One of the perks of my day job is the way I, a travel tech editor, occasionally get wined and dined the way destination editors do. And when I do get wined and dined, I try to make sure it’s by the French. Wine. Cheese. Truffles. I speak no French, but the French speak my language.
That means last fall I, as part of my job, had to sip a truffle and pumpkin squash soup, while sitting next to the Ambassador of Armagnac (there are several, actually–oh, those French!). And, not surprisingly, I heard a lot about wine — and tasted a lot, too.
And, being French, it has plenty of wine–Cahors, Gaillac and Madiran– to name just a few. These aren’t wines that attract investors and label chasers, but I bumped into some of them on vacations in France and find some of them and others in wine stores here. I always buy them–because they remind me of wonderful weeks of playing hooky with my family in the Dordogne.
So once I finally got around to writing the story about the Midi Pyrénées, I thought, it’s time to learn a little more about those wines. So, I asked my friend Stephanie Johnson, executive wine director of City Winery, about these wines.
Now, these wines aren’t produced on anywhere near the scale of, say, Bordeaux, she told me. But, some of them are trying to build their own identities, separate from Bordeaux. And they’re doing that mostly by using grape varieties other than those grown in Bordeaux.
Some have become rather fashionable but they are more dynamic wines that tend to draw younger ‘wine adventure seekers’ and natural wine enthusiasts.
You’ve probably heard of Cahors because it’s based on Malbec, although Stephanie says it’s typically more tannic and less voluptuous version than Argentina produces. (Malbec is still grown in Bordeaux but in very tiny quantities.)
Gaillac is becoming known (mostly among wine geeks) as the source of some very interesting indigenous varieties like Mauzac, Ondenc, and Duras, as well as some sparkling wines.
And, Madiran’s specialty is Tannat, a red variety that is very high in tannins (and which Uruguay is now trying to make its signature grape, similar to what Malbec did for Argentina). Irouleguy is a Basque area that also focuses largely on Tannat with some Cabernet Sauvignon or Cab Franc.
Fronton’s main grape is Negrette, Marcillac’s is Fer.
Jurancon is a rather fashionable appellation in this area specializing in dry and sweet whites from Petite Manseng and Gros Manseng.
So, next time you want to be a wine adventurer, see if your wine shop can help you get a taste of one of these wines!