Wines from Aquitaine
The South West of France, from a wine region perspective, covers the area from just east of Bordeaux down the Atlantic coast to the French Basque region around Biarittz along the border with Spain delineated by the Pyrenees until one is halfway between the regional centre of Toulouse and Carcassonne and then back up north until one is due east of Bordeaux around Cahors and Marcilliac. The South West is the 5th largest wine region of France at 120,000 acres.
Despite its large size, the area is the least populated part of France with only 10 residents per square mile – rural, peaceful and laid back!

It might come as a surprise that there are over 30 unique ‘appellations’ in South-West France. Each Appellation has laws and regulations that dictate the areas where the grapes are allowed to be grown and how the wine is made.

It might also be appropriate when talking about South-West France to include the area to the east of Carcassonne, represented by Languedoc-Roussillon – but strictly speaking, this is South France.

devastation and resurgence

40 years ago, the Aquitaine was a dead wine area. Just as in Cahors, phylloxera and depression dealt an almost mortal blow.

Today, all has transformed. The resurgence of interest in wines from the SouthWest due mainly to visionary, modernising traditionalists.

Perhaps the greatest influencer and vocal spokesperson of them all is Alain Brumont in Madiran. In 1985, Alain produced a Cuvee Prestige from 5-year-old, 100 percent Tannat vines and 100 percent new oak. At first the local authorities declined to give it Appellation Controlee (AC) status. Not to be held back Alain went over their heads and referred to the higher authority in Bordeaux. Back came a message which read “It is the best Madiran we have ever tasted.” along with AC status. The French Press soon buzzed down to Madiran and Brumont’s Montus was written up widely. “Best wine of the Year.” said some. Not to be outdone Gault et Millau, the French wine bible, pronounced it to be the “Wine of the Decade”. Overnight sleepy backwater Madiran was back on the French wine map after nearly 100 years in the doldrums.

Opposite is a picture of Brumont’s famous “La Tyre” vineyard. A unique terroir for Madiran, with soil surface overlaid with large Gallett pebbles as of  Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  In the trees, a Treehouse, a recent addition built for visitors to view the vines without disturbing nature’s handiwork.