By Rose Murray Brown MW Published in The Scotsman 26.3.16
Fed up with Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay? Head to South West France to discover hidden gems made from exciting local grapes from white Petit Manseng to red Negrette to offer something refreshingly different.
This huge region stretches from east of the Lot valley in central France right down to the Pyrenees in the far south west, with a wealth of wine styles: from vibrant minerally dry whites in Gascony, Jurancon and St Mont to fruity red Fronton, rustic red Cahors and Madiran to spicy feral Marcillac.
We have picked twelve of our current favourite South West France wines to cover all styles with food recommendations for each – although all would match well with the local charcuterie.
Cotes de Gascogne: PUJALET SEC PAYS DE GERS 2014
Very light lemony blend of Gascony’s stalwart white grapes, Colombard and Ugni Blanc. The Cotes de Gascogne is always a good hunting ground for inexpensive quaffing dry whites – every supermarket does one, but this Waitrose Pujalet is a particularly good example. Best served on its own as a simple aperitif.
Pacherenc du Vic Bilh: PACHERENC DU VIC BILH SEC 2014 Domaine Berthoumieu
(£13.99 Caves de Pyrene www.lescaves.co.uk)
A complicated name, but do try to remember Pacherenc du Vic Bilh (Pach refers to ‘posts in a row’ and Vic Bilh is the name of the hills) as this region makes great dry and sweet wine. Similar grapes to the Jurancon region, here winemaker Didier Barre uses Gros Manseng, Courbu and Petit Manseng from old vines, partly oaked giving a wonderfully full, rich appley dry white with punchy vibrant acidity. Serve with baked salmon.
Jurancon: CUVEE MARIE JURANCON SEC 2013 Charles Hours ***STAR BUY***
(£17.95 Swig www.swig.co.uk)
If you like your white dry, taut, pure and intense with vivid acidity, you will love the dry whites of Jurancon. Made from the local Manseng grape by one of the local wine heros, Charles Hours, this is deliciously juicy, peachy with a tangy freshness. Serve as aperitif or with crab or scallops.
St Mont: ST MONT BLANC 2014
(£8 Marks & Spencer)
Looking for a dry unoaked white with a difference, the St Mont region southwest of Gascony uses similar grapes to nearbyJurancon in a slightly fatter style. So while you don’t get the whistle sharp purity of Jurancon, you get a lovely floral, citric fruity dry white. Serve with rich textured seafood dishes.
Gascony: LES COQUELICOTS ROSE 2014 Domaine St Lannes
(£8.49 members or £11.49 members Rude wines www.rudewines.co.uk)
The only rose in our tasting – this got the thumbs up from our tasters. Light, fruity easy quaffing rose – with candied red fruits. This Gascon rose is similar to the style of roses you find in Entre deux Mers in Bordeaux, made from Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grown on the clay limestone. Serve as aperitif or with summer lunch salad.
Madiran: MADIRAN TERRES DE MORAINES 2012 ***STAR VALUE BUY***
(£9 Marks & Spencer)
Madiran weighs in as the tough powerful body builder amongst south west French reds. Based on the Tannat grape grown on rich clay loam soils with Cabernet Sauvignon in this blend, the modern Madirans are fruitier and more approachable – this dark fruited spicy M&S example is a good introduction. Match with spicy barbeque sausages or beef stew.
Cahors: CAHORS ROUGE, LE GAMOTIN 2012 Clos de Gamot
(£12.99 Raeburn Fine Wines, Edinburgh)
If you love the Malbec grape, head to Cahors on the beautiful Lot river. This Malbec is lighter and more minerally than you find in Argentinian Malbecs, but has the same damson fruits, black pepper and liquorice undertones with firm grippy tannins. The Jouffreau family have been planting on the Lot terraces and alluvium since 17th century, this is their younger vine example which is an approachable introduction to the Malbecs of Cahors. Serve with roast lamb or duck.
Cotes du Frontonnais: FRONTON, CUVEE DON QUICHOTTE 2012 Domaine Le Roc
(£17.45 Berry Bros & Rudd www.bbr.com)
Head to a bar in Toulouse for a lipsmacking glass of red and you will probably end up drinking the local Fronton wine. Made from the little known Negrette grape (meaning black in the local dialect) grown on gravelly river terraces nearby, softened with maturing in large old oak with additional Syrah in the blend. Deep coloured, violet perfumes, fresh acidity, juicy chunky fruits with coffee undertones – quite similar in style to Beaujolais – it works well with a platter of local charcuterie.
Marcillac: MARCILLAC, LO SANG DEL PAIS 2014 Domaine du Cros ***STAR VALUE BUY***
(£7.95 The Wine Society www.thewinesociety.com)
Of all the little known wine regions of South West France, I find the Marcillac region the most interesting and exciting. The Fer Servadou grape (here called Mansois) growing on iron rich red clay south east of the Lot river makes deliciously meaty herby reds with really juicy fruits and earthy undertones. Very popular with our tasters and a great bargain. Bring out the saucisson.
Marcillac: MARCILLAC, CUVEE LAIRIS 2012 Jean Luc Martha
(£12.99 Les Caves de Pyrene www.lescaves.co.uk)
If you like your red wines with juicy, feral with almost sanguine flavours – and plenty of character – this Marcillac is superb example. Marcillac wines were originally made to refresh the local miners at Decazeville, now they sell mainly to local tourists. Today Jean Luc Martha is one of the best producers with 14 hectares on Marcillac’s slopes. I also like the fact that it is not too heavy in alcohol. Serve with spicy sausages.
Jurancon: JURANCON LA MAGENDIA 2012 Domaine Lapeyre
(£12.99 hf bt Les Caves de Pyrene www.lescaves.co.uk; £14.99 Selfridges; www.smilinggrape.com)
Wild flowers, pineapple and passionfruit with a superb acidity like an electric current across this honeyed sweetness. This deliciously gentle Petit Manseng-based dessert wine is made by the wine ‘poet’ of the region Jean Bernard Larrieu. No wonder ‘La Magendia’ in Occitan means ‘the best’. Serve with foie gras or with dessert fruit salad or tarte tatin.
Pyrenees-Atlantique: CABIDOS CUVEE COMTE CLEMENT DOUX 2012 Chateau de Cabidos ***STAR BUY***
(£8.95 for 50 cl bt The Wine Society www.thewinesociety.com; Daniel Lambert Wines www.daniellambertwines.co.uk; L’Art du Vin, Dunfermline)
Beautiful Chateau Cabidos has a very international team with a French and Thai owners and a Swiss winemaker. They make superb value sweet wines from their Pyrenees based chateau north of Pau and Bearn. This enchanting sweet wine is made from Petit Manseng grape by the ancient ‘passerillage’ method, where stems are twisted whilst grapes are still on the vine, dehydrating the grapes and increasing sweet concentration. The late picked grapes are then fermented and matured to make an enchantingly fresh but sweet honeyed dessert wine. Serve with crème brulee, apple crumble or crepes suzette.
Join Rose’s South West France Wine & Charcuterie Masterclass at Abode Hotel, Bath Street, Glasgow on 26 May £40 www.rosemurraybrown.com