Well, not really.
The southwest of France has been making wines since Roman times, long before Bordeaux was cultivated. But it was only this year that South West France Wines was created, a new designation that combines the region’s 18 appellations, which stretch from the foothills of the Pyrenees to the Aveyron area. You may have heard of Cahors, but names like Madiran, Gaillac, and Marcillac are likely new to you. These towns produce wines that are extremely good value — most under $25 per bottle and many for under $15 — made from a slew of grape varietals you’ve probably also never heard of. At a recent tasting of these wines with Master Sommelier Fred Dexheimer (formerly of the BLT group), several stood out:
Domaine de San de Guilhem 2008 ($11)
Made of Colombard, Gros Manseng, and Ugni Blanc (a grape used in Armagnac), it’s a refreshing easy drinker that makes for an elegant alternative to super-citrusy Pinot Grigio.
Le Duras, Robert & Bernard Plageoles 2005 ($21)
This all-Duras wine, reminiscent of a Rhone offering, is made with naturally-fermented grapes grown organically at an altitude of 2,024 feet, so it boasts a nice mineral quality.
Domaine Laurens 2007 ($16)
This 100 percent Fer Servadou has a light weight and deep color as purple as Syrah, with great acidity and a satisfying barnyard funk on it.
With French wine sales in the can, it’s a great time to start thinking out of the Bordeaux box.