Wine regions south west France

Widely renowned as a wonderful holiday destination, South West (Sud-Ouest) France covers some of the most spectacular scenery in the country. Alongside the stunning hills and beautiful countryside, this part of France is also home to some incredible wine-producing areas. And with many stunning villas available to rent for a break, why wait to discover the wonderful wines of this region?

Situated to the south of Bordeaux, around the rivers Dordogne and Garonne, the vineyards of the South West occupy around 40,000 acres of land. For a wine lover, this area offers the opportunity to discover all manner of amazing vintages and new flavours, being a world away from the more popular areas of Champagne and the Rhône Valley.

BORDEAUX Bordeaux wines are some of the most popular in the world, renowned for their full-bodied, comforting warmth and complex flavours. A perfect winter warmer, Bordeaux wines of all vintages are a good, solid choice and an all-round crowd pleaser, especially when accompanied by a good piece of meat or game. However, if you really want to push the boat out, the reds bottled in 2000 and 1996 are excellent right now for drinking. If you’re buying a younger wine, both 2010 and 2009 were good years, but these wines will only get better with age, so consider keeping them for a few more years to enjoy them at their best.

Nothing can really come close to trying a Bordeaux right there at the vineyard where it’s made, so when you’re in the South of France, you can take your pick from over 100,000 vineyards scattered across the region. Be aware, however, that the term ‘Bordeaux’ covers a variety of more familiar wines, from Merlots to Sauvignon Blancs. Here’s where you should be going to discover your favourite wine, served right where it’s grown:

• For Merlot A highly recommended day trip, the Château de Pitray is conveniently situated just outside Saint-Emilion. Owned by the Boigne family for over 600 years, this vineyard specialises in Merlot and Cabernet Franc Bordeaux wines, and produces a massive 240,000 bottles every year. • For Sauvignon Blanc If you are more of a white wine person, head out for a day to Château Pape-Clément. As the oldest vineyard in the region, this producer has harvested over 700 vintages to date. They serve up some outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, but are one of the few Bordeaux vineyards to grow a small number of white grapes each year too. Their Sauvignon Blanc is exquisite, as is their Muscadelle and Sémillon, and with 30 hectares of stunning landscapes around the château, it’s a great place to experience the natural beauty of the area too. • For Cabernet Sauvignon The Château Mouton Rothschild is about an hour away from Bordeaux, to the north of the region. If you like your clarets, you might already recognise this vineyard, as they produce an award-winning bottle of the same name. You can also discover wonderful Cabernet Sauvignon here, as well as Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.

LANGUEDOC-ROUSSILLON The Languedoc-Roussillon region of France covers the area to the west of the Rhône and down to the Côte d’Azur and the Mediterranean coast towards Spain. Out of all the wine-producing regions, this one delivers the most in terms of volume every year. Thanks to the long sunny days and high temperatures in this part of France, the grapes ripen quickly in this area, making for wines which are rich and full bodied and often have a high alcohol content.

• Fitou Fitou is a red wine produced to the north of Perpignan in the Roussillon area. Made mainly from the Carignan grapes, along with a blend of well-known grape varieties, such as Grenache and Syrah, these wines are designed to be enjoyed while they are still young. This makes for some wonderfully tannic flavours and fresh fruit overtones, and a great wine for enjoying with a meal or on its own. One of the most famous producers of Fitou is Mont Tauch, a huge cooperative of farmers established in 1913. As well as Fitou, this vineyard produces wonderful Vins de Pays and Corbières. The vineyard overlooks a cliff face, a breathtaking location, and has a multimedia visitor centre where you can learn about its history and book a guided tour. • Corbières Although there are many producers who welcome visitors across the region, one of the best examples of wine is to be found at Château La Voulte Gasparet. Their Boutenac is one of the Grand Crus of Languedoc, which is a special subsection of the Corbieres reserved for the very best wine. Visiting the family estate at La Voulte Gasparet will open doors to tastings of some of the finest wines that the region produces. They’ll let you peek in their barrel room, if you ask politely, and will introduce you to some of the very best of this underrated and delicious wine variety.

Around the South West, there are many more areas offering smaller, more unique wineries with their own distinctive products. Take some time to explore the local offerings, as well as visiting the big hitters, as sometimes the most unexpected discoveries can be the very best too.

Words by Red Savannah

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