France is a well-known wine powerhouse, and Gascony wines are quickly gaining popularity. This southwestern wine region is the fourth-largest in France in terms of sales and production.
Gascony is often compared to Bordeaux, but many believe Gascony wines have better value, offering the same taste and quality for a reduced price. So what makes Gascony wines so unique?
Stay tuned as we explore this fascinating French wine region!
Gascony is located in the southwestern corner of France, between Toulouse and the Atlantic Ocean, and is often compared to Bordeaux. This wine-producing region is best known as the home of the musketeer D’Artagnan, but there is much more to Gascony than meets the eye.
The climate in Gascony is very favorable for grape production, with plenty of sun and moderate rainfall. The soil is also ideal for viticulture, with a high percentage of clay that helps to retain water and nutrients. These factors, coupled with the hard work and dedication of Gascony winemakers, result in some truly amazing wines.
So what can you expect from a Gascony wine? Well, first and foremost, you can expect quality. Gascony is home to many award-winning wines, and the region is quickly gaining a reputation for producing some of the best values in French wine. The grapes used in Gascony wines include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Tannat.
Where is Gascony located?
Gascony is a region of southwestern France known for its slow rural culture. Aside from great vintages, Gascony is well-known for delicious food, making it an ideal retreat from city life.
This region of France is almost entirely rural, allowing you to get away from the neighboring towns of Toulouse and Bordeaux. It’s only a short drive from the magnificent Pyrenees ranges, where the terroir is perfect for producing top-rated wine.
Gascony’s population is extremely sparse, and there are a lot of little family-owned farms that grow locally produced organic food. This includes seasonal fruits and vegetables, meats, breads, cheeses, and of course country wines and liqueurs. Cotes de Gascogne is the most popular wine produced in Gascony, which rivals the produce of Bordeaux in quality.
In addition, for those who wish to try some higher-end wines, more excellent wines like Madiran, Buzet, and Saint-Mont are created. Gascony is also known for its smooth Armagnacs, including Floc de Gascogne, which we’ll discuss in further detail later.
The best Gascon wines are still exceptional, despite the fact that nowadays they are more recognized for Armagnac.
There’s no shortage of beautiful scenery or undiscovered treasures for the wine connoisseur to discover in this rural area, so don’t underestimate it because it isn’t the most well-known. Gascony is ideally positioned to produce excellent French wine due to its proximity to Spain, Bordeaux, and the Pyrenees Mountains on all sides, as well as the Atlantic Ocean.
The history of Gascony and Cotes de Gascogne
There’s a reason why Bordeaux wines are so much more popular than Gascony’s produce, even though they’re of the same variety and quality. It has a lot to do with the region’s history, which was formerly controlled by the British. For quite some time, it is claimed that Gascony wines were actually more popular than their Bordeaux counterparts, thus you might wonder why they are so little recognized today.
As the main competition, Bordeaux wine merchants regarded Gascony vintners as a danger and brought rules limiting Gascony exports. This resulted in a significant fall in sales of Gascony wine, which aided Bordeaux’s growth.
Since the Roman Empire, Gascony has been producing wine and was an important supplier of goods. Wine production was extremely successful during this period, and Gascony was at its zenith in terms of popularity.
The province was gradually seized by England in the 11th century, at which point it grew into a thriving trade center exporting millions of bottles of wine to Britain.
During this time, Gascony was entirely dependent on imports of food from England and eventually became their downfall. When Gascony reverted to French sovereignty in 1453, exports plummeted dramatically.
The Gascony wine industry was devastated by the Phylloxera outbreak (a tiny parasite that destroys vines), which afflicted various wine regions in France and throughout Europe. Armagnac became the area’s biggest business, but the liqueur fell out of fashion in the 1970s, allowing the wine sector to recover.
Grape varieties in Gascony
Gascony, like many other wine-producing regions near the foothills of mountains, has a wide variety of grape types. Because of the area’s various climates and elevations, grapes can be grown to satisfy all sorts of needs, which means Gascony has a lot to offer to the wine connoisseur.
In Gascony, there are numerous international grape strains that are readily recognized all around the world, but the region also produces several grapes that are unique to the Atlantic seaboard.
Gascony is known for mixing native grapes with those from other countries, so the region has something distinctive to offer. Another characteristic that distinguishes Gascon wine production is its distinctiveness.
We’ll go through the most popular grape varieties you’ll encounter in Gascony, starting with those used for 90% of the region’s production; white grapes:
- Sauvignon Blanc: Sauvignon Blanc is a white wine grape native to Bordeaux that is grown all over the world and is one of the most popular white wines globally. When utilized alone, Sauvignon Blanc grapes create crisp, dry, and refreshing whites with a variety of tastes depending on the weather. This grape has also been used in dessert wines and beyond France, it’s desirable in Chile, Romania, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and other regions.
- Colombard: The Colombard grape is indigenous to Gascony, and it was formerly used to distill into Armagnac and Cognac. Nowadays, Colombard is utilized to make a fruity white wine that may be dry or sweet. The Columbard grape variety is also cultivated in California for its acidity and is intended for use in blending.
- Ugni Blanc: Trebbiano is a variety of grape grown in Italy that is also known as Ugni Blanc in France. It’s another fruit-forward wine cultivated worldwide, although it’s usually forgettable. Trebbiano, on the other hand, is utilized in Gascony to make Armagnac, an essential component owing to its high acidity.
- Gros Manseng: The Gros Manseng grape variety is indigenous to southwest France and belongs to the Manseng grape family. These grapes make dry white wines with a distinct flavor profile, high acidity, fruity undertones, and spices and flowers notes. Gros Manseng wines with a higher alcohol level have robust tastes and are ideal for pairing with foie gras from the region.
- Chardonnay: This white wine grape is native to the Burgundy region of France, but it can now be found in vineyards across the world. It’s one of the most widely cultivated varieties, and it’s seen as a stepping stone into the wine business for new wine-producing areas. The Chardonnay grape has a fairly neutral flavor profile. Chardonnay wines are typically somewhat acidic and fruit-driven, however, they can vary considerably based on location. This popular grape is also used to make sparkling white drinks.
In Gascony, red grapes are quite uncommon because the region’s overall production of red wine and roses amounts to just 10%. Nonetheless, they’re an essential component of Gascony viticulture, especially when it comes to dinner pairings, so we’ll go over the most frequent grape kinds:
- Merlot: Merlot is a widely used grape variety in both blends and single-varietal wines. This blue-colored fruit is one of the most extensively cultivated varieties on the planet, and the quantity of Merlot vineyards is still steadily increasing. Individual growers’ styles have a significant impact on Merlot grapes’ flavor, but we’ll use Bordeaux as an example again. In this area of France, Merlot wines are commonly characterized by red fruit notes with a medium body.
- Cabernet Sauvignon: Cabernet Sauvignon is a popular grape that is grown across the world. Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon are frequently combined in winemaking. Wines derived from Cabernet Sauvignon are full-bodied, high in tannins, and have good acidity on their own. This explains why this grape is the most widely cultivated in the world because of its ability to age. There are over 3000 kilometers squared of Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards planted worldwide.
- Cabernet Franc: Cabernet Franc is responsible for one-half of what makes Cabernet Sauvignon so unique, as it was blended with Sauvignon Blanc to create the hybrid. This variety creates an interesting bright and pale red wine, typically with a spicy scent. Originally from Bordeaux or the Loire, this grape is mostly used in blends with other varieties.
- Tannat: The national grape of Uruguay is actually a white wine grape that has been cultivated in the southwest of France for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Tannat is grown in several South American nations, as well as an Italian wine-producing region. In Gascony, Tannat plays an essential role as a variety used to produce Armagnac.
Wines from the Gascony wine region
The finest-known wines throughout Gascony are the dry whites from Cotes de Gascogne, which feature fruit-forward characteristics.
Armagnac is another type of Armagnac, while Floc de Gascogne is also essential to understand. You’ll need to be familiar with Madiran wine if you’re interested in Gascony, since this rich red must not be overlooked!
Let’s dig deeper into Gascony’s finest wine choices.
It’s difficult to dispute that Armagnac is the most significant product in Gascony wines.
Armagnac is a kind of brandy made from a blend of grapes, whereas Cognac is produced using only the Ugni Blanc variety. It’s made from fermented wine and can only be found in Gascony. Armagnac is a kind of brandy with a distinct flavor that’s generally created by combining grapes.
Armagnac, on the other hand, was one of the first distilled spirits in Europe; yet outside of Europe, it is far less common. Armagnac is produced only on small farms in Gascony, whereas cognac is made on a large scale.
The flavor of young Armagnac is paler in color and features fruit characteristics such as prunes and quince. The hue becomes darker and tastes of coffee, caramel, and chocolate are apparent when the spirit is aged for many years in oak barrels.
Floc de Gascogne
Floc is aperitif made of vin de liqueur (sweet wine) enhanced with Armagnac. It is aged before approval, after which it can be marketed under the AOC Floc de Gascogne.
Floc de Gascogne is produced in the Cotes de Gascogne region and must be made with grapes grown there. Floc de Gascogne is available as both a white and a rose, and it’s most often served as an aperitif. It can also be consumed as a dessert wine, of course.
Try Floc de Gascogne with ice, since this fortified wine should always be served cold. Flavors of jasmine, almonds, honey, or black fruit are possible.
The biggest distinction between Floc de Gascogne and Armagnac is that Floc must be consumed within a year of manufacture.
In the town of Madiran, Gascony, France’s best-known sweet red wine is produced.
In 1948, the appellation was upgraded to an AOC and required a minimum of 40% Tannat grapes. Madrian is often a strong-flavored wine with high tannins. This makes it one of the healthiest wines on the market since it is rich in procyanidins, a plant chemical that has been shown to be advantageous for a variety of diseases.