This month, we take you to the Gaillac wine region, where rolling countryside meets vineyards and sunflower fields.
An ancestral wine region
The AOC of Gaillac is one of the oldest wine regions of the ancient region of Gaul (an area of Western Europe that stretched from Italy to Spain and as far north as the Netherlands). Gaillac itself has a history of viniculture stretching back over 2000 years when vines were planted by the Phoenicians in the 4th century BCE. The wine was transported in earthenware pots – amphoras – made in the nearby village of Montans and shipped on the Tarn and the Garonne rivers which linked to Bordeaux. Sitting on the Tarn river contributed to the soaring development on the town and its wine production.
Today, the Gaillac AOC has 13 grape varieties (8 red and 5 white) that can be officially grown and used in Gaillac wines. In addition to everyday names like Syrah and Sauvignon, endemic varietals like Duras, Prunelart, Loin de L’Oeil and Ondenc are grown and used in the production of Gaillac wines.
The AOC is, roughly speaking, divided into three distinct terroirs: the left bank (rive gauche), the right bank (rive droite) and a variety of plateaux called pays cordais (taken from its proximity to Cordes sur Ciel). The warm air from the Mediterranean Sea and the cooler / wetter airstream from the Atlantic play their part here in Gaillac too.
With such a mix of cépages comes a good variety of red, white, rosé and even sweet wines such as the Gaillac Doux which is a lovely acidic sweet white or the “Vendanges Tardives” (late harvests) wines. In the same vein as its distant cousin Beaujolais Nouveau, Gaillac Primeur is one of the first wines to be launched each year in France on the third Thursday of November and calls for festive celebrations.
Gaillac wines at La Villa
In 2020, we started listing a fantastic dry white wine from the family-owned vineyard of Domaine Rotier. Located 10km from the centre of Gaillac itself, the domaine has been “inhabited” for thousands of years as indicated by the excavation of quartz tools dating from the paleolithic age. Nowadays, the 35ha domain is worked by two brothers-in-law, Alain Rotier and Francis Marre, assisted by five staff. Together, they produce about 170000 bottles a year. We paid them a visit last month and were lucky enough to be given a tour of the cellar.
Produced in small quantities, their latest cuvée nicknamed “L’âme” (the soul) uses an interesting technique: fermentation in open casks.
Their “Les Gravels” is a beautiful dry white with a blend of 80% Len de l’El (or Loin de l’Oeil) and 20% Sauvignon grapes. It pairs well with fish and goats cheese for example, and should be enjoyed at 8°C. It is a great pick for those of you who do not enjoy Chardonnay’s oakiness, but still would like to drink a dry white.
Next, awarded with a gold medal at the Concours Général Agricole de Paris, their red “Renaissance” is currently sitting in our own wine cellar for aging, where it will stay 2 to 3 years. We have thought about you travellers who couldn’t come to Mazamet this year! Featuring two local varietals, this Duras (45%), Syrah (30%), Braucol (20%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (5%) blend showcases notes of cassis and cherry mingling with liquorice. This medium-bodied wine goes well with poultry or even game such as hare or wild boar.
Fancy some wine-tasting?
If you are travelling to La Villa by car and wanted to stock up on a few local wines, ask us for an information about a wine tasting at Domaine Rottier and perhaps lunch in nearby Gaillac where we have a good recommendation too!
Next month, we will head SE from Mazamet to the lesser known Faugeres AOC and our newly listed wines from Domaine des Trinités. In the meantime, please take a look at our wine list. What are you going to have with your next meal at La Villa?