Anthony Rose: 'South-west France's native grape varieties have been rescued from near pariah status'
Rural south-west France is the essence of the route feared by the less adventurous tourist in case of discovering something other than a beach. With the pink city of Toulouse at its hub, it's a colourful tapestry of 17 wine regions stretching from the Massif Central to the Pyrenean foothills. The better-known are Cahors, Gaillac, Madiran and the Côtes de Gascogne, but its 5,000 winemakers also lurk in obscure crannies such as Entraygues et Fel, Estaing and Thézac-Perricard (hands up who's heard of those?).
The dynamic duo of chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon operate in a minor key in a region whose native grape varieties have been rescued from near pariah status. Many are close to extinction. Others such as Prunelard, Lauzet, Camaralet and Saint-Côme, are making a comeback. The most widely planted bring individuality to their respective appellations: malbec in Cahors, tannat in Madiran, len de l'el in Gaillac, and gros and petit manseng in the winningly-named Pacherenc du Vic Bilh.
The heart of Gascony's dry whites is typified by blends like the 2011 Les Montgolfiers, £6.99, The Co-operative, which combines sauvignon blanc with the native gros manseng in a gooseberryish dry white. Neighbouring Saint Mont combines the gros manseng, petit courbu and arrufiac grapes in 2010 Tesco's Finest Saint Mont, £7.49, a breezy dry white with smoky aromatics and mango flavours.
You'll find a similar mix of local grapes in the 2010 Laffitte Teston Ericka Pacherence Sec, £13.50, the Sampler (020-7225 5091), a dry white full of personality with herbal aromas and a delicate pink grapefruit flavours. In a different vein, the 2010 Domaine D'Escausses, Sainte Croix, Gaillac, £14.49, Caves de Pyrène (01483 554750) brings together mauzac and muscadelle with sauvignon in a creamy dry white with a refreshing dry and nutty aftertaste.
Turning to reds, the 2006 Domaine de Pialentou, Les Gentilles Pierres, £8.75, The Wine Society (01438 740222), blends the native braucol, with syrah, merlot and cabernet in a wine of blackcurrant and plum flavours with a wisp of tobacco smoke. Close to Toulouse in Fronton, the negrette grape in the 2009 Château Bouissel, £8.99, Waitrose, brings blackcurrant flavours and crunchy tannins to a modern aromatic juicy style. To the west in Madiran, the taming of the tannat grape has brought a new suppleness to wines such as the 2009 Château Aydie, £12.08, The Wine Society, with its fragrant raspberry fruitiness.
The Wine Gang, of which I'm one, was asked to make a selection of our favourites. The result is 91 wines on display in the Maison des Vins du Sud-Ouest at Comptoir Gascon, 63 Charterhouse St, London EC1. Two to three wines can be sampled free from Tuesday to Saturday at lunch or dinner; there's a free catalogue with details including stockists.
Life & Style blogs
Plus London's buy-to-let hotspots and a new property portal
Guest post by Richard Sexton, business development director of e.surv chartered surveyors
Plus lateral thinking and living on London's waterways
- 1 What, let gays get married? We must be bonkers
- 2 'Something passed underneath us, quite close': Airbus A320 has close encounter with UFO
- 3 Rocky Horror star Tim Curry 'suffers major stroke'
- 4 Lord of the Sings: Sir Christopher Lee, 91, to release heavy metal album
- 5 Exclusive: Woolwich killings suspect Michael Adebolajo was inspired by cleric banned from UK after urging followers to behead enemies of Islam
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Nook is donating eReaders to volunteers at high-need schools and participating in exclusive events throughout the campaign.
Get the latest on The Evening Standard's campaign to get London's children reading.
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.