Friday, February 17, 2012

Notes on Southwest France

When thinking about the wines of Southwest France, you are considering all the non-contiguous tiny sub-regions throughout the southwestern part of the country in Gascogne.  There is not a regional AOC that covers the area, there are only specific communal appellations.
Starting in the Dordogne/Bergerac sub-region, you find that many of the wines are very similar to Bordeaux which it borders. For this review, I am looking at Monbazillac which produces liquoreux white wines. A liquoreux wine is a sweet wine that is produced from late-harvest botrytized grapes. Monbazillac uses Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle, the same grapes used in Bordeaux's sweet wines.
1996 Chateau Belingard Monbazillac    $40
Clear medium gold color in the glass with pronounced developed aromas of marmalade, honey, peach, citrus flowers and a bit of sulfur. Sweet with medium+ body, acidity and alcohol with sweet peach and almond flavors and a medium length honeyed finish. Very good/ drink now or hold.

Southwestern France's most famous wine is Cahors, a dark inky wine with plum and tobacco notes. It must contain a minimum of 70% Malbec, which is locally known as Cot, and up to 30% Merlot or Tannat. It is also the most easy to find locally.
2008 Chateau Labrande Cahors    $10                
(90% Malbec/ 10% Merlot) Clear, medium purple color in the glass with developing, light aromas of blueberry, prune, cedar, sawdust and mint. Dry, full body, medium acidity, alcohol and tannins with flavors of blueberry, black cherry, toast and vanilla in a medium length finish. Good/drink now.
2009 Chateau Labrande Cahors      $10
(90% Malbec/ 10% Merlot) Clear, deep purple in the glass with medium intense developing aromas of black & blueberries with a slightly earthy hint of beets. Dry, medium+ body, alcohol, acidity and tannins with flavors mirroring the aromas in a medium+ length finish. Very good/drink now or hold.

2009 Gouleyant Cahors Malbec     $12
In the glass, the wine was a clear, deep purple with medium- intense youthful aromas of black and blueberries with wildflowers. Dry, Medium+ body, alcohol, tannins and acidity with dark berry flavors in a medium+ length finish. Good, drink now or hold.
2008 Clos La Coutale Cahors    $16 
Clear, medium purple in the glass with medium, developing aromas of ripe black & blueberries, plum, cassis with hints of tobacco. Dry, medium body, acidity and alcohol with medium+ tannins: the flavors mirror the aromas with a bit of vanilla added in the medium length finish. Very good/ drink now or hold.
All of these Cahor wines would work well with lightly seasoned roasted beef or leg of lamb.

In the Pyrenees sub-region, I am going to look at two distinctly different wines. First, the wines of Juracon in the foothills of the mountains where they produce both dry and sweet white wines primarily from Petit Manseng with Gros Manseng and Courbu. The sweet wines are late-harvested and may have botrytis characteristics.
2010 Cuvee du Bapteme Jurancon  
Clear pale gold color in the glass with medium- youthful aromas of pear, apricot and citrus. Medium dry with medium body, acidity and alcohol with light flavors of citrus, honey and a bit of nuttiness with a medium length finish. Good/ drink now or hold.

Finally, I am looking at Madiran where they produce red wines from Tannat (40-60% of blend) with the addition of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and/or Fer Servadou to complete the blend. The best wines should have a pronounced black fruit character with high amounts of soft, ripe tannins. While young, it can be very closed but should open up after 5 or 6 years.
2007 Chateau Montus *    $31                        
Clear, deep ruby in the glass with medium-intense developing aromas of tobacco, vanilla, charcoal and blackberry. Dry, full body, medium+ acidity and alcohol with high tannins with a long finish.
Very good/ drink now or hold.

Overall, there seems to be both good wine and good value coming from southwestern France.

*side note- I was part of the Tannat blind judging panel for the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo where the Chateau Montus received a silver medal.