Diversity in South West France

MarcillacLast night’s tasting in Longparish was a great opportunity to explore again the amazing diversity and riches of the wines of South West France. Even the names are redolent of difference and local pride: from Irouléguy in Atlantic-influenced Pyrenees, deep in Basque country, via Madiran, Fronton and Gaillac spread across the central area, to Marcillac near to the border with Languedoc. And the wines, based mainly on fiercely local varieties are distinctive, even unique. Here are a few highlights. We kicked off with Esprit de Labastide Brut, AC Gaillac, 10.5%, a made-in-the-bottle sparkler which features the Mauzac grape variety. While this can smell of old apple skins, in this version it showed attractive, quite forward, lemon fruit and medium acidity. Good, flavourful refreshment. The Gros Manseng-based whites split people quite markedly, with most prefering the fully dry version from Irouléguy A more conventional note was struck by the barrel-fermented Domaine d’Escausses but then it is based on Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadelle and Mauzac. The style is very similar to nearby Graves, Bordeaux.

Labastide Brut

General approval met the bright pink rosé, Ch. Bellevue La Forêt, AC Fronton, 2013 which struck the right balance between more than a hint of red fruit, sherbet and contrasting acidity. But the stars of the show were undoubtedly the three red wines. Domaine Laurens, AC Marcillac 2012 is both highly drinkable at just 12.5% and full of flavour – raspberry juice, something gamey and a powerful undertow of iron. Remarkable for a simple, unoaked-aged wine. Ch Haut-Monplaisir, Prestige, AC Cahors, 2010 was textbook Malbec from its first homeland, perfumed, taut and elegant, full of refreshing fruit, with a fine tannic structure. It was not at all the ‘black wine’ of the old stereotype but showed the purity and immediate drinkability that comes from well executed contemporary wine making. Domaine Capmartin, Cuvée du Couvent, AC Madiran, 2011 was both drinkable and properly tannic. Without those tannins the wine just would not be Tannat from Madiran! But nowadays the wines are also well balanced, with restrained blackberry fruit with overlaid with a hint of vanilla and leather, good to drink now with meat and over the next decade. The evening finished on a sweet note with Domaine Tariquet, Dernières Grives, Côtes de Gascogne, 2012, a simple and delicious hit of concentrated apricot juice and honey. This was a suitable reminder of the richness and variety of the diverse regions we celebrate under the heading of South West France.

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