Learn About SW French Wines from a Master
Sally Easton MW (Master of Wine) is a wine educator and freelance writer. She teaches consumer classes and runs corporate seminars via her wine school www.winewisdom.com
Here she writes a piece for Wiltshire Magazine and talks about Domaine de Cassaigne 2011, one of Rude Wines’ fabulous French reds from IGP Côtes de Gascogne.
“The plethora of relatively small, yet interesting and individual, wine appellations in the bottom left-hand chunk of France always tend to be lumped together under the moniker of ‘South West France’ (logically so, one might say). Technically, Bordeaux is in southwest France too, but is typically thought of separately – after all, it is a huge region with huge prestige value (well, bits of it). But Bergerac is immediately next door to Bordeaux, yet is usually lumped in as part of the mixed bag that then becomes (the rest of) southwest France. And it’s worth remembering that southwest France is hugely different from the south of France- that huge swathe of territory bordering the Mediterranean sea which covers Languedoc and Roussillon. Indeed, southwest France is effectively all the stuff that lies between Languedoc-Roussillon and Bordeaux.
“The unique and individual aspects of these locations in the southwest make it quite a complex region overall, not least because each appellation pretty much uses its own grape variety or set of grape varieties. None of the appellations is even that big; and this smaller scale of production means the wines, especially the more interesting ones, are not too easy to find on supermarket shelves. Quite often your source is an independent wine merchant.
“One super simplification is the ‘Côtes de Gascogne’ label, which largely coincides with the sizeable territory covered by Armagnac production. Being an IGP (the old Vin de pays), there’s more flexibility of what grape varieties can be used. Thus the red (Cassaigne) below uses mainstream grapes – merlot, cabernet sauvignon and syrah – to good juicy forest fruit and supple tannin effect. This may even be tastier on its own, without food. And the white (Brumont) blends mainstream sauvignon blanc with local gros manseng. The latter adds piquancy, spice, a base musky perfume and tropical fruit taste and weight to sauvignon blanc’s perky acidity, grass and grapefruit notes.
“On top of Côtes de Gascogne there are some 16 different appellations, the most well-known of which are probably Cahors, Madiran and Gaillac. Jurançon too… (maybe). Cahors uses malbec as its signature grape variety, which these days is probably better known as the main variety grown in Argentina. But southwest France is the variety’s homeland, even though there are only some 3,300 hectares of vineyard in Cahors. Cahors was traditionally very long-lived, needing a long time in bottle to soften and mature. These days there are much younger and very approachable styles, such as the Gaudou, which has amid its dark-berried fruits some savoury smoke and graphite tones. This one could be equally tasty to sip on its own or go with supper. Here the Malbec is blended with a merlot and tannat.”
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