South-West France: Ancient and Modern - Part 1

POSTED ON 08/06/2009

The South West stretches from the Atlantic to the vibrant city of Toulouse – the capital of the region – and from the sunny foothills of the Pyrenees to the majesty of the Massif Central. In between, there are vineyards on the plains of the Béarn, along the river valleys of the Garonne, Lot and Tarn and on the rolling hills of Gaillac. The South-West has a unique storehouse of indigenous grape varieties and a broad spectrum of wine styles to go with them. Red grapes of character include tannat, malbec, négrette and fer servadou, the latter also known as pinenc and braucol. Whites include gros manseng, petit manseng, courbu, mauzac and len de l’el, aka loin de l’oeil. Not forgetting the Bordeaux grapes, cabernet sauvignon and franc, merlot, sauvignon blanc and sémillon.

Cahors now copies Argentina, using the name malbec instead of cot or auxerroisCahors now copies Argentina, using the name malbec instead of cot or auxerrois

This multitude of native vine varieties has emerged over time and the current crop of growers, alongside outside investors, has done much to raise the profile of the entire South-West helping to bring up a revival of once great appellation such as Cahors, Gaillac and Madiran and to shine new light on the more obscure appellations like Marcillac and Entraygues et le Fel. Yields have been systematically reduced, and winemaking techniques have been adapted to emphasise fruit and soften the tannins of tough grapes like the tannat. In that, Patrick Ducourneau in Madiran has been an acknowledged pioneer. At the same time, technical developments have gone had in hand with considerably improved marketing, viz, Cahor’s jours de malbec last year and its Malbec Day at Vinexpo this year (in which I am participating).

According to the Sopexa booklet on grapes (and see the appendix for more detail): ‘Varieties from at least six such families of grapes are grown commercially today in South-West France. Of these, perhaps the most intriguing is that of the ‘Carmenets’, which seem to have originated in the area of the Western Pyrenees. This includes such superstars as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc as well as Cabernet Franc, Carmenère, Petit Verdot and Fer. Two other families also seem to have south-western roots: the ‘Cotoïdes’, which includes Cot (Malbec), Tannat and Négrette, and the Folloïdes, which includes Folle Blanche and Ondenc’.

The following is a summary of the wines I discussed at a seminar on the South West at the London International Wine Fair last month. I start this week with the Quercy side, the appellations, that is, on the eastern side of the Garonne, which flows north west from Toulouse towards Bordeaux. In Part 2, in a couple of weeks time, I will cover the western side of the Garonne, namely Madiran, Saint Mont, Jurançon, Côtes de Gascogne and Irouléguy.

Lot Valley © Cahors winesLot Valley © Cahors wines


• Gaillac: Home of L’En de l’El or Loin d’Oeil
• AC located in the Tarn.
• AOC since 1970 for red wines and 1938 for whites
• Surface: 3,850 ha
• Production: 180,000 hl
• 3 coopératives represent 55% of production and 138 independent producers
• Red wines : Duras, Braucol (Fer Servadou) and Syrah
• White wines : Mauzac and Loin de L’oeil (Len de L’el).

Domaine Rotier Gaillac Sec Renaissance 2007, Gaillac (South West), France
Dry White (Cork), 12.5%.

Medium-bodied, peachy and textured, with a tangy herbal finish from the Sauvignon component. The dominant variety (55%) is the named Loin de l'Oeil (more commonly Len de l’El), which is compulsory in white Gaillac and gives substance to the blend. £10.17, Vine Trail.

The grapes were hand-picked on September 11th and 13th. The wine was fermented in French oak barrels (less than 10 % new).

One of the oldest vineyards in the South-West, Gaillac extends over a wide area in which 3,850 ha of vines form part of a rich polyculture. There are a number of different soil types and sites, but broadly speaking they divide between the gravelly-soils of the Tarn valley and rolling limestone hillsides to the north. The former is predominantly red wine country, the latter is the main zone of white production. Red (64%) and rosé (9%) is blended from Fer (Braucol), Duras, Syrah, Gamay, Négrette, the Cabernets and Merlot. Some are seriously fine. The whites (27%) from sweet to dry and some ‘perlé’ and sparkling are predominantly from Mauzac and Len de l’El, with Ondenc, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle. Again the best, especially the top sweet wines, are remarkably good.

Domaine Rotier today is run by Alain Rotier and Francis Marre. Gérard et Michèle Rotier, Alain’s parents, bought the estate in 1975 and set about converting and developing the failing vineyards. The two brothers-in-law share the responsibilities in this family-owned estate: Francis looks after the vines and the management while Alain’s role is that of winemaker and sales manager. Most of the information comes from their website.

• Surface : 35 hectares:
• Reds - 25 ha
• Whites - 10 ha
• Average age of the vines: 20 years

The vineyard is planted on a gravelly plateau made up of the middle alluvial terrace of the Tarn river. Situated at 200m altitude, this terrace is 130 000 - 300 000 years old. Under these ancient alluviums are to be found much older marls (about 32 million years old). The land here is relatively poor and stony (although it drains well), heats very quickly in the springtime and becomes very dry during the summer. Yields are quite low, because there is such little soil.

The climate is predominantly oceanic, with a Mediterranean influence, due to the south wind. This dry, hot wind loses its sea moisture as it crosses the Montagne Noire, which separates the Lower Languedoc from the Upper Languedoc and continues toward the hills of the Tarn. It is responsible for warm, dry periods during the autumn, which are the best conditions for optimal maturation of the red grapes, while obtaining high concentration of the white grapes, in particular the Loin de l’Oeil, especially if noble rot has already set in. From 1999-2005, the annual rainfall average was 774mm and the average annual temperature was 13.8°C. There were on average 2115 hours of sunshine per year.

The Loin de l’œil gets it name from its appearance. The bunches are situated near the front of the branch with a long stalk. As such, they are far from the eye (the bud) of both the branch and the bunch. A more fanciful version says that the bunches are far from the eye of the harvester, and thus some of them get left behind. It seems to have been present in the Gaillac region for a very long time and was probably used in blends of sweet white wines which were very popular in England, Flanders and Holland in the 17th and 18th centuries. In the 19th century, it made up 30% of the blends of Gaillac white wines. It’s a heavy cropper, one of the reasons why as recently as 20 years ago, it was not particularly appreciated and was only used for lesser quality dry white wines.

Gaillac Rosé

2008 Le Rosé du Château Candastre, Gaillac . Terra Vitis. 12.5%.
30% Duras, 20% Fer Servadou, 40% Syrah, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon
Stewart Wines, £6.99

Aromatic, deliciously refreshing strawberry and redcurranty fruit with a rounded touch of sweetness but basically elegantly dry and thirstquenchingly fresh.

• The clay and limestone hillsides of this 100 ha estate are planted with cabernet sauvignon, merlot and syrah plus Duras and Fer Servadou.
• Vineyards: 25 to 30 years old vines.
• Density: 4,000 vines per ha
• Grass between the rows
• Yields: they are aiming for 50 hl/s ha for the reds
• 55 to 60 hl/ha for the rosés

Duras has been planted since time immemorial in the Tarn and is the star performer in red Gaillac in which it is responsible for deeply coloured, fruity wines, with good acidity and real finesse. It buds early and is sometimes damaged by spring frosts; it is also susceptible to oidium and black rot (it has large bunches of small, ovoid, tightly-packed berries).

Vin de Pays des Côtes de Gascogne.

• Vin de Pays des Côtes de Gascogne, home of Gros Manseng and Petit Manseng
• Covers 3 departements
• Surface: 12,000 ha
• Production: 700,000 hl
• 1,400 producers including members of the 6 cooperatives
• Whites: Colombard, Ugni Blanc, Gros and Petit Manseng, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc.
• Reds: Tannat, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon

2008 Domaine des Cassagnoles Gros Manseng, Vin de Pays des Côtes de Gascogne.
Free Run Juice, The Wine Shed, £6.90

This is a fresh, aromatic, deliciously fresh and zesty dry white with a refreshing spritz, very good weight of (apricot) fruit and richness and fine, zesty grapefruity character; lively and crisp, it shows what the gros manseng is all about, a south-western French answer to New Zealand sauvignon blanc. Gros manseng also works well in sweet whites and is one of France’s hidden little treasures.

• J & G Baumann
• 76 ha. Côteaux de Gascogne
• Clay limestone, gentle oceanic climate
• Planted area : 11 ha, Average age : 25 years
• Destemming at harvest time – Maceration with the skins – Pneumatic pressing.


• Home of Mansois / Fer Servadou
• AC located in the Aveyron département
• Surface: 180 ha
• Production: 7,000 – 8,000 hl
• 1 coopérative Cave des Vignerons du Vallon (vinifies 50% of production and 11 producers.
• Grapes: minimum 90 % of Mansoi (Fer Servadou) and 10 % Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot; in fact vineyards are nearly 100 % Mansoi.

The steep vineyards of Marcillac gained AOC status in 1990 and are located in the Aveyron, to the north-west of Rodez, at an altitude of up to 600m and mostly planted on the southern slopes. The speciality of Marcillac is its red clay soils topped by limestone plateaux creating robust, tannic red wines.

According to the Teulier website, Fer Servadou, a member of the Carmenet family, is deep-coloured, with late-ripening berries, and smells and tastes rather like Cabernet Sauvignon, known as Mansoï or Mansois in Marcillac, also Fer Servadou, Braucol or Bocol (in Gaillac) and Pinenc (in Madiran, Saint Mont and Béarn). It apparently arrived in Conques at the same time as the relics of Saint Foy, stolen from Agen in 866 by a monk of the Abbaye, sent there specifically for this mission. In the 19th century, Marcillac reached some 5000 hectares, but it was destroyed by phylloxera.

Domaine du Clos is run by Philippe Teulier and boasts 30 hectares in the tiny Marcillac appellation. The wine is made from the mansois / fer servadou grape and the vines vary from 50 to 80 years old. Vinification is traditional in stainless steel vats, pigeage or punching down of the cap. After 18 months ageing in vats, the wines are bottled. Thetre is a basic "tradition" or Lo Sang del Pais which is supple with juicy raspberry flavours and a Cuvée Spéciale made from 50-80 year old vines (now called Vieilles Vignes).

2007 Lo Sang del Païs, Domaine du Cros, Pays Basque. 12%.
100% Fer Servadou. Les Caves de Pyrène, £7.99

This is bright, clean and fresh with a distinctly herbal, nettley capsicum-like aroma, almost the kind you might associate with cabernet franc in the Loire ; it’s crisp and herbal on the palate, with extremely supple raspberryish / blackcurrant and pepper fruit with a green nip of acidity. Rustic and food-friendly. Not everyone’s cup of tea perhaps but it’s really rather well done.


• Fronton - Home of Négrette
• Appellation located in Haute-Garonne and Tarn et Garonne
• AC since 1975 with the merger of the two VDQS regions Villaudric and Fronton.
• Surface 2,400 ha
• Production: 100,000 hl
• 2 coopératives (50% of production), 55 producers
• Grapes: 55 % Négrette, 25 % Cabernet (Franc and Sauvignon), 15 % Syrah, 5% Gamay, Fer Servadou, Malbec, Cinsault. Around 67% red and 33% rosé.

The local red and rosé wines of Toulouse, grown on poor gravelly and alluvial soils on the north bank of the Garonne 25 kilometres from Toulouse between the Rivers Tarn and Garonne are a blend mainly of Négrette with an eclectic mixture of the Cabernets, Syrah and Gamay. Négrette was believed to have been brought here in the middle ages from Cyprus by the Knights of the Order of St.John, which was founded in 1050. However, Paul Strang, who attended the seminar, said that although he thought that was the case when he wrote his first book on the South West, he can now say that the story, good as it is, is untrue.

2007 Château Marguerite, Fronton. 12.5%.
60% Négrette, 30% Syrah, 10% Malbec
Stewart Wines, £6.99
The fruit is bright, fresh and cherryish, with a touch of oak to round it out, the tannins are soft and supple, with an attractively spicy, easy glugging character and quite rustic, slightly astringent, firm tannins on the finish.


Wonderful medieval city much coveted by Richard III. Although lost in translation at the time, what Richard III really said as he was staggering about at the Battle of Bosworth was: ‘Cahors, Cahors, my kingdom for Cahors’.

• Lot département
• April 15, 1971: AOC decree.
• 100% of Cahors wine is red.
• 11% of the total production of Malbec worldwide (19% France-wide).
• 4,500 ha can produce AOC Cahors.
• 3,600 ha are currently being used to produce AOC Cahors (2006 harvest).
• 180,000 hl were marketed under the AOC Cahors denomination (2006-2007 campaign).
• 430 growers participate in making AOC Cahors: 273 make their own wine or sell their grape harvest,
• 143 are members of a cooperative winery and 14 sell their grape production to merchant growers (2005
• 75% of the wines obtaining AOC status are produced by independent winemakers.
• Grapes: 70% minimum Malbec (Auxerrois or Cot Noir), 30% maximum Merlot and/or Tannat

The historic vineyard of Cahors has been almost entirely reconstituted since the disastrous frosts of 1956 and was granted AC status in 1971. Malbec / Cot must be at least 70% of any blend plus Merlot and a little Tannat. There are two main soil types – the stony, limestone causses and the sandier, gravelly soils of the Lot valley – the coteaux.

Cahors vineyards © Cahors winesCahors vineyards © Cahors wines

Le Cèdre is a 27 ha family estate run by brothers Pascal and Jean-Marc Verhaeghe
In 1958, Charles Verhaeghe set up an estate, with mixed farming and started the Cèdre vineyards. 1973 was the first estate bottling. Pascal discovered his interest in wine working at his friend’s Jean-Marie Guffens in Burgundy in 1980. After studying œnology in Mâcon Davayé, Pascal decided to take over the family estate with his brother Jean-Marc, also a young œnologist from la Tour Blanche in Sauterne.

Of the 3 plots, the largest plot of 12.5 ha, has a south-west exposure and is located on a cône d’éboulis calcaires still in movement. This very stony soil of clay limestone is called ‘Tran’. The 2 other plots of 5.5ha et 7.5ha, facing south, are made up of mainly pebbles, mixed with reddish ferruginous sand on the surface, and deeper of clay and silt. Wines from these soils are more powerful and more alcoholic. The “roche mere” limestone rocks covered, with clay aerated soil gives violets and limestone aromas, while oak and juniper trees also contribute to aromas.

Equidistant from Atlantic ocean, Pyrénées and Méditerranean sea, the climate is oceanic until June, after which it is Mediterranean. The Lot and Autan wind have also a positive influence. Malbec needs a lot of attention. It can be deceptively tannic with a tendency to poor and uneven fruit set, and a susceptibility to frost and downy mildew. It can be floral with aromas of violets and flavours of black fruits.

• 90 % of Malbec, 5 % Merlot and 5 % Tannat
• Vine age between 20 et 51 years old
• Average yields limited to 30 hl/ha
• Density 4000 to 5500 vines /ha

2005 Château du Cèdre, Le Cèdre. Around £24.99, Lea & Sandeman, Great Western Wines, Les Caves de Pyrène, £24.99

Vibrant dense ruby with powerful, smoky vanilla-suffused nose of oak in a stylish modern vein, this shows sweetly concentrated pure black fruits character with almost silky tannins in the context of Cahors malbec, i.e. an inevitable chewy streak of tannin and fresh acidity, but the fruit is opulent enough with a nice bittersweet twist of astringency to carry it through. 2010 – 2018.

Appendix 1 (with thanks to Sopexa for facts and figures)

Part 1 – The Quercy side: east of Toulouse towards the Massif Central

• The South-west is the fourth biggest generic AOC in France in terms of volume and value sales.
• The region includes 18 wine appellations: Béarn, Cahors, Côtes du Brulhois, Côtes de Millau, Coteaux du Quercy, Entraygues et Fel, Estaing, Fronton, Gaillac, Irouleguy, Jurançon, Lavilledieu, Madiran, Marcillac, Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh, Saint-Mont, Saint-Sardos and Tursan.
• There are a total of 24 Vins de Pays in the Southwest, the main three in decreasing order of importance being Côtes de Gascogne, Côtes du Tarn, and Comté Tolosan.
• Overall size: 50,000 ha
• Overall average production: 3.4 million hl
• AC: 1.02 million hl (inc 160,000 hl in Armagnac and Floc de Gascogne)
• Vin de Pays: 1.53 million hl
• Vin de Table: 850,000 hl
• White: 52%
• Red and rosé: 48%

Appendix 2

• Key production figures (2003-2006)

Harvests 2003-2006 (source: Customs)
Category Appellation Average Production
AOC Cahors 192,091
AOC Gaillac 182,626
AOC Côtes du Frontonnais 87,685
AOC Madiran 68,272
AOVDQS Côtes de Saint-Mont 73,359
AOC Jurançon 44,000
AOVDQS Tursan 15,362
AOVDQS Coteaux du Quercy 13,525
AOVDQS Côtes du Brulhois 10,693
AOVDQS Saint Sardos 5,900
AOC Béarn 13,000
AOC Pacherenc du Vic Bilh 10,000
AOC Irouléguy 7,000
AOC Marcillac 7,276
AOVDQS Lavilledieu 2,116
AOVDQS Côtes de Millau 1,918
AOVDQS Entraygue Et Du Fel 716
AOVDQS Estaing 656
Total 18 Appellations 736,195

Appendix 3

The main grape varieties of the South-West


 Cabernet Franc

A member of the Carmenet family, Cabernet Franc probably originated on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees and may even be the ancient vine ‘Biturica’ described by the Roman writer Columella. Vigorous and with notably hard wood, its medium sized bunches of small dark-coloured grapes produce fine, well-structured wines often with a raspberry scent and flavour. It buds and ripens a little earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon. It is also somewhat less tannic and deeply coloured. In Madiran and Béarn it is known as Bouchy (Bouchet in the Libournais), in the Pays Basque it is Acheria.

 Cabernet Sauvignon

The best-known member of the Carmenet family is now believed to be a crossing of Cabernet Franc with Sauvignon Blanc, although the French ampelographer Guy Lavignac also considers (somewhat paradoxically) that, “It appears to be more primitive than its so-called parents.” Whatever its precise origins, it is of unquestionably high quality, with its small, blue, intensely coloured berries and tannic musts, quite high in acidity. It often has a distinctive blackcurrant flavour, but the growers of the South-West also describe it, along with other members of the Carmenet family, as having a ‘goût sauvage’. It is vigorous, susceptible to oidium and not particularly high-yielding.

 Malbec (Cot)

Cot, more widely known beyond South-West France as Malbec (where it is also, somewhat misleadingly, called ‘Auxerrois’ – it has an unusually large number of synonyms) was the most widely planted black variety in the South-West before the advent of phylloxera. A member of the Cotoïdes family, it is low-yielding, susceptible to coulure, low in acid, thick-skinned and deep coloured. The famous ‘black wine’ of Cahors is no more, but some very fine, elegant, relatively early-maturing blackberry or damson-scented wines are now being made there, where Cot must be at least 70% of any blend. It is also grown in the Côtes de Brulhois.

 Duras

As is often, confusingly, the way with grape varieties, Duras has nothing to do with the town (in Lot et Garonne) which bears the same name, but has been planted since time immemorial in the Tarn and is the star performer in red Gaillac in which it is responsible for deeply coloured, fruity wines, with good acidity and real finesse. It buds early and is sometimes damaged by spring frosts; it is also susceptible to oidium and black rot (it has large bunches of small, ovoid, tightly-packed berries), but its quality easily outweighs these disadvantages.

 Fer

Another member of the Carmenet family, its deep-coloured, late-ripening berries smell and taste rather like Cabernet Sauvignon. Its well-structured wine adds depth and structure to a host of blends across the South-West. It sometimes performs solo in the increasingly fine wines of Marcillac (where it is known as Mansoï or Mansois) and it is a major ingredient of Entraygues and Estaing. It appears under a considerable number of other aliases including Fer Servadou, Braucol or Bocol (in Gaillac) and Pinenc (in Madiran, Saint Mont and Béarn).

 Merlot

One of the best known, and much-loved members of the Carmenet family, Merlot, with its medium sized bunches of dark grapes, has good colour, but noticeably less tannin and acidity than Cabernet Sauvignon. It buds early (and can be damaged by spring frosts) and ripens early too. It is susceptible to coulure and to grey rot, but its soft, generously fruity flavour, often reminiscent of blackberries has ensured its world-wide success. It thrives on clay limestone soils (for example in Cahors and Gaillac), but is less successful on the old alluvial soils (‘boulbènes’) of Saint Mont.

 Négrette

Négrette, an ancient variety, and one of the Cotoïdes, is a versatile, perfumed and fruity grape with a slightly gamey flavour. It is the main ingredient in the wines of Fronton. It is deeply coloured but relatively low in tannin and lower still in acidity - ideal for wines to be enjoyed young. It also appears as a valued addition to the blend in many a red Gaillac and in Lavilledieu. It buds early and yields well. Its main drawback is susceptibility to oïdium and to grey rot.

 Tannat

As its name suggests, Tannat is a deeply-coloured, tannic variety. It is productive and late ripening with large bunches of tightly-packed grapes, high in sugar. Its wine, sometimes said to have a raspberry flavour, requires careful vinification and is often barrel-aged and requires mid to long-term cellaring. Of the innovative winemaking in Madiran, the most celebrated appellation is now producing vividly fruity wines for earlier drinking. Its best wines are superb. Its origins lie broadly within the family of Cotoïdes. It was not, however, widely known or cultivated until the early 19th century. It is now also planted in Béarn, Irouleguy, Tursan, Saint Mont and in small quantities in Cahors.


 Arrufiac

Arrufiac seems to have its roots in the Béarn and especially along the valley of the Adour. It was almost lost following the ravages of phylloxera, but is now planted in Vic Bihl where it forms part of the blend of Pacherenc. It is quite vigorous and forms large bunches of small, rather oval berries, which are sensitive to mildew and black rot. It is valued for its fine, distinctive aroma.

 Baroque

The distinctive and delightfully-named white grape of Tursan is resistant to oidium, mildew and black rot. It may have south-western French origins, though Galet suggest a Galician source. Its musts can be high in sugar, but handled carefully its wines are fresh and aromatic.

 Courbu

Another Pyrenean variety, Courbu (often Petit Courbu) thrives today around Monein in the départment of Pyrénées Atlantiques, but it is also grown in other parts of the AOC Jurançon. It forms small bunches of small golden berries and is often harvested by successive tries to make, or form part of the blend for moelleux – style wines.

 Len de l’El

A member of the family of Folloïdes, Len de l‘El is mostly found in Gaillac, where it had been gradually usurped by Mauzac, though it is now recovering some ground. Its rather quaint name may relate to its unusually long peduncles or bunchstems (the bunches form ‘far from the bud’ – in local dialect ‘len de l’el’ or loin du bourgeon). It is vigorous, buds early and ripens before Mauzac. It is capable both of rather fine dry and also sweet wines, though it tends to be low in acidity. It is also rather susceptible to rot.

 Gros Manseng

Gros Manseng seems to have originated in the western Pyrenees. It forms medium-sized bunches of small grapes, which are resistant to grey rot. It is mostly used in Jurançon, Pacherenc, Saint Mont and the Côtes de Gascogne to make highly fragrant, crisply fruity dry whites, the best of which are very attractive indeed.

 Petit Manseng

Closely related to Gros Manseng, but with smaller, thicker-skinned berries, Petit Manseng is capable of developing high sugar levels produced without losing its crisply refreshing acidity. A grape of the highest quality, the thickness of the skins inhibits botrytis, but its naturally low yields are habitually concentrated further by passerillage (the semi drying of the grape on the vine), and is regularly harvested as late as November. On its own, or blended with Gros Manseng, Arrufiac and Courbu, as well as the lesser-known but spicy Camaralet and Lauzet, it is the main reason why Jurançon and Pacherenc rank among the world’s most distinctive and fine sweet white wines.

 Mauzac

Although Mauzac does not seem to be part of one of the families of grapes of the South-West, it seems to have originated in the Tarn Valley. Its compact, medium sized bunches of small, round berries can develop a very high sugar content and are used to make sweet, dry and sparkling wines, chiefly in Gaillac (and Limoux). Sweet sparkling Mauzac, with its pronounced apple aroma and flavour almost seems like a vinous version of cider. At lower sugar levels its musts have crisp acidity. The top sweet wines have great concentration and a striking fragrance reminiscent often of pear, quince and honey. Mauzac is late ripening and is generally hardy.

 Sauvignon Blanc

The leaf-form and shoots suggest that Sauvignon Blanc may belong to the family of Folloïdes, but its ‘goût sauvage’ places it with the Carmenets. A vigorous variety, it produces small bunches of small berries which can smell rather disconcertingly like ivy. Its wine, vinified dry, is distinctively aromatic, often herbaceous and has crisp acidity. It is susceptible to oidium and black rot.

 Sémillon

Sémillon was first described in the 16th century in the Gironde, from where it almost certainly originates. Its tight bunches of golden grapes with rather thin skins are susceptible to botrytis and are capable of achieving very high sugar levels. Although it makes good flavourful dry wines (often with a lemon and lime citrus character), its chief glory is as the principle ingredient of some of the very greatest sweet wines of the South-West and of the world. It is vigorous and mostly disease resistant (although it can be affected by grey rot as well as by botrytis).

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