The IGP Wines Of Gascony, France

  • By Somm360
  • 04 Jul 2021
  • 5 MIN
  • Level 101
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Auch - historical capital of Gascony, France - Credit : Shutterstock

With a history of viticulture going back to Gallo-Roman times, throughout the Roman occupation in the 1st century AD, wine from this region was exported all over their empire; indeed fragments of earthenware wine vessels from what is now known as Gascony have been found as far away as Scotland.

Being ruled by the English for over 300 years, Gascony was part of Aquitaine throughout the middle ages. The English were known for their love of the wines of both Bordeaux and Gascony, and it is said that at one point in time the wines of Gascony were often favoured over those of the now mighty Bordeaux. These wines were ferried via boat along the Garonde, Dordogne, and Tarn rivers, through the port of Bordeaux to be shipped all over the globe, until, that is, the point when the Bordelais began to view their neighbours as competition, and protectionist measures, such as taxation, were put in place, fettering the export success of Gascony wines. This continued up until the onset of the French Revolution, by which time the region’s wines had lost much of their prestige, and were viewed by the export market as simple, regional wines.

Bordered to the east by the Pyrenees (leading to greater larger diurnal shifts), and to the west, behind Les Landes, by the Atlantic Ocean (moderating any untoward temperature extremes), Gascony is located in an admirable triumvirate of terroir for viticulture.

The IGP Côtes du Gascogne covers the same area as that of the Armagnac AOP, and consists of three distinct terroirs:

The Bas Armagnac terroir is the largest and sits to the west of the region, with silica-based sedimentary clay/sand soils known as “boulbènes”. Wines from here are often fruit-forward with a distinctive florality.

The Ténrèze terroir sits in the centre of the IGP and it is here that one will find limestone soils referred to as “peyrusquets”. One will find pockets of this limestone soil with substantial clay deposits; these are known as “terreforts”.

The Haut-Armagnac terroir is located in the south and east of the IGP and is known as “white Armagnac” due to the proliferation of limestone here. The vineyards are dotted like islands located around the area’s chalky clay/limestone hills, and are often the source of the most elegant and delicate wines of the region.

Red, rosé, and white styles are produced throughout Gascony from a plethora of grapes, both international and more local. White grapes of note would include (but are by no means limited to) Sauvignon Blanc, Colombard, Ugni Blanc, Gros Manseng, and Chardonnay. Although less prevalent, red grapes of note would include (but are not limited to) Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Tannat.

White wines dominate, by far, with approximately 85% of the production, but the reds of the region are gaining an admirable reputation for both quality and value.

Although the wines of Gascony are still seen by many as perhaps less prestigious than that of their Bordelais neighbours to the northwest, over the decades the region has gone through a wine renaissance, and has done an admirable job of slowly regaining its very well deserved reputation.

Wines To Seek Out: Plaimont Manseng Noir, Lionel Osmin & Cie “Villa Grand Cap” Gros Manseng, Domaine de Pellehaut “L’Eté Gascon” (Chardonnay/Gros Manseng), Domaine de Pellehaut “Harmonie” (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Tannat)

Auch - historical capital of Gascony, France - Credit : Shutterstock