Renting a holiday farmhouse or cottage in the Lot Valley in South West France is a great opportunity to sample some of the lesser known and better value French wines from the region. We gave you a rundown a few years ago on five of the top local vineyards. Cahors is still the regional giant, but Buzet, Duras, Bergerac and Brulhois are only a stone’s throw away and produce wines well worth drinking now – or carrying back home. Brulhois from the area just southeast of Agen is a particular gem. In a good year, it drinks every bit as smoothly as a Bordeaux Supérieur. A bit further afield, you’ll find Marmandais, Frontonais and Madiran. And an excursion to the chateaux of the Bordelais is easily do-able in a day.
New Wines at Harvest Time
Now, it’s autumn. The harvest is in and speculation begins about the quantity and quality of this year’s vintage. There’s a tradition of celebrating the early wines – les vins primeurs. You might know them as vins nouveaux. They are, for all intents and purposes, synonymous terms, but it turns out that there is a distinct meaning of primeur for wines from Bordeaux.
A vin primeur in Bordeaux is a contraction of vin vendu en primeur, which means wine sold – only to wine merchants – when it has barely begun maturing in barrels in the chateau’s wine cellar. It has to be sold within the first 18 months, usually at a keen price. It’s a kind of bet by the wine seller on the how well the wine will mature. This should not be confused with the vin primeur from regions like the Beaujolais, which are primeur in the sense of nouveau – wine that is bottled and ready to drink within a few months of the harvest, and sold to the general public
Beaujolais Nouveau and Gaillac Primeur Arrive
The best known of the new wines is Beaujolais Nouveau. Although the Beaujolais vineyards are not in the South West, the Fete du Beaujolais Nouveau is celebrated across France. This year the ‘arrival’ is on the 16th of November. All around, you’ll find cafes and bars serving the newly arrived wine on the day. Beauville Cafe, in one of the Kingfisher area’s best loved villages (called Beauville, of course), is just one.
Less well known but more genuinely from the South West is Gaillac Primeur. Gaillac is a small town in the Tarn between Toulouse and Albi. Like Beaujolais Nouveau, Gaillac Primeur is officially launched on the third Thursday of November and is the only Appellation d’Origine Controllée (AOC) primeur from South West France. Over 40 winemakers produce around 700,000 bottles of Gaillac Primeur, 90% red and 10% white, from entirely handpicked grapes. Unusually for France, the red is varietal, because it is made exclusively from Gamay grapes.
Now or Next Summer
If you happen to be in the region this November, why not visit the ‘Chai Mon Vigneron‘ festival in Gaillac from 16 to 19 November, which celebrates everything ‘Gaillac Primeur’. Here’s the programme. Even though Gaillac Primeur can be drunk right away, it holds its flavour for up to a year. It is particularly good with grilled meats in the summer, which means it’s a wine to keep in mind for your next stay in South West France.
Finding fine, good value wines – either to enjoy on holiday or take back home – is just one of the many things to do while staying in South West France. Click here for information about Kingfisher’s holiday villas, gites and farmhouses in great locations for sampling South West France’s wines.