It’s August and time for another stop on the French Winophiles tour. This month we visit the lesser known region of Southwest France. I will tell you the secret of Southwest France upfront: if you love Bordeaux but prefer not to pay Bordeaux prices then you will love the wines of Southwest France because the region grows many of the same grapes as Bordeaux!
Southwest France, known as “France’s hidden corner,” is located between the Pyrénées Mountains and Spain to the south, Bordeaux to the north and the Atlantic Ocean on its west. It is the 5th largest wine producing region of France as well as being France’s least populated region. Southwest France wine country contains twice the vineyards found in Burgundy and three times the vineyards found in Napa Valley!
The Southwest wine region is broken into four sub-regions:
- Bergerac & Dordogne River: This sub-region lies just south of Bordeaux, the vineyards lie along the same Dordogne River that flows through Bordeaux, and although the temperatures are slightly warmer it has the same Atlantic coastal climate influence as Bordeaux. The grapes grown in this region are the same white and red grapes grown in Bordeaux.
- Garonne & Tarn: This region is named after two major rivers and reaches east all the way to Toulouse. This region has dual climate influencers: the Atlantic climate influences the western portion of the region, with the Mediterranean influencing the east. The grapes are largely the same as Bergerac & Dordogne River sub-region with the edition of Gamay, Syrah, Tannat, Cinsault, Pinot Noir, and
- Lot River: This region is the original home of Malbec. It is influenced by both the Atlantic and Mediterranean climates. Its most famous AOC is Cahors, actually Cahors is the most famous of all of Southwest France wine regions. Cahors is the original home Malbec so if you are a fan of the dark, brooding grape from Argentina seek out some from its original home in Cahors.
- Pyrénées: This region is named after the mountain range that divides France and Spain. It is home to the wines that are rustic and artisanal, mainly crafted from the indigenous grape Tannat. However, in addition to Tannat you will also find many white varietals such as Petit Manseng, Camaralet, Arrufiac, and Courbu. I have enjoyed Tannat from Uruguay, the national grape, but have never had Tannat from France, its original home. This would be a great wine to seek out and try.
Wines from Southwest France can be a challenge to locate in Texas. I was pleasantly surprised by even the limited selection I found at my local Total Wine. I selected two wines from the same producer, both from the Bergerac & Dordogne sub-region.
Château Bélingard AOC Bergerac 2013 Blanc: This wine was crafted of 60% Sauvignon Blanc, 20% Muscadelle and 20% Semillon. It poured a soft gold into the glass and opened with a bright aroma of tropical fruit, citrus and soft floral notes. On the palate this wine delivered pleasing flavors of lemon curd, lime zest, grapefruit, and guava, with salinity, savory herbal notes and soft minerality. It offered a creamy texture that was round on the palate with a dry, lingering finish. It is recommended this wine be enjoyed within its first 3 years of release. 12% alcohol. A great aperitif wine to serve with cheese or with seafood, light pasta and poultry. SRP $10.99 at Total Wine
Château Bélingard AOC Bergerac 2013 Rouge: This wine was crafted of 60% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc and 5% Malbec. It poured a vibrant ruby into the glass and opened smelling like a basket overflowing with red and blue summer berries, along with soft notes of spice, milk chocolate and vanilla. It met the palate with flavors of red cherries, raspberries, blue berries and plums, along with toasted oak and ground coffee beans, with a soft hint of vanilla on the back of the palate. The acidity was rich and round and the tannins were still a bit ripe, needing more time to fully integrate. It had a medium body with a dry, lingering finish. Recommended cellar time 2-5 years; I suggest 5. A great wine to pair with burgers, grilled meats, pizza and heavy pastas. 12% alcohol. SRP $9.99 at Total Wine.
Since we are in Southwest France I chose to pair both wines with a dish from Southwest France. The dish is called “Drunk French Country Chicken Au Gratin.” It was delicious and easy to make! I was created by French Tart and can be found in the link above. French Tart’s site on Food.com is broken up into region. She had tons of recipes for Southwest France. This one sounded delicious and also a recipe I had hoped would pair with both wines. The chicken was soft and the sauce was creamy so it worked the Bergerac Blanc; however, the sauce was also bold and tangy so it worked with the Bergerac Rouge. My family enjoyed the chicken dish very much, they did not appreciate the accompanying steamed broccoli and cauliflower. I highly recommend you give the dish a try, it is perfect for a weeknight meal and would also work beautifully with company.
Château Bélingard, located in the heart of Bélingard on the left bank of the Dordogne, has been crafting fine wines since the 1820’s. In the 1980’s Laurent and Sylvie de Bosredon took over the estate and brought back its true family spirit. They blend old world vines with new world techniques to produce world class wines. Today, the team, led by Geneneral Manager Vianney de Tastes, “devotes great care and attention to the production of Fine Wines from Bergerac and Monbazillac.” Château Bélingard rests in the rolling countryside made of clay and limestone soil. They grow nine varieties of grapes (all Bordeaux), with the average age for the red vines being 25 years old, and the average age for the white vines being 30 years old. Château Bélingard chose “all the soft and environmental friendly way to cultivate our vines under the High Environmental Value certification. From pruning to harvest all the works are managed in order to minimize our impact on environment.” Laurent de Bosredon brought innovation to Château Bélingard, they use modern, eco-friendly techniques to craft their wines from the vines to the bottle.
Take a moment to read what my fellow French Winophiles have discovered in Southwest France:
Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares “Le Tourin Gascon a la Tomate”
David from Cooking Chat pairs “A Cahors Malbec for Grilled Pork Chops”
Jeff from foodwineclick journeys to “The Undiscovered France: Sud-Ouest & Jurancon Sec”
Martin from Enofylz Wine Blog features “Marcillac – The Perfect Wine for Liver and Onions”
Sarah from Curious Cuisiniere pairs “Pintxos (Basque Style Tapas) and Côtes de Gascogne Wine”
Tammy from Telling Stories from Chez Nous shares “Oysters a La Charentaise”
Wendy from A Day in the Life on a Farm shares tales from “Exploring Southwest France with the French Winophiles – 2012 Malbec from Chateau-Haut Monplaiser
Christy from Confessions of a Culinary Diva shares “Smoking Duck and Wines from Sud-Ouest”
My Song Selection: The song I have chosen to pair with the Bergerac Blanc and Rouge is Starlight by Muse. The wines were light and fresh, full of flavor yet easy to drink; just like the song.
Get your own bottles of Château Bélingard AOC Bergerac 2013 Blanc and Rouge and let me know what song you pair with them. Cheers!