Nicolas Carmarans in his vineyard. Photo by Fifi.

Rustic and Rugged – The Wines of Southwest France

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Between Bordeaux in the north and the Pyrenees Mountains to the south lies the Sud-Ouest. This is one of France’s lesser-known winemaking regions, overshadowed by the prominence of Bordeaux, and isolated by its rural setting (this is the least densely populated region of France with only ten residents per square mile!). Historically it was effectively supressed as a wine producing region by the Bordelais as well. Being inland, the warmer and generally more favorable climate leads to earlier harvesting than in Bordeaux and results in the wines being made available sooner than wines from the north of France. Wine merchants in Bordeaux saw this as a threat and during the 13th and 14th centuries a set of codes called the police des vins were enacted. These codes stated that the wines of the “High Country” could not be up for sale until the majority of Bordelais wines sold. Since this region was overlooked for so long, and remains without a typical regional style of winemaking, young winemakers there are pushing the envelope and producing some of the most exciting and expressive wines in France.

The terrain in the Sud-Ouest is rugged and beautiful with vineyards planted alongside lush forests, where farmers grow grape varietals unique to the region that truly offer a sense of place. Many of these small farmers not only make wine but raise livestock and other vegetables as well – true subsistance living! We are happy to showcase some of these winemakers today, including Fabien Jouves at Mas del Périé in Cahors who makes pure and powerful wines out of Malbec, Patrice Lescarret and Virgnie Maignien at Causse Marines in Gaillac, who do beautiful work in the vineyard and an equally stellar job in the cellar, and Nicolas Carmarans who is high up in the hills of Aveyron and crafts stunning natural wines. Dive in and explore these beautiful wines of terroir! Tim Gagnon

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Carmarans, Nicolas 2013 Vin de Pays de l'Aveyron Maximus

Nicolas Carmarans retired from being owner of the well-known wine bar, Café de la Nouvelle Mairie, in Paris and settled in Campouriez – a small commune in the Aveyron region of France. This is an austere yet beautiful region with mountains, medieval castles, and very few people. Nicolas farms organically and practices minimal intervention in the cellar with native yeast fermentations, no temperature control, no sulfur, and no filtration. Maximus is an invigorating wine made from Fer Servadou, a native variety, and undergoes carbonic maceration, preserving the fresh fruit characteristics of the grape. It is deep and bloody on the nose with cranberry, blood orange, iron, tomato leaf, pink peppercorn, and smoke. Fresh, zippy, and lighter in body with high-toned red berry fruits and notes of turned earth and spice on the palate, this would make a wonderful companion to a wide range of foods and is great on its own. Tim Gagnon

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • no discount
  • $18.99

  • Organic
  • No Sulfur

Causse Marines 2010 Vin de France Rasdu

Rasdu is one of the many cuvées made at Virginie Maignien and Patrice Lescarret’s 12-hectare biodynamic (converted in 2009) estate in Gaillac. It is made of 100% Duras, an indigenous varietal to the South West of France, with all vineyard work done by hand.  Minimal intervention is executed in the cellar, with pigeage as opposed to pressing and long, cool macerations that result in fresh, structured wines. It opens up with intense and brooding aromas of blackberry jam, raw beef, pine resin, blood orange and white pepper. Although it is quite full-bodied, the wine is so fresh and food-friendly that it commands a place at your dinner table alongside slow-roasted lamb or charcuterie. Tim Gagnon

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $24.99

  • Biodynamic
  • No Sulfur

Clos Siguier 2012 Cahors

This is a classic Cahors blend of Malbec and a bit of Tannat from chalky soils rich in seashells and other fossils. Deep and plummy with nice weight on the palate and delicate herbal and savory notes on the back end, it maintains its balance with a juicy acidity and fantastic structure with a pepper-tinged finish. This would be right at home next to grilled hangar steak or cassoulet! Tim Gagnon

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $13.99

Mas del Périé 2013 Cahors Les Escures

The Mas del Périé estate has been in the Jouves family for four generations.  Fabien, the most recent in the lineage of winemakers in his family, took the reins in 2006 and has since obtained both organic and biodynamic certifications for his meticulous work in the vineyards. Les Escures is made of 100% Auxerrois (Malbec) from 25-year-old vines planted on the chalky plateau known as Quercy Blanc, the highest and coolest location in the Cahors appellation. The wine exhibits pure, ripe black cherry and black currant notes mingling with deeper smoky, meaty, and herbal notes redolent of mint and thyme. It is this play between bold flavors and a juicy freshness that continues onto the palate and makes it very versatile. Try this at your summer BBQ! Tim Gagnon

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $23.99

  • Biodynamic
  • No Sulfur

Colombière 2010 Fronton Bellouguet

Opulent, spicy, unassuming warmth that speaks of late summer days, harvest, and oozing, juicy grapes being crushed underfoot. Generous doses of blueberries and violets accompanied by lively, bright acidity. An unashamedly fruit-driven wine that is nonetheless pure and bracing. 50% Négrette, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Cabernet Franc. JK

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • no discount
  • $12.99

  • Organic

Mouthes Le Bihan 2012 Côtes de Duras Vieillefont Blanc

This estate is located in the Côtes de Duras, directly southwest of the city of Bordeaux. It covers 40 hectares that were purchased from retiring vignerons in 1999 and the vines are famed organically. The wines are made naturally, with the only intervention being a small addition of sulfur at bottling. This cuvee is made of old-vine Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle and is riper in 2012 compared to past vintages.  It is very pretty and floral on the nose with hibiscus, orange blossom, honeysuckle and tropical notes of passion fruit and mango. On the palate it is round and fruit-forward but maintains a saline quality and is a bit spicy. An elegant acidity carries though onto the finish making this a wonderfully balanced wine. Tim Gagnon

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • no discount
  • $13.99

  • Organic

Elian da Ros 2011 Côtes du Marmandais Coucou Blanc

Tasted year in and year out at the Dive Bouteille, Elian Da Ros was without an importer for years and has finally found one. The Cotes du Marmandais is in the southwest of France and this wine is based on white Bordeaux varieties: Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Gris, and Semillon. Succulent, very aromatic, and almost Chenin-y on the nose, the wine is ripe and rich but well structured, with delicious depth and length. The grapes are grown on Argile and limestone and the wine is fermented in tank and then aged in cement and foudre. The quantities are miniscule; this is a must-try.

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $32.99

  • Organic
  • Biodynamic
  • Low Sulfur

Lapuyade 2010 Jurançon Cuvée Marie-Louise

This is a superb Jurançon Moelleux, harvested in late December, about 85 grams/liter of residual sugar. Wonderfully complex aromas of apricot, candied citrus, flowers and exotic fruit with a hint of vanillin. Lemon confit, apricot, brown spice and chalky acids on the palate. A young wine that is gorgeous now but perhaps best in five to ten years. with more acidity than Sauternes, this is a great match for foie gras, lemon tarts and strong cheeses.

  • Out of Stock
  • white sweet
  • 0 in stock
  • $39.99

  • Organic
  • Biodynamic

Lapuyade 2010 Jurançon Petit Manseng

Clos Marie-Louise/Château Lapuyade is a beautiful biodynamic estate deep in the hills of Jurançon, south of Pau. Their wines are harvested by hand, fermented with wild yeasts and aged in old barrels purchased from Yquem and Haut-Brion. Their 2010 Petit Manseng is a gorgeous wine and a sensational value. Deep floral honeyed apricot, citrus confit and caramel aromas with sweet fruit on the palate—lemon oil, exotic fruit and brown spice lifted by firm acidity. Terrific length. With a few days open, more exotic fruit, pineapple and lychee emerge and the wine softens into something wonderful. An outstanding Jurançon moelleux that will accompany fois gras, patés, cheeses, fruit desserts and is fabulous on its own. Highly recommended.

  • Out of Stock
  • white medium-sweet
  • 0 in stock
  • $21.99

  • Organic
  • Biodynamic