Toad Hall Wines Ltd.,
Glebe House, High Street,
Melbourn, Cambridgeshire,
SG8 6DZ United Kingdom.

Tel: +44 (0)1763 260899
Fax: +44 (0)1763 261360

E-mail: info@toadhallwines.co.uk


         

The Gaillac Region

 

Introduction

The Gaillac vineyard lies within the Tarn department, which is one of the most attractive areas of France.

The Tarn boasts spectacular river gorges, densely forested hills, and the wide swathe of gently rolling country either side of the River Tarn, where the vineyards are situated.

Particular places of interest include the city of Albi, with its 12th century Cathedral of Saint-Cecile and the Toulouse Lautrec Museum; the many medieval bastide villages, the best known of which include Cordes-sur-Ciel and Castelnau-de-Montmiral, and the historical towns of Gaillac and Castres.

Vines have been cultivated in the area since Roman times in around 125BC, and by the end of the first century AD, the Gaillac vineyard was well established.

More extensive information about the Gaillac vineyard and the Tarn, can be obtained by clicking on the link pages.

 

The Grape Varieties

Rather than mimicking the wines of Bordeaux and other better known regions by planting ubiquitous grape varieties, the modern day Gaillac producers have wisely decided to maintain the unique character of their wine, by retaining the area's historical grape varieties as its principal components.

This policy, together with the effective use of modern wine-making techniques and strict quality controls, has resulted in the production of distinctive wines which are becoming increasingly popular.

The traditional varieties used in the production of the white wines are Mauzac and Len de l'El. Mauzac produces a characteristic aroma of apples and pears and when used to produce a 100% varietal wine such as that produced by Robert Plageoles, it can result in a beautifully soft and deliciously refreshing wine. 

 Len de l'El, which is only found in Gaillac, gets its name from a derivation of "loin de l'oeil", or "far from the eye". The grapes hang from unusually long stalks and are therefore further away from the eye of the picker than those of other varieties.  It produces subtle wines with a floral or citrus aroma.

The other white grape varieties used in Gaillac are Sauvignon, Muscadelle, Ondenc and Semillon.

The historical grape varieties used in the production of the red wines are Duras, Braucal (which is also known as Fer Servadou, or simply Fer in Gaillac, and as Mansois or Pinenc in other parts of South-West France) and Syrah.  The Duras grape is only found in Gaillac and produces peppery and spicy aromas and wine of deep colour.  The Braucol, or Fer Servadou, produces full-bodied wines with aromas of raspberry, blackcurrant and hints of pepper.  The Syrah produces fruity wines with a lightly spiced aroma and soft tannins, and is used in Gaillac to give structure and a toasted taste redolent of the wine of Southern France.

Gamay is used in the production of Gaillac Primeur, which regularly wins national awards for the best Primeur or Nouveau wine in France.

The AOC Wines

Appellation d'Origine Controlee status was granted to the white wines of Gaillac in 1938, amply justifying the decision to maintain the regional character of the wines by the retention of traditional grape varieties.  AOC status was extended to cover the distinctive red wines in 1970.

AOC Gaillac Rouge

The red wines must be made from set minimum percentages of Duras, Fer Servadou or Syrah.  Other varieties (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot) are used by growers to produce particular blends.  Gamay is also permitted but must be used with minimum percentages of Duras and Braucol for Gaillac Rouge, but can be the sole grape variety for Gaillac Primeur.  The red wines typically have a deep colour and a powerful nose, with tones of red fruit and hints of spice.

AOC Gaillac Blanc

The white wines must contain minimum percentages of Len de l'El or Sauvignon, or a blend of the two.  Other permitted grape varieties are Mauzac, Mauzac Rose, Muscadelle, Ondenc and Semillon.  Typically pale yellow with hints of green, Gaillac blanc has a delicate bouquet with notes of ripe apples, pear and sometimes honey.

AOC Gaillac Rose

The wine varieties used in the production of Gaillac rose are the same as for the red wines.  The roses are typically light, fresh, easy-drinking dry wines.

AOC Gaillac Perle

This is a slightly sparkling or "petillant" white wine which retains very fine bubbles or pearls from the second fermentation of the winemaking process, producing a delicious tingle on the tongue.  The sparkle maintains the fresh, clean style of the wine and enhances the natural aromas of the Len de l'El and Mauzac grapes.

AOC Gaillac Primeur

Under the AOC rules, the Primeur may be sold from the third Thursday of November following the harvest.  Made from the Gamay grape, it is a wonderfully fruity, easy to drink young wine.

AOC Gaillac Doux

These naturally sweet wines must contain a minimum amount of residual sugar per litre.  The permitted grape varieties are as for the dry white wines.  They exhibit a range of sweetness and typically have a flavour of ripe peach, although the different growers produce markedly personal styles of sweet wines.

AOC Mousseux Methode Gaillacacoise

These sparkling wines are made by the "Methode Gaillacoise", which is also used in Limoux where it is known as "Methode Rurale".  This technique involves a single fermentation, without any additional sugar being introduced.  The fermentation is stopped by a series of rackings and the wine is bottled before all of the sugar is converted into alcohol.  The residual sweetness, therefore, comes entirely from the grapes.  After several months, the residual natural sugar starts to re-ferment and this produces the sparkle or bubbles.  The wine can be brut or demi-sec.

This process requires great skill to achieve and is more difficult than the Methode Champenoise, which can involve the addition of extra sugar to produce the bubbles.  The Gaillac process produces a wine of great originality.

 

We can also recommend Paul Strangs excellent book "Wines of South-West France" which contains authoritative chapters on the various wine regions including Gaillac, and also including the fascinating history of the wines.  This book is available through Toad Hall Wines, email us for further information..