Southwest France

Basically if you take the bottom left-hand corner of France as you look at it on a map, and cut out Bordeaux at the top and Cognac to the east, that's the wine region we're talking about here.

About South Western France

And it's a pretty disparate ragbag of vineyards and grape varieties. However, all tend to have a very Mediterranean style to the wines they produce, namely light to mid-bodied, with fruit to the fore and complexity kept to the French terms on the label, rather than the juice in the bottle.

In all, there are around twenty different appellations but among the best are Bergerac and Cahors, both of which produce reds that are relatively close in style to some of the lighter clarets from Bordeaux, and both of which use similar grape varieties, namely Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Then there's Gaillac to the east, which makes great spicy reds from Gamay and Syrah, and a local variety called Duras; and Madiran, which uses the relatively unknown variety of Tannat to make big, ballsy, spicy, mouth-puckering reds. Further, there's Jurancon, which takes a mix of weird-sounding local varieties, including Gros Manseng and Petit Manseng to make wonderful dry, biting whites, and very honeyed sweet wines. They're an acquired taste but worth giving a go.

Major white grape varieties: Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, Gros and Petit Manseng.

Major red grape varieties: Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Gamay, Merlot,Tannat.

Key areas to watch: Bergerac, Cahors and Jurancon provide the most interest and value.

Names to look out for: Moulin des Dames (Bergerac),ClosTriguedina,Lagrezette (both Cahors), Cauhape.Clos Lahargue (Jurancon), Domaine Pichard (Madiran).

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