Digging into the Southwest of France
Colombard, Gros Manseng, Petit Manseng. Those are the names of white grapes used to make the wines I’ve been drinking for the past few weeks. Jurancon, Saint-Mont, Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh. These are the designation of origins where these wines come from.
Located to the south of Bordeaux, in the vicinity of the rivers Dordogne and Garonne, the vineyards of the South West occupy around 40,000 acres of land. For a wine lover, this area offers the occasion to discover a playground of flavors from uncommon grape varieties. In fact, the Interprofession des Vins du Sud-Ouest lists almost half of the grape of the region (120 out of 300) as indigenous to the Southwest.
Although the region is famous for their reds, their white counterparts are some of France’s most distinctive wines and represent an excellent value. Their styles range from the firmly dry, as well as sparkling, to the intensely rich and sweet, depending on the blend of grapes.
Alain Brumont — in the 1980s — brought the wines of the Southwest to the world’s attention. Dubbed the king of Madiran, he is also a leading figure in the Cotes de Gascogne wine region. Brumont offers the best interpretation of Gascony: wines that can accompany every moment and event in life.
His Brumont VDP Blanc reflects this passion for the region. This is a solid well-made wine that combines Gros Manseng’s structure and freshness with Sauvignon’s aromas and fruitiness. It reflects the terroir called Peyrusquet, composed of layers of gray, cracked clay 1 to 2 meters in depth covering limestone cliffs.
Brumont’s success inspired many young winemakers of the region such as Didier Barré from Domaine Berthoumieu. Although Didier’s main focus is red, he also makes very good sweet and dry white wines under the Pacherenc du Vic Bilh designation of origin. This is the appellation required for white wines produced in the Madiran region.
His Pacherenc-du-Vic-Bilh, Symphonie D’Automne 2013 is an ode to the sweet wines of the region. This is a blend of 90% Petit Manseng with a splash of Gros Courbu. It has a lovely bouquet of honey, lemon peel, and citronella. On the mouth, well balanced with a long and sweet finish.
If you are looking for new oenophile experiences, the French southwest is the answer. The land of Cyrano de Bergerac offers unique wines that truly represent their terroir.
Top image: Alain Brumont