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South West

The origin of the so-called "Great South-West" is not precisely known: it is a fascinating, diverse, but qualitatively heterogeneous whole. The introduction of the first vines here undoubtedly dates back to antiquity, thanks in particular to the commercial exchanges that the Pyrenean area maintained with Spain. It is also certain that the whole area upstream of Bordeaux, grouped under the name of Haut Pays, was known long before that of Bordeaux.

If today Bordeaux is the centre of the wine world and Cabernet Sauvignon one of its emblems, it can even be argued that the truth lies on the periphery.

In fact, if the history and success of the great wines of the Médoc and the Graves appear to be inextricably linked to the emergence of Cabernet Sauvignon, the latter was undoubtedly born in the 17th century in the Basque country and the Adour basin, as a result of a fortuitous cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon. Like its " cousins " tannat, merlot and, finally, malbec which on the Kimmeridgian soils of Cahors has conquered its letters of nobility.

This vast region has not, however, given in to the sirens of the "all Cabernet" and has managed to preserve its ampelographic heritage, among which, in addition to the grape varieties mentioned above, there are also négrette, fer servadou, jurançon noir, braucol, ...

There are four production areas in the Great South-West:

  • The Bergeracois (Bergerac, Pécharmant, Montravel, Monbazillac, etc.)
  • The Garonne valley with the various "Côtes" (Buzet, Duras, Marmandais, etc.)
  • The High Country upstream from Bordeaux (Fronton, Cahors, Gaillac, Marcillac)
  • The Pyrenean Piedmont (Madiran, Jurançon, Pacherenc, Irouléguy)

The reputation of the wines of the High Country, particularly through the wine of Cahors, was already well established in the Middle Ages, from the Mediterranean rim to England, where it seriously competed with Bordeaux wine. The improvement of the navigability of the Lot in the 17th century had indeed enabled the latter to access the port of Bordeaux more easily. The protectionists of Bordeaux then put in place numerous tax barriers which forced the Quercy winegrowers to look for other outlets. It was at this time that Cahors wine began a spectacular breakthrough on the Russian market. Czar Peter I found it to have therapeutic virtues, and Cahors wine was promoted to the rank of official court wine. What's more, the Patriarch of Moscow, dazzled by Cahors wine, which, even when cut with water, retained its purple colour, made it the official mass wine of the Orthodox Church.

Today, Cahors wine is on the way to regaining its former lustre, notably under the impetus of a generation of winegrowers who, relying on a more precise parcel delimitation of the various Cadurcian terroirs (causses, grèzes, Mindel terraces), have taken up the torch and are producing very interesting wines.

The other flagship region of the Grand Sud-Ouest is the Pyrenean Piedmont. This one probably gives birth to some of the wines with the highest potential for longevity in reds, following the example of the approach taken almost forty years ago by the visionary Alain Brumont. In dry and sweet white wines, Jurançon is also one of the spearheads of the region and is characterised by wines with an original taste and exemplary freshness. Small in size (220 ha), the Irouléguy appellation in the Basque country, with its amazing terraces, also has the potential to produce great wines.  

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