From its range of wine styles to indigenous varieties, here is what every wine lover should know about Southwest France’s Gaillac region.
It can be both intimidating and rewarding to discover an unfamiliar wine region, but the key is to know the essentials first. That is particularly true when it comes to a region with as much depth and history as Gaillac, a characterful appellation in the heart of Southwest France.
Complex and captivating, Gaillac has many exceptional grapes and styles for wine lovers to explore, influenced by millennia of winemaking history. While there’s a wealth of wine to discover, these 10 facts serve as a comprehensive introduction to the region of Gaillac – though oenophiles will almost certainly want to continue exploring after getting a taste of this robust region.
- Gaillac is home to Southwest France’s oldest vineyards. The region’s 7000 acres of vines are located on both sides of the Tarn River, east of Toulouse.
- The region has both maritime and Mediterranean climatic influences. The warmth of the Mediterranean and the humidity of the Atlantic converge in Gaillac. Combined with the warm, dry Autan wind coming from Central Africa, the region is a perfect spot for vineyards.
- Gaillac has been making wine for 2,000 years. It was known as one of the two Grand Crus of ancient Rome’s Gaul, and a town just downriver from Gaillac was dedicated to amphorae for winemaking.
- The Gaillac AOC for dry white wines was created in 1938. This was just three years after the INAO, the organization that regulates appellations, was founded. Today, 100 independent producers and two cooperative wine cellars make Gaillac wines.
- Gaillac includes a full range of wine styles. While the appellation was once only for dry white wines, it now includes sweet, and sparkling whites, as well as rosés and reds.
- Many soils add to the diversity of Gaillac’s wines. Clay, limestone, sand, silex, and alluvial soils are found in different pockets throughout the region’s vineyards, providing a myriad of environments for different vines to thrive.
- Most of Gaillac’s wines are red. Over half of the wine produced in Gaillac is red, despite the fact that red wines weren’t allowed to be produced as AOC Gaillac until 1970.
- Indigenous grapes are important in Gaillac. The ancient Loin de L’Oeil can make dry or sweet wines with fragrant fruit; Duras creates deeply colored reds with fine tannins and spicy tones; and Prunelart, a parent of Malbec, is rich and structured, with dark fruit.
- A Gaillac wine may be a blend of several grapes or made from single variety. Principal varieties, like Loin de L’Oeil and Mauzac for dry white wines, or Duras, Braucol, and Syrah for reds and rosés, must comprise the majority of any blend, and winemakers are increasingly focusing on these grapes of heritage with new regulations. Other white grapes include Ondenc, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle, and other reds include Prunelart, Gamay, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon.
- Most Gaillac sparkling wines are made in the méthode ancestrale. This ancient method of sparkling winemaking, in which fermentation is completed in the wine bottle, predates the traditional method and remains the primary sparkling winemaking method in Gaillac today. The wines made in the méthode ancestrale are produced exclusively with Mauzac, a local white grape.
Source: Gaillac Wines