The Garonne and its tributaries
Winemaking on the northernmost tributary of the Garonne, the Lot, centers on Cahors. Grape-growing dates back to the Roman era here, and by the Middle Ages the wines of Cahors had already gained widespread fame. In particular, the area was known for its "black wine," which owed its name to the dark auxerrois (malbec) grape and also to the practice, adopted at one time by the French Navy, of boiling the wine, which improved its keeping capacity but also deepened its color. In 1956, a severe frost almost brought production to a halt, but Cahors has now recovered and has 10,467 acres (4,236 ha). The appellation is for reds only; it permits up to 30 percent of merlot to be added to soften the auxerrois. Although Cahors produces some light, easy-drinking wines, the best producers favor concentrated, powerful fare that needs time in oak and then bottle.
Farther up the Lot Valley lie the vestiges of the vineyards of the Aveyron department. In 1835, 84,000 acres (34,000 ha) were planted here; all that's left are the small VDQSs of Estaing (17.3 acres [7 ha]) and Entraygues (22.2 acres [9 ha]), and Marcillac (346 acres [140 ha]), which produces powerful, rustic reds, mainly from fer servadou, and was recently promoted to appellation status.
Located north of Toulouse between the Garonne and the Tarn, the Cotes du Frontonnais appellation has around 5,000 acres (2,000 ha) under production, much of which is planted on gravel terraces laid down by the Garonne. The local grape is negrette, a red variety, which is blended with cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon, gamay, malbec, mauzac and syrah. The wines range from soft and light to those that need two or three years' aging. The leading producers are Chateaux Baudare, Bellevue la Foret, Ferran, Montauriol, Le Roc and the Cave de Fronton.
Northwest of Frontonnais there are two small VDQS appellations, Lavilledieu and Cotes du Brulhois, which produce mainly red wines. To the east lies Gaillac (6,200 acres [2,500 ha]), another area where grapes were first planted in Roman times. Gaillac is a curiously amorphous appellation and lacks a clear identity. This may be because it produces an enormous array of styles from a wide range of grapes. The area's most interesting producer is the Plageoles estate, which concentrates on mauzac, ondenc and duras.
From "Encyclopedia of Wine"
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