Rustic and Rugged – The Wines of Southwest France

5/06/15 -


(Nicolas Carmarans in his vineyard. Photo by Fifi.)

Between Bordeaux in the north and the Pyrenees Mountains to the south lies the Sud-Ouest. This is one of France’s lesser-known winemaking regions, overshadowed by the prominence of Bordeaux, and isolated by its rural setting (this is the least densely populated region of France with only ten residents per square mile!). Historically it was effectively suppressed as a wine producing region by the Bordelais as well. Being inland, the warmer and generally more favorable climate leads to earlier harvesting than in Bordeaux and results in the wines being made available sooner than wines from the north of France. Wine merchants in Bordeaux saw this as a threat and during the 13th and 14th centuries a set of codes called the police des vins were enacted. These codes stated that the wines of the “High Country” could not be up for sale until the majority of Bordelais wines sold. Since this region was overlooked for so long, and remains without a typical regional style of winemaking, young winemakers there are pushing the envelope and producing some of the most exciting and expressive wines in France.

The terrain in the Sud-Ouest is rugged and beautiful with vineyards planted alongside lush forests, where farmers grow grape varietals unique to the region that truly offer a sense of place. Many of these small farmers not only make wine but raise livestock and other vegetables as well – true subsistance living! We are happy to showcase some of these winemakers today, including Fabien Jouves at Mas del Périé in Cahors who makes pure and powerful wines out of Malbec, Patrice Lescarret and Virgnie Maignien at Causse Marines in Gaillac, who do beautiful work in the vineyard and an equally stellar job in the cellar, and Nicolas Carmarans who is high up in the hills of Aveyron and crafts stunning natural wines. Dive in and explore these beautiful wines of terroir! Tim Gagnon

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