Not located near Bordeaux like many of the other Southwest France appellations are, Gaillac is instead located near another regional French hub, Toulouse. Lying slightly to the northeast of the famous city, Gaillac makes all three colors of wines. The reds and the sweet whites are the most ageable.
At 10,000 acres (sourced from nearly 75 villages across Southwest France), the Gaillac appellation is quite large, and production totals to about a million cases of wine each year.
This historical appellation is rumored to be the oldest wine region of France (although back in those days, what we now know as France was called Gaul). However, historians say that parts of the Languedoc may have been producing wine even earlier. By the Middle Ages, Gaillac was a very well-known region and its wines were popular among royalty and clergy. Gaillac became an AOC in 1970.
Climate and Viticulture
Limestone and gravel are the primary soils in the vineyards of the Gaillac appellation. Temperatures are mildly warmer and more Mediterranean than those of Bordeaux, but the differences are barely significant.
Many diverse grapes are used in the red wines: Bordeaux icons Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, Rhône mainstay Syrah, and ancient local grapes Duras and Fer. Gaillac Primeur, a knockoff of Beaujolais Nouveau, is made from Gamay. Whites use Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadelle, Mauzac, and local grapes Ondenc and Len d'El. As far as flavors go, whites are unpredictable, varying from rich and sweet to dry and acidic. Red wines are more homogeneous, typically having serious, robust flavors and good aging potenetial.
Although this appellation is not totally reliable due to its large size, there are many good producers here. Six especially good domaines are listed below.
- Château Clément-Termes: This producer makes many wines that are commonly imported into the United States, and they have good average quality. The basic non-cuvée wines of all three colors are good, while the Memoire cuvées and top cuvée L'Esprit are said to have excellent aging potential.
- Domaine de Labarthe: Labarthe makes a wide variety of well-pedigreed wines, ranging from an ultra-sweet Les Grains d'Or white example to a good rosé and four reds. The La Prunelart is the most upscale cuvée, though it is still a good value.
- Château Lastours: Strong but balanced, Lastours' basic red wine is quite good. The Perlé white cuvée is full of exotic floral flavors and is possibly the best white wine of Gaillac.
- Rober Plageoles: This producer makes a wide variety of white wines, perhaps using the old, obscure white grape Ondenc more than any other producer in France. As for red wines, the Duras and Syrah varietal wines are interesting enough, but the Le Braucol is the best by far.
- Domaine de la Ramaye: Ramaye's Les Cavailles, made from Mauzac, is one of the better white wines of Gaillac and can age very well despite having no sweetness. The sweet Mauzac is called Vin d'Oubli and can also age for up to 10 years. Reds are less remarkable, with the Le Grande Tertre the best of them; this cuvée is powerfully concentrated, tannic, rather warm, and ageable for several years.
- Domaine des Terrisses: One of the everyman producers of Gaillac that consistently outputs wines of high quality. Terrisses' basic red, rosé, and white wines are commonly priced in the $10-$15 range and are excellent values.
Although Gaillac is a large appellation, subregions have yet to be established here.