You guys, I have to get out of France and move on to other countries. But before I do, the OCD in me needs to cover one last section: Dordogne and South West France. To set the scene, Dordogne is located to the east of Entre-Deux-Mers (Bordeaux), producing wines from the same grape varieties used in that region. What is referrred to as “The South West of France” is a compilation of a number of wine regions utilizing grapes that are not often used in Bordeaux, if at all.
Ready for this amazingness? Let’s dive in…
[Information based on WSET Level 3 material]
As mentioned, Dordogne is located to the east of Entre-Deux-Mers, producing wines from the same grape varieties used in Bordeaux, so it may come as no surprise that the climate of The Dordogne is similar to that of Bordeaux as well (moderate maritime), although it is further east so receives less of the direct maritime influences that affect Bordeaux: the Gulf Stream, a warm ocean current that extends the growing season and the Atlantic air that produces humidity and rainfall.
Appellations to know:
Bergerac: produces both red and white wines from the same varieties used in Bordeaux
Monbazillac: produces botrytized sweet wine from Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc (but is a bit more wallet friendly that Sauternes). (And if you look at a map of the South West of France, you can see that this region is close to the Dordogne River. So I’m thinking that vineyards are planted in a valley that can take advantage of that moisture, but that still receives those air breezes off the ocean to dry out the grapes in the afternoon.)
SOUTH WEST FRANCE
Again, these regions are spread out throughout the south-western portion of France, so the terroir of each will be a bit different.
Appellations to know:
Cahors: Situated to the east of Bordeaux, producing a broad range of wines depending on whether the vineyards are in the fertile valley floor, the poorer soils of the slopes, or the plateaus just above those slopes. The most important grape variety in Cahors is Malbec. Other noted varieties include Merlot and Tannat. FUN FACT: Traditionally the wines of Cahors were referred to as “black wines,” which gives you an indication of what the dominant style of wine the region produces—deep colored, high tannins, with deep berry fruit flavors. Wines are traditionally aged in oak for long periods of time to integrate cedar and earth notes as well.
Côtes de Gascogne: Located to the south of Bordeaux, this is one of the most important regions for the production of IGP wines. They are typically dry, light-bodied white wines made from Ugni Blanc.
Madiran: This region is located just south of Côtes de Gascogne. The name of the game in Madiran is red wine blends, with the dominant variety being Tannat. These wines historically require a lot of bottle aging to soften harsh tannins before enjoyment. However, it’s noted that today, riper grapes and modern winemaking techniques mean that producers can create wines with concentrated black fruit flavors and high levels of softer tannins. (I’m thinking, here, that in the vineyard grape growers are managing vines in a way that they can extend growing, so that the ripening of the tannins better align with the ripening of the sugars [i.e. canopy management, and adequate vine stress] and in the winery vintners are utilizing more thoughtful extraction methods so as not to overwhelm the wine with those tannins [i.e. less time on the skins pre- and post-fermentation]. Any thoughts on this?)
Jurançon: Located in the foothills of the Pyrenees, this region produces both dry and sweet white wines made from Petit Manseng. For the sweet wines (although it does look like there is a river running parallel to the region), instead of utilizing botrytis, the grapes undergo passerillage: Also known as drying grapes on the vine. Once grapes have reached full sugar ripeness, they begin to raisin on the vine, increasing sugar concentration. Warm, dry autumns are needed for this to happen, otherwise grey rot will develop. The resulting wines have pronounced apricot and grapefruit aromas that are sometimes accompanied by spice notes from new oak.
How’d I do? Anything you want to add about The Dordogne or The South West of France … or any French region for that matter … before I move on to conquer another wine-producing country?
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