We are in the most rural department of France and for good reason. It is a fertile and rich land which has nourished men and animals since the dawn of time. Its generosity is due to a favorable geographical location: sunny valleys, crossed by many rivers and a mild climate. Nicknamed "Little Tuscany", the region will charm the bon vivant. The Gers is recognized for its gastronomy. But its wine-growing region is not to be outdone.
If its “Côtes de Gascogne” is its main asset, there is also a small production of Saint-Mont, Madiran and Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh. Its local wines have been appreciated, well beyond our borders, since the Middle Ages.
The fruits of the vine provide another flagship product in Gers: Armagnac. While this is a very important production for the region, the manufacture of this alcohol represents much more than economic wealth. This brandy is the result of ancestral know-how, which has been passed down from generation to generation. Its distillation gives the opportunity to a traditional festival which reveals the friendliness and joviality of the inhabitants of the country. You will see… We take you on a very warm and lively tour of the Gers.
Representing more than 90% of wine production in the Gers, “Côtes de Gascogne” is classified as “Protected Geographical Indication”. However, it is a wine that appeals to foreigners and it is one of the most exported white wines from France.
This vineyard extends over a large territory and covers three departments, in the Pyrenean foothills. For the Gers, it is located at the gates of Gascony. It is made from Jurançon and Sauvignon grape varieties. They are therefore essentially dry white wines, although there are some mellow whites. There are very few rosés and reds, which are made from Merlot, Cabernet and Tannat grapes.
A little anecdote: the harvest takes place in the cool of the night and its perfume suffers. Its very fruity and floral aromas make it a very fresh wine, which alleviates the rich and gourmet dishes of the South-West and enhances fish and seafood.
More confidential in the Gers, Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh and Madiran share the same wine terroir. Adjacent to Béarn, on the “natural balcony of the Pyrenees”, the vineyard is located in the Vic-Bilh. The sunny slopes of Gascony give these wines very delicious flavors.
If they represent only 10% each of the production of the department, the quantity does not impact the quality. Both bearing the "Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée", they enjoy a great reputation. Even if these two wines have a lot in common, they are nevertheless very different.
Madiran is a red, tannic and full-bodied wine. Its taste is very focused on red fruits. It perfectly complements red meats, duck and local Gers dishes. Pacherenc is a white wine, which has similarities with Jurançon. It is traditionally a sweet wine, thanks to its late harvest. These fruity, spicy and sweet notes go wonderfully with cheese and desserts. It will also highlight sweet and savory dishes. The dry white wines are tangy and fresh. They are very pleasant as an aperitif.
The sunny slopes of Gascony at the Château du Pouey - Source © Château du Pouey
Between the balcony of the Pyrenees and the valleys of Armagnac, the establishment of this vineyard dates from the Middle Ages. Originally, only dry white wines were produced. Today, it is mainly red that we find in the Gers. It also exists in rosé.
Saint-Mont is now less known to the general public than the wines mentioned above, but it was widely distributed on the roads of Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle and appreciated by pilgrims in medieval times. However, it is very present on local tables and also benefits from the AOC.
Exceptionally, the vineyards of the Ninan hill are the oldest in France and have been classified, as such, “Historic Monuments”. Dated 1830, they were spared by phylloxera in 1870. But its age is not the only notable characteristic of this wine. Its manual harvests, the meticulous care that must be taken in its culture and aging make Saint-Mont a worthy representative of the winegrowing tradition and give it all its character.
It is in Armagnac, between vines and valleys, that this fabulous nectar which bears the name of its territory is made. The Gers holds a good place in its culture, since it is at the origin of 80% of its production. Ten grape varieties are authorized by the appellation and offer a great diversity of Armagnac.
A patented pure copper still is used. Its particular design allows "continuous jet distillation". The vinified grape juice is heated, which causes its natural rise in a column. Then it cools down in a coil and various trays, to go back down into the boiler. The cycle begins again and with each ascent, the wine is purified by vaporizing. The process has been well mastered since the Middle Ages by the distillers of Gascony wines. At the end of the distillation, the brandy is colorless. This very fruity alcohol, with floral notes, can be consumed as is. It is called the Blanche d'Armagnac.
At this stage, we move on to maturation in oak barrels. It is during this stage that the Armagnac takes its woody color, loses part of its alcohol and gains in complexity. It is the duration of aging that classifies Armagnac: VO and VSOP for Armagnacs aged four years, XO for those aged six or more and out of age from ten years old. Then comes the assembly, which really reveals the talent, the know-how and the personality of the cellar master. If it is made from eaux-de-vie from the same year, it is vintage.
By mixing a young Armagnac and grape must, we obtain “Floc de Gascogne”. It is a very floral aperitif, as its name suggests. In Occitan, a floc is a bouquet of flowers! It can also be eaten for dessert, with fruit. Known since the 16th century and protected by the AOC and AOP, the recipe can be made with white grapes or red. Le Floc has its official website, to consult for other anecdotes, recipes... (fr)
Here is our advice to appreciate Armagnac in all its facets: Take advantage of the Fête de la Flamme, which takes place between the end of October and the end of November. It honors the famous flame that is lit to start the distillation. On this occasion, many events take place throughout the Armagnac production region and animate the wine estates.
Many winegrowers practice wine tourism. They show you around their estate or offer activities to help you discover their know-how, their passion and their land. Here is our selection:
Domaine d'Embidoure and its cuvée des filles...
One last good address: In Nogaro, the “Cave Vins Chez Moi” will provide you with good advice.
Here is our tour of the vineyards finished. This land is full of delicacies to be tasted and consumed, in moderation of course. We cannot be exhaustive and you will find many other sites to visit.
Did this little tour make you want to know more? To get to know this beautiful country better, consult our page.
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