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France

The Southwest

  • The Southwest of France includes the regions north of the Pyrénées and west of the Languedoc, all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.

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  • Tannat is one of the most distinctive grapes of the Southwest. Tannat produces tannic, full-bodied, deeply colored wines with black and red berry fruit character and a distinct earthiness. It is the dominant variety in Madiran, and is used in other regions as well.

    Among the more important regional white grapes are Gros Manseng and Petit Manseng. These are used in Jurançon and Pacherenc de Vic Bihl among others. The two may be blended, but for the most part, Gros Manseng is used in dry wines and the Petit Manseng is used in dessert wines. They give an exotic, almost tropical fruit character with a spicy edge, retaining their high acidity, even at high levels of ripeness. These are often blended with the more neutral Courbu, Ruffiac, Len de l’Elh and Odenc.

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  • Gaillac and the Côtes du Frontonnais are at the eastern edge of this region where they make a wide variety of wines, most sharing a light, refreshing and fruity character that comes from the Negrette grape for the reds and Mauzac for the whites. Many other grapes are also found here.

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  • Northwest of Gaillac is Cahors on the river Lot. This ancient region blends Malbec (70%), Merlot and Tannat with a touch of Jurançon Noir for alcohol. These wines are tannic, full-bodied and deeply colored. Many domaines are now vinifying single-variety Malbecs with excellent results.

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  • To the west of Cahors lie a variety of districts that produce wines on the Bordeaux model. Dry whites from Sauvignon, Semillon and Muscadelle are produced in Montravel and Bergerac; sweet whites from the same grapes in Monbazillac and Montravel; and red wines from the Cabernets, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot in Percharmant, Buzet, and the Côtes du Marmandais.

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  • Southwest of these regions sits Armagnac, and southwest of that is a cluster of appellations that make up the furthest southwest corner of the country, including Jurançon (sweet whites) and Madiran (full bodied reds) and the less well-known Côtes de St. Mont, Tursan (using the Baroque grape for the whites), Bearn, and the Basque region of Irouleguy, known for red wines from Tannat blended with Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.

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