Description 1 of 1

South West France, or Sud Ouest, is a large expanse that covers several districts within the country, with the exception of Bordeaux, Languedoc, and Rousillon. The Romans were the first to produce wine here, long before Bordeaux vineyards were ever established. In the early Middle Ages, with a now established Bordeaux region, this area was referred to as “High Country.” Both areas would send their goods via tributaries of the main rivers, the Garonne and Dordogne, to other areas off the Atlantic Coast. High Country grapes ripened sooner than in Bordeaux, so the wines could be bottled and sold more quickly, which threatened Bordeaux producers who wanted their piece of the action. In the 13th and 14th century, the Bordelais established the “police des vins” which stipulated that no High Country wine could be sold until most of the Bordeaux wine left port. Barrels of South West wine would sit in storage, fetching much lower prices in the already saturated marketplace once they could move. In some vintages, High Country wines never even left port.

This is the main reason why the spotlight always seems to be on Bordeaux, and why the Bordeaux grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Sauvignon Blanc are given the most clout. The grapes grown in the South West are considered more rustic and obscure country grapes. But there was a time Tannat,  Malbec, Fer Servadou, Gros and Petit Manseng, Merille, Duras, Len de L’El, Muscadelle, Chenin Blanc, and Ondenc could have been just as famous. 
The climate and topography within the South West is diverse, owing to many styles of wine produced. Robust red wine dominates Buzet, Gaillac, Marcillac, Millau, Pecharmant, Fronton, and Coteaux du Quercy. Tannat is the starring red grape of Madiran, and Cahors is where Malbec reigns supreme. Other subregions such as Bergerac, Bearn, Tursan, Cotes de Duras, Cotes du Saint-Mont, Montravel, and Vins d’Estaing specialize in both red and white. Rosés are produced throughout these regions. Pecherenc du Vic-Bilh is only white. Sparkling and sweet wines are also produced throughout the South West. 
Jurançon is a white wine produced with varying degrees of residual sugar, from the grapes Petit Manseng, Gros Manseng, Courbu, Camaralet, and Lauzet. The lighest of these, Jurançon Sec, is nearly dry to off-dry, and the more famous Jurançon Vendanges Tardives (late harvest) is fully sweet. 
Monbazillac is the South West’s answer to Sauternes, with rich, nutty, late harvest dessert wines produced from the Botrytised (“noble rot”) grapes of Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle. Rosette and Saussignac are similar, but lesser known sweet-only appellations with the same grape trifecta. 
The distinctive Armagnac brandy is produced in Gascony. It’s made from Ugni Blanc, Colombard, and small percentages of Folles Blanches, Jurançon, and Graisse grapes. Some of the grapes are used to produce a still wine called Côtes de Gascogne, and there is also Floc de Gascogne, which is a mixture of Armagnac and still wine. For more information on Armagnac, please see Armagnac
This much-maligned region is finally starting to get its due, with more commercial focus on the wines and regional grapes. These wines often offer excellent value for the price, and tend to be quite food-friendly. ~Amanda Schuster
– Description from Amanda Schuster

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