Thursday, 2 September 2010

Weird Grapes!

I made way back towards Bordeaux from my Midi tour and after a tip off from Tony, I took a right turn at Toulouse towards Albi to stop off in the forgotten wine region of Gaillac.

Tony knows the area well and had been here in the early days. His talk of the weird and unheard grape varieties of this extra terrestrial wine appellation made me eager to see them for myself. After about 30 minutes I turned off into Gaillac and headed for the first tip to the cave co-operative.

It looked fairly standard as I entered the shop and service was normal (i.e. non existing!). There were lots of bottles, all with different labels and styles; as far as I could make out there was ‘Perle’ a slightly sparkling dry white, ‘Doux’ a sweet wine, dry whites, vin jaune style, rosé, fruity reds, serious looking big reds, two types of sparkling a ‘methode deuxièime fermentation AOC’ and a ‘methode Gaillaçoise AOC’ ... and even a vodka – what don’t they do?!

Then on closer inspection I started to see the grape varieties listed that I have only recently heard about, such as the Loin de l’œil or Len de l’El, Mauzac, Mauzac Rosé, d’Ondenc, Duras, the big tannic Braucol (locally known as Fer Servadou) and I am sure there are more!

Finally I saw life behind the glass separation and a very jolly, passionate and friendly man called Alain Gayrel came to explain a few things about this crazy area. I soon learnt that the co-operative was no more and that he had purchased the whole lot, winery and 600ha.

Alain is a 5th generation winemaker from the region and had a family domaine up in the limestone hills of Gaillac. Before I could say ‘Fer Servadou’ I was in his 4x4 and whisked away to try some of the varieties pure straight from barrel!

Once in the air conditioned barrel room the information was coming thick from both himself and his son on the winemaking and terroir of the appellation. I was pointing left, right and centre at barrels with weird grape names so much I never even took a photo! I finally managed to get Alain to take me back to my car as I was now 4 hours late for tonight’s welcome barbeque for the two flying winemakers arriving to help for the harvest.

Driving back up to Bordeaux I couldn’t believe that for one of the oldest wine regions of France – producing wine long before Bordeaux – Gaillac brings an extraordinary breath of fresh air. Now to get some for the Chai!


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