When I attend a wine tasting where I am not familiar with the wines, my method is to taste them without looking at the prices. At a tasting of the wines of Southwest France I could not believe the number of wines that I liked. Even more amazing was that most of them were under $20. North of the Pyrenees Mountains, south of Bordeaux, east of the Atlantic Ocean and west of the Languedoc, Southwest France has almost 30 appellations and over 100 native grape varieties. Many, such as Arrufiac, Fer Servadou and Loin de l’Oeil are unique to the region. There are 850 independent producers and 23 cooperative cellars.
Southwest France follows the European Union’s new wine regulations. Each appellation is either AOP — Appellation d’Origine Protègèe — the European equivalent of the French AOC, which applies to wines produced following very strict specifications and tied to a defined origin and terroir, or IGP – Indication Geographique for wine produced according to strict specifications and certified as having been produced in a defined geographical area.
Here are a few of my favorites all under $20. I was told that all the producers have US importers.
Cuvèe Methode Gaillacoise Brut 2011 Gaillas AOP Domaine du Moulin made from Mauzac White.
Method Gaillacois, I was told, is the traditional and oldest method for making sparkling wine. The wine has aromas of green apple and other citrus fruits but also has a creamy texture that make it easy to drink. It can be served as an aperitif or with dessert and should be served well chilled. $18
The White WinesCvèe Colombard- Ugni Blanc 2011 Cotès de Gascogne IGP Domaine UBY 80% Colombard and 20% Ugni Blanc. The soil is composed of sandy loam and clay. There is whole fruit maceration, low temperature fermentation and maturation on the fine lees. This is a wine with crisp acidity and hints of grapefruit and lemon. It has a surprising long finish and should be drunk young. $9
Cuvèe Classic 2011 Cotès de Gascogne IGP Domaine Du Tariquet. Made from 45% Ugni Blanc, 35% Colombard 10% Sauvignon Blanc 10% Gros Manseng. Tariquet is the largest family owned white wine estate in one appellation in France. They also produce a Bas-Armagnac. I was told that this is the favorite white wine in the bistros of Bordeaux. This is an intense dry but fruity wine with nice citrus fruit and good acidity $9Cuvèe Harmonie de Gascogne 2011 Côtes de Gascogne IGP Domaine de Pellehaute. Made from Ugni Blanc, Colombard, Folle Blanche, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Gros Manseng and Petit Manseng. This is a traditional farming estate with the vines situated on the slopes and the low lands reserved for cattle and cereal crops. The wine has nice fruit aromas, fresh acidity, herbal overtones, and the finish is off dry. $12Cuvèe Les Vignes Retrouvèes (rediscovered vines) 2010 Saint Mont AOP Plaimont Producteurs. Made from Gros Manseng, Petite Courbu and Arrufiac The leading producer of wine in the south of France, they produce 40 million bottles. This is an aromatic wine with nice citrus aromas and flavors and a touch of stone fruit. $11Cuvèe La Coste Blanche 2011 Gaillac AOP Domaine de la Chanade 80% Loin de l’Oeil and 20% Mauzac. Christian Hollevort purchased the vineyard because he wanted to use old methods to make a wine as natural as possible. It is a wine with herbal overtones, nice fruit and good acidity. $8
Cuvèe Premier Grain “Rosè “ 2011 Côtes du Lot IGP Château De Gaudou 100% Malbec. The vineyards spread over 35 hectares of gravel soil and face south-southwest. These 35 year old vineyards hug the gentle slopes of the third terraces of the Lot Valley and are regarded among the finest of the Cahors appellation. Fruity aromas with hints of citrus and a pleasing aftertaste. $15
Red WinesCuvèe Lo Sang del Pais 2011 Marcillac AOP Domaine du Cros 100% Fer Servadou. The grape bunches are handed harvested, destemmed and fed into fermentation tanks by gravity. The “cuvasion” lasts for 15/20 days with the juice being pumped over the cap during the first six days. The wine is aged for six months in oak and chestnut barrels some of which are 200 years old. $17Cuvèe Folle Noire d’Ambat 2009 Fronton AOP Domaine Le Roc 100% Negrette. The winery is located in the smallest viticulture zone of Fronton on gravely and Boulbenes (ground quartz, sand and stone) soil. There are 5,000 vines per hectare. There is a light pressing of the grapes and vinification is in the traditional manner for about 2 weeks. The wine is made in small open tanks, which allow for better temperature control. Aging in 20hl oak barrels for 8/10 month. The winery is situated just outside of Toulouse. This is an aromatic wine with aromas and flavors of red fruit, hints of cherry and spice. It was one of my favorite wines. $18