. There are 1,300 hectares of Madiran vineyards.

Courbu is the name of three different, but related varieties of wine grapes primarily found in South West France. All are Vitis vinifera grapes. The name Courbu, without suffix, can refer to both Petit Courbu and Courbu blanc, and not all sources differ between the two.

Arrufiac is a white French wine grape variety that is primarily planted in the Gascony region of South West France. It is a secondary grape in the wines from the Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh Appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC). While the grape has had a long history being blended with Petit Courbu in Gascon wines, it has only recently experienced a resurgence of interest in the late 20th century following the release of white blends from Andrė Dubosc of Producteurs Plaimont, one of the region's largest co-operative wineries, in the 1980s.

Bergerac wine French wine subregion of South West France

The Bergerac wine-growing region, a subregion of South West France around the town of Bergerac in the Dordogne department, comprises 93 communes. Its boundaries correspond more or less with those of the Arrondissement of Bergerac, immediately east of the Bordeaux wine region. 1,200 wine-growers cultivate an area of 12,000 hectares. The Bergerac area contains 13 Appellations d'origine contrôlées (AOCs) for red, white and rosé wines.

Côtes de Duras

Côtes de Duras is an Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) for red and white wines in South West France. Côtes de Duras is located in the department of Lot-et-Garonne, and is located immediately adjacent to the Bordeaux wine region, which is restricted to the Gironde department, as an extension of Bordeaux immediately to the east of the departmental border.

Béarn AOC

Béarn is an Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) for wine in South West France. It is located in the area of intersection of three French departments: Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Hautes-Pyrénées and Gers; and two regions: Aquitaine and Midi-Pyrénées. Some vineyards in the area of the Jurançon AOC can also produce red Béarn wine, and some in the area of the Madiran AOC may produce a rosé Béarn. Wines made in the village of Bellocq also carry the appellation Béarn-Bellocq.

References

  1. Terroir-France: South West Wine Information, accessed on February 23, 2008
  2. H. Johnson & J. Robinson The World Atlas of Wine pg 112-115 Mitchell Beazley Publishing 2005 ISBN   1-84000-332-4
  3. H. Johnson Vintage: The Story of Wine pg 144 Simon and Schuster 1989 ISBN   0-671-68702-6