History and Production of South West Wine
For deep cultural, gastronomic and vinous roots, there's no place like South West France. The Ancient Romans founded the first vineyards in the region's rolling hills freshened by the rivers flowing down the Pyrenees Mountains, bordering Spain, to join Bordeaux tributary rivers.
Those same rivers and the vineyards planted around them were influential in the development of the close relationship between French vignerons and English merchants. In the 13th-century, winemakers in Bordeaux set a series of laws hindering the Sudoest wine exporting efforts, and the South West lost commercial significance, but retained its unique wine styles.
Now, with around 50,000 hectares of vines, this 'hidden gem' in the southwestern corner of France still holds many secrets. Unique, autochthonous varietals, family-owned wineries and centuries-old winemaking traditions make this pastoral setting source for astounding wine at excellent prices.
Classifications and Appellations of the South West Region
Vineyards in the South West are not contiguous; they dot the landscape, meaning the vines enjoy a myriad of microclimates, each allowing unique wine styles made with their own special grape varieties. To further understand this diverse region, the area is divided into subregions: Dordogne/Bergerac, Garonne, Gascony, Béarn and the Basque Country.
Each sub-region is home to several protected appellations AOPs, formerly AOCs, every one of them framed by strict rules that ensure quality and the protection of traditional wine styles. Read on to discover what these wine regions offer.
South West Appellations
South West appellations vary in size, wine styles allowed, grape varieties and commercial significance. Although some are better-known than others, they're all worth seeking. Here are the most significant South West appellations.
This region along the Dordogne river is close to Bordeaux, and its wine style is similar, Reds made from Cabernet and Merlot, whites made from Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.
Côtes de Duras AOC
Lying around the town of Duras, it is one of the oldest in the South West. The maritime climate and the influence of neighboring Bordeaux mean the area also produces wine Bordeaux style.
Reds based on Merlot and whites made of Sauvignon and Semillon. This region is close to Saint Emilion, so expect similar bold styles.
An appellation reserved for sweet wines made along the Dordogne river. Some of the finest are made with botrytized grapes.
The region is a sweet wine specialist, with a style mirroring its most prestigious neighbor Sauternes.
Inky red wine made with Merlot, Malbec (Côt), and Cabernet Sauvignon.
An appellation reserved for sweet wines made around the town of Bergerac.
A small region for luscious white wine made around the Bergerac region.
A small region along the Garonne river specialized in Bordeaux blend red wine.
Bordeaux red blends dominate this lively town for great values from dominating cooperatives.
The original home of Malbec, although here it's called Côt. Expect savory, earthy Malbec with a firm structure.
Côtes du Marmandais AOC
The vineyards around the Marmande town neighboring Bordeaux offers excellent-value Cabernet-Merlot and white wine based on Sauvignon.
The key varietal here is Negrette, a red, intensely flavored, thick-skinned variety blended with Bordeaux grapes.
Winemakers can produce all styles, reds, whites, rosé and even sparkling wine in Gaillac, one of the most impressive appellations in the South West.
The iron-rich clays in Marcillac render fascinating red wine made with Fer Servadou. The high altitude rewards the win with balancing acidity.
The region of Gascony has some of the better-known wines in South West France, and amongst its finest renditions, you'll find wine labeled as Côtes de Gascogne.
On the hills around Gascony, Madiran is known for the tannic and concentrated Tannat, a rustic yet beautiful source of intense red wines.
Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh AOC
An appellation reserved for sweet wines made around Gascony.
Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh Sec AOC
The same area covering Pacherenc but dedicated to dry wine.
Little known, this region specializes in rare red and white blends made with Tannat, Cabernet Franc and Manseng.
Close to the Pyrenees, Béarn produces rich and intensely flavorful red wines with Tannat and the rare Raffiat de Moncade varietal.
Some of the most famous sweet and dry white wines in the South West are made with a wide variety of native grapes, including Petit Manseng and Gros Manseng.
Bordering Spain at the Pyrenees' foothills, Irouléguy has an ancient tradition for red wine made with Tannat and Cabernet, and white wine made with Manseng and Courbu.
Pierre Hourlier Wines has partnerships with some of the most authentic and established wine producers around the Sud Ouest. Here are only a few of them.
Grape Varieties of the South West
Varietals in the French South West depend on the climate. The region's closer to Bordeaux benefit from an Atlantic influence, and they grow Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.
The wine region is also known for its unique varietals of intense character. For reds, you'll find Fer Servadou, Tannat, Negrette, Len de l'El, and Courbu. White varietals include Petit Manseng, Gros Manseng, Courbu Blanc, and Ugni Blanc.
There are at least thirty common varietals in the varied wine region. You'll find different grapes when close to Bordeaux, compared to those near the Pyrenees mountain ranges.
Our South West Wine Producers
Pierre Hourlier Wines has partnerships with some of the most authentic and established wine producers around the Sud Ouest; Here are a few of them.
This extraordinary producer in Gascony gained recognition producing Armagnac, but its white and red wines are of excellent quality. Founded in 1978, the 90-hectare Domaine and family-owned business makes the most of the colder vineyards in the region’s hills.
Producing extraordinary wine in the Marcillac appellation since 1975, Domaine Laurens makes the most of the local grapes with sustainable practices in the vineyard and winery. Their wines are authentic and worthy ambassadors for the region's style.
The small town of Boissel, near Gaillac, is home to this extraordinary small producer run by the Barreau family. Their wine of all styles consistently gains recognition as some of the finest in the Sud Ouest.
Buy South West Wine from Pierre Hourlier Wines
Here are a few recommendations from our extensive range of different appellations and wine styles. Find a bottle that sings to you or browse our complete collection of Sud Ouest wine.
Georges Vigouroux Cahors Historialis Malbec Red
Raspberries and blackberries come together to infuse a layer of coating tannins that extend into a smooth finish. Ideal with grilled meat.
Domaine Horgelus Cotes De Gascogne Phi-Ling
This exciting blend of 60% Cabernet-Sauvignon, 40% Tannat offers a generous nose of blackcurrants and licorice, with herbal hints over a bold, structured palate built to age. Delightful with meaty stews.
Domaine Laurens Marcillac Cuvee Pierres Rouges
Made 100% with the rare Fer varietal, this exciting red wine rewards your senses with spicy blackcurrants and a layered palate of black fruit and oak spices permeated with rustic but polished tannins.
Domaine Barreau Gaillac Augustin
An exotic combination of varietals, Mauzac, Sauvignon, Ondenc, makes this creamy white wine matured on its lees a pleasant reminder of green apples, pears and lemon zest over a crisp and sensual palate. Extraordinary with seafood.
Domaine Laurens Sauvignon
The Sud Ouest does wonders with the well-known Sauvignon Blanc, and this bottle of Laurens is proof of it. Tropical fruit, including passion fruit, meets citrus scents for a summery white wine that might very well be the finest apéritif you'll find.
Domaine Horgelus Cotes De Gascogne Sauvignon Gros Manseng
A fabulous combination of 60% Sauvignon, 40% Gros Manseng shows tropical fruit and citrus aromas over a mineral palate held together by a vibrant acidic backbone. The aromatic Manseng benefits from Sauvignon's acidity for a balanced white wine full of character.
What is South West Wine?
South West France or the Sudoest is the hilly area in France's southwestern corner, bordering Spain and the Atlantic Ocean. There are dozens of distinct grape varieties planted here, as every town specializes in a unique set of wine styles.
What are the most popular wines in South West France?
The most popular wines are the sweet specialties made in Montravel, Monbazillac, Pacherenc and others. Structured red wine from Gaillac, Cahors and Madiran are famous too.
Which year provided the best South West wine?
The Sudoest specializes in wine to enjoy when young, and few bottles are better enjoyed between 3-5 years. Having said that, being close to Bordeaux, the finest vintages are 2018, 2009, 2015, 2016, 2019, and 2010.
How to Pair South West Wine with Food?
Since wine from the Sudoest is incredibly varied, from sparkling wine and refreshing whites to structured reds and sweet specialties, there's a wide variety of food to pair with it. The wine, though, has a charming, rustic quality, so it's best when served with Provençal dishes, stews, casseroles and other French comfort food.