wa3.gif (3780 bytes)



tasting notes
the southwest

(Prices and stockists in the UK are listed in brackets; as a rough guide £1 = US$1.50. Date of tasting is indicated by month/year at the end of the note.)

A diverse region that takes in the regions adjoining Bordeaux (including the likes of Bergerac and Monbazillac), then Cahors, Gaillac, Madiran and Jurancon, among others. Pretty much uncharted territory for most wine geeks, but a wealth of styles and unusual grape varieties.

Producer profiles:

Domaine Berthoumieu Tanatis Vin de Liquer NV, Southwest France
Really interesting sweet, spicy, earthy blackfruits nose. The palate is dense and spicy with lovely pure sweet blackberry fruit and some pepperiness, as well as firm tannins that mesh well with the sweetness. There are subtle hints of mint and medicine in the background, too. Delicious and unusual. 92/100 (Les Caves de Pyrene) 01/09  

Clos Saint-Martin Madiran 2005 Southwest France
A co-op Madiran, unsurprisingly this doesn't have all that much of the character that makes Madiran such a distinctive wine. But it's an agreeable enough drinking wine, though, with juicy blackcurranty fruit kept savoury with some grippy tannins. There's fresh acidity, too. 84/100 (£6.79 Nicolas)  09/08  

La Rosée de Montesquion Jurançon sec 2006 Southwest France
Fresh, fruity minerally nose leads to a palate displaying concentrated flavours of citrus fruit, pear, honey and minerals. It’s fresh and bone dry, with an attractive if rather forceful personality. A useful food wine, and it’s nicely packaged, too. 88/100 (£7.50 Leon Stolarski) 05/08  

Chateau Tour des Gendres Bergerac Sec Muscadelle Petit Grain 2005 France
Nicely packaged with a musical score as a front label, this is a richly textured Muscadelle of real appeal. It's quite complex, with notes of grapes, lemons, nuts and vanilla ice cream, as well as an almost floral, herby character. In the mouth it is quite thick, with a lush texture and a hint of pithy bitterness on the finish. It reminds me of a cross between an Alsace Pinot Gris and a rich Viognier. Quite a serious effort, and it also tastes quite modern in style, with fruit to the fore. 90/100 (Les Caves de Pyrene) 07/08  

Cabidos Cuvée St Clément Petit Manseng 2004 Vin de Pays du Comté Tolosan, France
Bright, grapey, herby and sweet with a nice texture. Lemony fresh with a really bright character. Lovely sweet wine. 90/100 (09/08)  

Arretxea Irouléguy 2004 Southwest France
I love Irouléguy, and this is a good one. A deep cherry red colour, it has a wonderful nose of bright red fruit with a delicious, minerally, gravelly, rain on a hot pavement quality. Deep and quite complex. The palate shows fresh fruit and more of that gravelly quality, together with a meaty depth. It’s fresh, focused and savoury: the sweet fruit makes it accessible but what I enjoy is the minerally savoury depth and the freshness. Very good/excellent 92/100 (Les Caves de Pyrene, www.lescaves.co.uk) 01/07  

Gascogne Cuvée Speciale 2005 Vin de Pays des Côtes de Gascogne, France
A full flavoured, crisp, savoury grassy wine, showing precise lemon and apple fruits with a green herby edge. Boldly flavoured. Nice and fruity. Very good 82/100 (£4.29 Marks & Spencer) 01/07

Jardins de Mailis Jurançon Sec 2004 Southwest France
A blend of Gros and Petit Manseng. Quite a challenging white wine, with a nose of herbs, lemon and dry straw, together with a hint of cheese. The palate is savoury and intense with lots of lemony, tangy flavour. Highly food friendly and great value. (£5.79 Oddbins) 11/06

Colombelle 2005 Vin de Pays des Côtes de Gascogne, France
An astute commercial white from Producteurs Plaimont. Bright, fruity and fresh with fragrant appley, lemony fruit. Good zippy acidity along with the fresh fruit. Very refreshing. 80/100 (£4.79 Oddbins) 11/06

Château Tirecul la Gravière 2002 Monbazillac, Southwest France
Powerful nose is sweet with intense apricot and peach fruit, and a touch of vanilla. The palate is intense and viscous with lots of spice and vanilla, as well as sweet peach-in-syrup notes. Wonderfully intense and quite complex, this is a rich, fat style of sweet wine. 92/100 (Les Caves de Pyrene) 02/07

Seduction de la Beaugravière Réserve des Deux Mansengs 2005 Jurançon, France
The nose has a vanilla, custard cream edge to it, together with some herbiness and a hint of cabbage. The palate is striking with a lemony fruitiness, some savoury straw character and some sweetness. It’s off-dry, but there’s some savoury balance. 88/100 (£7.99 Oddbins) 11/06

Château Plaisance 2004 Côtes du Frontonnais, Southwest France
Mainly Negrette.
Beguiling meaty, peppery smoky nose which displays fresh raspberry and blackberry fruit, with just a hint of animal. The palate is bright and fresh with good acidity: meaty and spicy with some of that savoury southwestern character. Delicious, thought-provoking and food friendly. Very good/excellent 91/100 (£5.15 Les Caves de Pyrene) 10/06  

Producteurs Plaimont Le Faite 2003 Cotes de Saint-Mont, France
Another ambitious offering from Producteurs Plaimont, with a rather unusual packaging concept: the information isn't on a label, but rather on a wooden tag, attached to the bottle by some copper wire secured by a blob of wax (there's also a wax capsule). The wine itself is dark coloured, with smooth, sweet, liqueur-like fruit. Polished and suave - a little elegant, even. There's just the faintest hint of grippy southwestern structure on the finish, which falls a little short. Polished but a bit flat. Very good+ 86/100 (£14.99 Adnams, Grape Ideas, Bedales, Portland Wines) 12/06

Arretxea Irouléguy 2004 Southwest France
I love Irouléguy, and this is a good one. A deep cherry red colour, it has a wonderful nose of bright red fruit with a delicious, minerally, gravelly, rain on a hot pavement quality. Deep and quite complex. The palate shows fresh fruit and more of that gravelly quality, together with a meaty depth. Itfs fresh, focused and savoury: the sweet fruit makes it accessible but what I enjoy is the minerally savoury depth and the freshness. Very good/excellent 92/100 (Les Caves de Pyrene, http://www.lescaves.co.uk/ 01/07

Domaine Cauhapé Jurançon Sec Chant des Vignes 2004 Southwest France
Quite a deep yellow colour. Distinctive savoury, slightly herbal, straw-tinged nose. Fresh, yet with a hint of oxidative character. The palate is concentrated and savoury with a lovely herbal, cheese-tinged, straw-like edge. It’s almost like a dry Loire Chenin. A lovely food-friendly wine with some complexity. Very good/excellent 91/100 (£9.95 The Wine Society, Stevens Garnier) 08/06

Château Les Sablines Monbazillac 2002 Southwest France
A really lovely, delicately poised dessert wine showing sweet apricotty fruit with a mineralic edge to the nose, and a combination of citrus and more powerful tropical fruit on the palate. It has a rich, viscous texture, together with a nice pithiness. Very good/excellent 90/100 (£6.99 Waitrose) 09/06  

Domaine de l’Ancienne Cure Monbazillac 1999 Southwest France
Christian Roche has fashioned a fantastic sweet white wine here, that I’d prefer to most Sauternes. A yellow gold colour, this has a lovely open nose of peachy, apricotty fruit with notes of straw, herbs and lanolin. The palate is viscuous and lush with lovely botrytis complexity and sweet apricotty fruit. Good balance here: a delicious sweet wine. Very good/excellent 93/100 (Les Caves de Pyrene, about £6 per half – I’ll double check) 01/05

Petit Herlsson Colombard Chardonnay 2004 Vin de Pays des Côtes de Gascogne, France
This budget white is a great all-purpose food wine, with bright, razor sharp flavours of lemony, slightly bitter fruit. The zingy acidity means that this is a very fresh wine. Crisp, herby and slightly rustic, but good value. Very good 82/100 (£2.99 Morrisons) 08/05

Colombelle Vin de Pays des Côtes de Gascogne 2004 France
France is back. Attractively packaged, this screwcapped white is fresh, grassy and fruity with vibrant fruit and good acidity. It’s a bit like a streetwise Sauvignon: brilliantly fresh. Very good+ 87/100 (£4.99 Oddbins) 05/05  

Domaine Du Cros Marcillac Cuvée Vieilles Vignes 2002 Marcillac, Southwest France
Distinctive fresh, savoury nose of graphite, wet rocks and tarmac, with some dark fruits. Quite tight. The palate is tight and tannic with good acidity. Spicy and dark with lovely freshness and fullness to the crunchy red fruits. A savoury food wine, quite similar in flavour profile to the regular Marcillac from this estate. I like this a lot. Very good/excellent 90/100 (Les Caves de Pyrene) 02/05

Domaine d’Escausses ‘La Vigne Mythique’ 1999 Gaillac, Southwest France
Interesting stuff. There’s a sweet vanilla esge to the savoury, minerally red and black fruits, together with a meaty, spicy, olive-like character. The palate is quite concentrated and savoury but with some oaky notes. Quite soft on one hand, but with that minerally, dark, gravelly Gaillac edge on the other. Very good/excellent 90/100 (Les Caves de Pyrene) 02/05

Les Petites Récoltes Vin de Pays des Côtes de Thau 2004 France
Very bright fruity lemony nose. The palate is crisp and clean with some limey substance to it. A bit like an Aussie Riesling! Very nice drinking white. Very good 83/100 (£3.99 Nicolas) 04/05

Les Petites Récoltes Vin de Pays des Côtes du Tarn 2004 France
Bright, fresh, cherryish and fruity red with some carbonic maceration character. Nice clean Beaujolias-like fruit dominates; this has a light, fresh style without being confected. Very good 83/100 (£3.99 Nicolas) 04/05

Les Petites Récoltes Vin de Pays des Collines de la Moure 2004 France
Quite a sweetly fruited aromatic, berry fruit nose here. Smooth, sweet palate is juicy and fresh with clean, enjoyable fruit that has some sweetness and a hint of spiciness. Tasty and accessible. Very good 84/100 (£3.99 Nicolas) 04/05

Fronton Le Roc Cuvée des Ruichotte 2002 Fronton, South West France
Very savoury, smoky, spicy, meaty animally nose. Stinky but nice. The palate is firm, savoury and spicy with a meaty, savoury streak. Rustic and stinky, this is great with food with its acidity and tannins. I like it a lot. Very good+ 89/100 (Les Caves de Pyrene, about £7) 12/04

Château Plaisance 2002 Côtes de Frontonnais, South West France
Deep coloured. Intense savoury, smoky, spicy, earthy, tarry nose. Very dark and rustic in a nice sort of way. The plaate is fantastically dark, earthy and savoury with minerally character and good acidity. Intensely savoury. There’s a subtle but noticeable animally edge, together with some green herbal notes in the background. A really individual wine. Very good/excellent 90/100 (Les Caves de Pyrene) 01/05

Château La Tilleraie ‘Vielli En Fûts de Chêne’ 2000 Pécharmant
Fantastic open nose with a lovely minerally spicy edge to the fresh red and black fruits. Dark, with some wet tarmac notes. The palate is savoury and dense with a dark tarry edge to the pure red and black fruits. Good acid here: this has a real feel of the southwest to it but with some Bordeaux classiness. Delicious. Very good+ 89/100 (£8 Purple Wines) 02/05

Domaine Gardrat ‘Rosae’ 2003 Vin de Pays Charentais 
This impressive Rosé hails from the Cognac region. It has a sweet strawberry nose, leading to a fresh palate with sweet edged, soft, strawberries and cream fruit. Light, smooth and very cultured with good acidity. Very good+ 88/100 (£6 Purple Wines) 03/05  

Jean Luc Matha Cuvée ‘Pèirafi’ 2000 Marcillac, France
Deep coloured, this has a fantastic nose of ripe, well defined red fruits with a lovely minerally, wet rocks edge. It’s very fresh and intense. The palate is savoury and very minerally with very bright, fresh red fruits backed up with good tannins. The structure is earthy and firm. It’s a bloody, intense red wine of great definition. Very good/excellent 92/100 (Les Caves de Pyrene) 12/04

Mendiã Irouleguy 2002 South West France
From the Vignerons du Pays Basque, this a lovely bloody, earthy wine. Savoury, minerally, gravely nose – a bit smoky too. The palate is earthy, dense and savoury with wonderful minerality and a spicy, tannic finish. Good acidity.  A delicious wine. Very good+ 89/100 (€4.75 in France – a fantastic bargain) 08/04

Alain Brumont Gros Manseng 2002 Vin de Pays des Côtes de Gascogne, France
A superb white wine, this. Very full expressive nose with herby, full, rich fruit. It’s lemony fresh but at the same time fat, creamy and full. The palate is full, rich and fruity with notes of straw, herb and vanilla. Amazing for a sub-£6 wine – almost profound. Very good/excellent 91/100 (£5.49 Les Caves de Pyrene, www.lescaves.co.uk) 12/04

Ch Tour des Gendres Bergerac Sec 'Cuvée des Conti' 2001
A 40 ha estate in Bergerac, using traditional methods to make this dry Bordeaux-style white. This wine is a yellow-gold colour. The nose is bready and minerally with herby fruit, and leads to a broad, savoury palate with herby, mineral-edged fruit. Quite distinctive. Noticeable oak but its quite well integrated. Good concentration. Very good+ 89/100  03/04  

Elian Da Ros Clos Baquey 1999 Côtes du Marmandais, France
Lovely ripe open nose with dark fruits, minerals and a hint of green foliage. The palate is savoury, quite firm and tannic with a spicy, leafy edge to the tight ripe fruits. Very tannic and structured with good acidity. Lovely, but needs food. Very good+ 89/100 (La Vigneronne c. £12) 01/04  

Ilarka ‘Les Bruyères’ Irouléguy 1998 Southwest France
A mountain wine from the Basque country of France, this is made from low yielding (35 hl/ha) Cabernet Franc and Tannat vines. It’s deep coloured with a striking smoky, roasted nose that displays animally complexity. Very rustic and savoury. The palate is smoky and spicy with a roasted quality to the concentrated fruit with firm tannins on the finish. On the second day this is restrained and minerally without the strong smoky aroma. A very interesting wine and a bit of a tannic beast. Very good+ 88/100 (7 Euros in France)  08/03

Château les Sablines 1998 Montbazillac
Golden colour. Rich waxy, herby nose is quite sweet. Viscous palate with herb and straw notes. Great intensity and very sweet, but still with good balance. (£6.99 Waitrose) 04/03

Clos d’Yvigne Cuvée St Nicolas 2000 Bergerac, France
Deep colour. Vivid, herb-tinged fruit on the nose with some well integrated oaky notes. The palate shows rich-textured fruit with a herby, nutty character and good concentration. Very good/excellent 90/100 (£9.95 Waitrose) 04/03

Croix du Mayne Cahors (Francois Pelissie) 2000 Southwest France
Deep coloured, inky wine. Powerful tannic and quite unyielding. Vivid spicy smoky fruit with a nicely bitter character and high acidity. A good cheapie, bought in France. Very good+ 09/03

Château Montus Madiran 1998 Southwest France
Inky black extracted wine. Firm, savoury nose with well defined berry fruit. The palate is dense, tannic and spicy with an extremely spicy character and good acidity. Quite a challenging wine at the moment, this needs years to soften up (if it ever will), but I really like it for its archetypal southwestern character. Very good/excellent 90 09/03

Domaine de Chantelle Cahors 2000 southwest France
Deep coloured. Savoury, intense minerally nose with some spiciness. The palate is firm, structured and tannic with an inky texture: very savoury with good acid and mouthcoating tannins. Intense, cheap and tasty, this is a very good food wine showing lots of typicity and great concentration. Very good+ 87/100 (about 5 Euros in France) 08/03

Domaine Léonce Cuisset 2001 Saussignac
A sweet wine that’s a blend of 80% Semillon and 20% Chenin Blanc. Lovely grapey, peachy nose with some subtle herby notes. Rich, sweet, thick-textured palate with lovely balance to the delicious ripe, herb-tinged fruit. Quite delicious and brilliant value. Very good+ (£6.99 Sainsbury per 50 cl)  06/03

Domaine de Gallory 2000 Fronton, Southwest France
This inexpensive red shows a lovely spicy, peppery nose. The palate is savoury with some meaty green olive notes accompanying the fruit. Good acid and a peppery finish. Very good+ 88 08/03

Château Fontvieille 2001 Fronton, Southwest France
Lovely meaty animally nose which is quite perfumed. The palate is ripe and approachable with a spicy, meaty edge. Good depth of flavour. Very good+ 89 08/03

Carte Noir Fronton 2001 southwest France
Savoury, spicy, soft easy drinking medium bodied red with highish acidity. Some typicity but a little light and rustic. Good for the price. Very good 84/100 (bought in France for very few Euros) 08/03

Château Rullet Fronton 2001 southwest France
Chalky, minerally edge to the nose. Quite perfumed. The palate is quite Bordeaux-like with a chalky, slightly herbaceous character. Very good 84/100 08/03

Château Roquehort Jurançon 2000 southwest France
Distinct herby, savoury nose with straw notes. Some sweetness on the palate but lots of savoury, herby character too. Interesting. Very good+ 87/100 (about 5 Euros in France) 08/03

Jurançon sec, Cave de Gan Jurançon Viguerie Royalé NV, southwest France
Fresh crisp and dry with a sauvoury slightly waxy edge. Pleasant, not profound. Very good 80/100 08/03

Fraicheur Perlée Gaillac 2001 southwest France
Quite an assertive grassy, herby white with good acidity. Fresh and crisp, although a little bit rustic. Good/very good 78/100 (about 3 Euros in France) 08/03  

Elian de Ros Chante Coucou 1999 Côtes du Marmandais
A pretty serious inky red/purple wine of great concentration, although perhaps currently a little too stern and structured. It displays spicy, savoury plumy fruit with dusty, drying tannins. Quite thick, structured and leathery but deliciously savoury, and with good acidity. A brilliant effort, but not for everyone. It will be interesting to see how this develops. Very good+ (10/02)

Château Montus 1999 Madiran
I guess I opened this far too early, but I was curious. It’s a dark, stern ‘southwestern’ wine that needs time to open out, but which is potentially very long-lived. The nose shows savoury, spicy roasted character with a coffee-ish edge. The palate is savoury, spicy and tannic: there’s substantial structure here. Firm and concentrated. Very good+ (La Vigneronne) 09/02 

Clos Siguier 1999 Cahors
A very juicy, fruity interpretation of Cahors showing bright berry fruit with a chewy edge. Reminiscent of carbonic maceration. Simple but attractive. Good/very good 08/02

Château Pech de Jammes 1998 Cahors
Quite ripe with good acid and a savoury, smoky edge to the soft blackberry fruit. Some spicy tannin but it's in control. Fleshy and ripe. Very good 08/02

Château Lamartine Cuvée du Tetre 1999 Cahors
Very deep red/black colour. Quite a tight nose, with a smoky, roasted edge to the blackberry fruit. The savoury, spicy palate shows firm tannins and good acidity. Challenging and tannic, with lots of structure. Good density but very dry on the palate. Very good 08/02

Château St Didier Parnac 2000 Cahors
Nice spicy/savoury nose showing berry fruit. The palate displays firm, spicy tannins with good acidity.  Plenty of fruit, but lots of savoury intensity, with a dry finish. This shows good typicity. Very good+ 08/02

Domaine Duffour Vin de Pays des Côtes du Gascogne
80% Colombard, 10% Gros Manseng, 10% Ugni Blanc, average vine age 20 years. Wonderful nose of striking lemon and grapefruit: very fresh and aromatic. Bright zesty fruit on the palate with high acidity. Good concentration and some minerality. A brilliantly fresh and crisp food wine. Very good+ (£4.85 Berry Bros) 03/02 

Château Boucassé 1996 Madiran
Alain Brumont is one of the driving forces in Madiran, and Boucassé is one of his two properties. This wine is a sort of cross between Bordeaux and the northern Rhône, and is most definitely a food wine. The smoky, tarry nose has some mineral notes, and leads to a palate complex, savoury palate with high acid and firm tannins. The fruit is beginning to recede, so drink now. Very good+ (La Vigneronne) 08/01

Elian Daros Chante Coucou 1998 Côtes du Marmandais
A big southern French red with massive concentration and extraction. A concentrated, opaque purple/red colour, the nose shows ripe blackcurrant fruit, with minerals, spice and smoky notes. The juicy palate has dense, firm tannins, ripe fruit and good acidity. Herb and olive notes add some southern complexity. This dense wine is a bit chewy at the moment and really needs a few years to develop some class to add to its power. Very good/excellent (£8.50 la Vigneronne) 5/01

Alain Brumont Gros Manseng/Sauvignon Blanc 1999, Vin de Pays du Côtes du Gascogne
Bright, fresh and fruity white with good concentration. What a tragedy that there's a touch of taint from the agglomerate cork (corks made with lots of small pieces of cork glued together). These sorts of corks have a very high taint rate: with some makes, it's close to 100%. It's a dreadful false economy using these agglomerates; this would have been a really pleasant, fresh white wine otherwise. 10/00

La Gascogne par Alain Brumont 1999 Gros Manseng
Lovely, fresh, zippy white with good grapefruit-like flavour and nice texture. It's a real shame it's sealed with a nasty agglomerate cork, which slightly taints the wine. (Worldmarechal.com, about £3) 10/00

La Gascogne d'Alain Brumont Cépage Tannat 1999, Vin de Pays de Côtes de Gascogne
A remarkable dark, inky red/black coloured wine. Nice smoky nose is followed up with clean, earthy fruit with quite firm tannins. A lovely, substantial quaffer for a bargain price. Very good (About £3, World Marechal) 11/00

La Gascogne par Alain Brumont Sauvignon 1999, Vin de Pays de Côtes de Gascogne
Bright, grassy Sauvignon Blanc showing great intensity. Shame about the agglomerate cork which adds a slight taint. Good (very good with a proper cork or a synthetic). (Around £3, World Marechal) 11/00