Move over wines from Jurançon, jump into the backseat Irouléguy, you are old news Saint-Pourçain, the new latest trend in white wine comes from the ex-Roman province of Narbonnensis which has now given way to what is now referred to as Gaillac!
* The Romans were hanging out here second century B.C. and by the end of the first century A.D. wine production was boomin.
* Sparkling wine from Gaillac pre-dates Champagne by one hundred years!
* Back when the conveniently situated port city of Bordeaux was still swamp land and churned out thin, undrinkable swill, juice from Gaillac was sent up to thickin the wines that were destined for England.
* Gaillac wine helped establish Bordeaux as a major player by being charged outrageous tariffs to pass through Bordeaux’s shipping ports. Bordeaux took the extra tax money and modernized their vineyards and cellars making Bordeaux number 1.
* Since Bordeaux controlled the wine trade to England, they sent their wines out first and made Gaillac wait till after the new year to send theirs through.
* Gaillac is pronounced gah-yack or more like guy-yack (hold your nose while you say it).
* Gaillac has a greater variety of wine styles than anywhere else in France! Dry whites, sweet whites, dry sparkling whites, sweet sparkling whites, tannic reds, fresh reds, racy roses’…(today we focus on whites).
No longer will you have to settle for over hyped wines made from grapes such as petit courbu or yesterdays lauzet or burned out rouchelein. Gaillac has its own home grown varietals: mauzac, len de l’el, muscadelle (not to be confused with that wannabe muscat), ondenc and something called sauvignon blanc.
After phylloxera screwed everything up and Gaillac regained their momentum in the 1900’s, most wine was sold to négociants and hardly anything was bottled at the origin. With few wine making facilities in existence the first cooperative was formed in 1949, the Coopértive de Labastide-de-Lévis. With 300 or so members producing around 13,000,000 bottles, the wines represent the diverse styles associated with the region. “Esprit” has the trademark smell of lemongrass and nutmeg, is light, citrusy and mineral on the tongue and is a decent (though a little flabby and one dimensional) introduction to what the region can offer.
Mathieu Vieules of Domaine Philemon has some of the lowest yields in Gaillac and it really shows in his concentrated and beautifully balanced wines. “Perle” is blend of indigenous len de l’el and mauzac grapes with a sprinkle of sauvignon blanc. From other producers, Perle has a trademark slight sparkle from trapped CO2 as a result from natural second bottle fermentation. Mathieu’s version is much dryer and steelier than most and is perfect as an apéritif or with fresh seafood, or perhaps a shaved Foie Gras salad.
One of my go-to all purpose whites, crisp and round, rich and focussed this blend of mauzac and and len de l’el is bone dry and perfect with chevre or alongside Rouzole (Bacon and Ham Pancake). The family that makes up Domaine des Terrisses has been growing wine for seven generations. Wait till you see its incredible platinum color.
The opposite end of the wine spectrum, “Les Greilles” comes from bio-dynamically farmed, hand picked grapes and produced without the addition of prepared yeasts, temperature controlled fermentation, filtration or sulphites. The resulting wine has an oxidative/nutty quality on the nose with an immense floral perfume that is beautifully balanced by bracing acidity and ripe, stone fruit. Have this with saucisson, boudin blanc de Rethel, duck terrine and a baguette. This wine will benefit from being opened for a few hours or even a few days, it is ever evolving everytime you check in with it.(alcohol is bad for badgers!)
No need to order these wines from a website or an out of state wine store, these wines are available right here at your local Richmond wine shop. You will not find these amongst the boring, mass produced wines at the grocery stores.