Compiled by Denise Mattia
There’s an enchanting corner of France that’s bordered by the Pyrenees Mountains, the Atlantic Ocean and Spain. The Southwest is a region of lush, green rolling hills and clear rivers, of mountain villages and medieval castles. It’s the home of the Three Musketeers of yore. The “rose city” of Toulouse is the fourth largest city in France and is the center of the European aerospace industry. The Toulouse-Lautrec Museum in Albi has a remarkable collection of his works. Southwest France is noted for its mountain tours, festivals and culinary treats. Best of all are the wines – and with good reason – for some of the world’s great grapes originated here and dozens of varieties have been saved through grape conservatories.
About 30 winemaking appellations (professional organizations in specific geographical areas of France, where wine grapes are grown) produce wines, many of which remain undiscovered in the U.S.
In the mid-Pyrenees region of Gers, three wine estates joined in 1979 to form the Piamont producers. Among several varietals bottled with the Piamont label are the L’Empreinte Saint Mont, best enjoyed for its exotic, slightly metallic taste and mandarin orange aroma, while the fruity taste of Les Vignes Retrouvees pairs well with cheeses. These wines are priced from $22 to $30. The red wine, Saint Mont AOP from the Chateau de Sabazan is a deep colored, full-bodied, well-balanced dry wine. The grapes (Tannat, Pinec and Cabernet Savignon) produce a complex, flavorful fruit taste. This wine is priced at about $30.
More moderately priced (from $9 to $14) are the wines of the Cotes de Gascogne (Gascony) district, a designated wine-producing zone in the Armagnac region. The Colombard-Ugni Blanc (Uby estate), Classic (Tariquet estate), Harmonie de Gascogne (Pellehaut estate), L’Original (Plaimont estates) and Terres Blanches (Chiroulet estate) are light, dry, crisp white wines, which have a fragrant bouquet, reminiscent of Spring flowers. They’re ideal served as an aperitif or paired with fish and seafood.
Brana, a family-run company, has been committed to local traditions since its inception in 1897. The family planted vineyards on the exceptionally fine land of Iroulegy AOC, land with optimal exposure to sunlight. The resulting wine of the same name is ruby red in color with intense hints of red berries and spices. It pairs well with grilled meats (beef and lamb) and cheeses. This wine retails from $22 to $24.
There’s a wine from Southwest France within your price range that is also an excellent accompaniment to the flavors from around the world be it Asian, Indian, European, Mexican and North American cooking. If you don’t see “Southwest France” on a wine label, look for “Sud-Ouest.”
About Denise Mattia
A writer and photographer, Denise Mattia’s works are published nationally and internationally and include all aspects of leisure travel: art , culture, resorts, spas, food and wine and sports’ activities. She's the founder of the soon to be launched Yum-Yum-Traveler, a site devoted to reviewing restaurants in addition to her travel articles from around the world. She lives and works in Manhattan, where she was born.