S & SW France

Appellations

Armagnac is a unique style of French brandy created in the region of the same name. It is a grape based spirit with a 700 year old history, an artisanal product, crafted in small quantities, distilled in pure copper stills, and aged in oak barrels from the local Gascogny forests.
This region will be very familiar to European holidaymakers, but its wines are all to often overlooked (thanks in no small part to it's proximity to Bordeaux). But persevere with Bergerac and you’ll find some of the best value wines in France.
Cahors is an appellation in South Western France famed for its “black wines” made from the Malbec grape. Locals will tell you that in years gone by these powerful wines were more in demand than their lighter counterparts from Bordeaux. Nowadays they represent a value alternative to Claret, particularly if you’re looking for something to pair with hearty dishes like Cassoulet and Confit de Canard. The wines are sometimes blended with a little merlot or Malbec, to bring a little more approachability, and are increasingly planted on the limestone slopes of the valley rather than the heavier clay and gravel valley floor. A propensity for rusticity means that a gentle hand with extraction is one of the key attributes of the new wave of Cahors, and led by the likes of Jean-Luc Baldes, a new breed of producers are emerging, coaxing a previously unforeseen elegance and drinkability from this regions’ naturally powerful wines.
The Côte de Beaune area is the southern part of the Côte d'Or, the limestone ridge that is home to the great names of Burgundy wine.
Coteaux du Languedoc is a very large French wine producing area - from Narbonne in the west to the edge of Camargue in the east and up to the Cévennes mountains. The area is so large that Coteaux du Languedoc is subdivided into more than half-a-dozen sub-regions.
Côtes de Provence AOC is the largest appellation of the Provence wine region in south-eastern France. It covers roughly 20,000 hectares of vineyards, which produce the vast majority of Provence's rosé wine. Although it also covers red and white wine, about 80 percent of Côtes de Provence's output is rosé. This is made predominantly from Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cinsaut grape varieties plus the quintessentially Provencal red grape Tibouren.
An appellation within Roussillon in which at least three varietals must be included in any bottle, and of which at least 20% must be either Syrah and/or Mourvedre.
The appellation within Roussillon which in theory designates the regions finest wines and can only be used for reds.
Côtes du Rhône is a huge appellation spanning over 40,000 ha of the Rhône valley, ranging from pockets of vineyard skirting the Northern Rhône appellations to the flat, arid plateaux of the Southern Rhône. Most of the production comes from the South from the Grenache grape, however the other Châteauneuf varieties are permitted too. This vast swathe of vine-growing land is as big as AC Bordeaux and makes huge quantities of low-priced wine consumed in brasseries up and down France. Alot of the lower priced wines are made in a similar method to Beaujolais, carbonic or semi-carbonic maceration, which gives light wines of soft tannins and aromatic, but often confected fruit. The quality of these inexpensive wines is usually bland at best, however there are a number of great wine estates from the more solubrious parts of the Rhône, particularly Châteauneuf-du-Pape, who make very good examples at a fraction of the price of their top wines. The vast majority of the production is Red, followed by rosé, very little white wine is produced. All but the wines from the greatest wine-producers are for drinking within 1-3 years after the vintage.
The wine-growing region of the Côtes de Thongue encompasses 23 villages situated in the Faugères-Pézenas-Béziers triangle, occupying the Thongue river basin in the Hérault deparment of the Languedoc. Over time, the course of the river made the open landscape characteristic of the Côtes de Thongue.
A hugely productive region in the south east of France comprising the three central southern departments of Aude, Herault and Gard. All styles of wine are produced and owing to a more open minded approach to appellation regulation, much innovative wine making is practiced nowadays.
Muscadet is a region which extends south-east of Nantes towards the mouth of the Loire river. The most important region within is undoubtedly Muscadet-Sevre et Maine, home to the Sur Lie wines that rest on their lees giving greater character to the dominant grape variety Melon de Bourgogne. Unsprisingly given their proximity to the sea these wines can prove to be excellent partners to shellfish and simple fish dishes.
The vineyards of New Zealand lie in between the 35º and 45º latitudes, the European equivalent of between Bordeaux and Southern Spain.

However the cold, strong prevailing westerly winds from the Pacific make for a cooler overall climate than the figures suggest. Growing vines on the margins can have some spectacular results, notably Rieslings in the Mosel and Chardonnay in Chablis. Nevertheless, it was not until the 1980s that large-scale plantings of quality varieties got underway. The whole nation's cultural attitudes changed - Müller-Thurgau was replaced by Sauvignon and was planted on the dry gravely riverbeds of Martinborough and Marlborough.

Throughout the 1990s, Pinot Noir vineyards sprouted in all parts of both the North and South islands, from Auckland to Central Otago. At Justerini & Brooks we have followed developments carefully. We have worked with New Zealand's most respected and sought-after wineries for more than a dozen years. The highly successful Palliser Estate, is now considered the benchmark for Pinot Noir at both Pencarrow and Palliser levels, it is also producing fabulous Sauvignon that has an extra ripeness and texture in comparison to the grassier examples found in Marlborough. The Estate's long-term viticulturist and winemaker, Allan Johnson, has a great advantage in having this dual role, as he has complete control of the winemaking process from start to finish. He spends twice as much money on viticulture than most of his neighbours and the results speak for themselves.

One of our more recent finds is the Foxes Island wines made by highly respected winemaker John Belsham. A domaine approaching 20 years old with a man of John’s experience at the helm was always likely to be of interest and we were bowled over when we tasted his wines. There is a finesse and lightness of touch to the range that makes them gloriously refreshing to drink and definitely echoes John’s experience making wine in France.
Pomerol’s Merlot-dominated wines at their best are rich, seductive and silky. For hundreds of years Pomerol was considered as nothing but a satellite district of neighbouring St-Émilion to the east, and it was not really until not until the 1950s that Pomerol started its meteoric rise led by Château Petrus. By far the most dominant merchants in the region are Jean-Pierre Moueix who own or distribute the majority of the finest properties in Pomerol, the most renowned being Petrus.

Pomerol's finest wines originate from the highest parts of the plateau, which is predominantly gravel and clay, with an iron rich subsoil called crasse de fer.
Apparently as important in fashioning wines that are plump, voluptuous, and richly Merlot dominates plantings dramatically, though the notable exception is Vieux Château Certan, nearly half of their estate is devoted Cabernet Franc. Pomerol has no no official classification, but its small scale wines fetch some of the greatest prices for wine in the world. The regions greatest names are Pétrus, Lafleur, Certan de May, Hosanna, La Fleur de Gay, L'Église-Clinet, Le Pin, La Conseillante, Trotanoy, , L'Évangile, Latour-à-Pomerol, and Vieux-Ch-Certan
Pouilly-Fume can only be made from Sauvignon Blanc grown in the region surrounding the town of Pouilly-sur-Loire, and alonside Sancerre, represents the potential for the finest and most complext of all of France's Sauvignon Blancs. The wines are often characterised by a flinty characteristic attributed to the high flint (Silex) content in the local limestone soils.
Even after discounting the big names - Bordeaux, Burgundy etc - France is still full of excellent quality winemakers who are doing great things now and are simultaneously showing bags of potential. Areas like Côtes de Roussillon and the Languedoc have been producing highly-drinkable, thoroughly enjoyable wines for a very long time.
Home to Clos d'Yvigne, Saussignac lies within the Bergerac region of south-west France and is famed for it's sweet wines produced from Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle. At its best it can produce wines that offer a real alternative to Sauternes.
St-Émilion is a very different region to those of the Médoc, dominated by small-holding farmers and estates rather than grand Châteaux. Merlot is widely planted as is Cabernet Franc in some parts. The wines are enormously variable in style depending on the terroir, the grape variety make-up and winemaking style. Loosely the region is divided between the limestone Côtes, Graves or gravelly limestone plateau or the sandy alluvial soils nearer the Dordogne. Traditionally Médoc wines were trade from Bordeaux and St Emilions from Libourne so they have their own classification system separate to that of 1855. The classification is revised every ten years and falls into four categories, St Emilion, St Emilion Grand Cru, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé and St Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé
Most of the district's best properties are either on the steep, clay-limestone hillsides immediately below the town or on a gravelly section of the plateau west of St Emilion itself abutting Pomerol. There are several high profile estates in the region, including Cheval Blanc, Ausone, Figeac, Le Dôme, Valandraud and Pavie.
Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes is the IGP title for red, white and rosé wines from an area which essentially corresponds to the northern Rhône Valley wine region of eastern France. The catchment area for this title stretches from Lyon in the north to Montélimar in the south. The area is also home to some of southern France's most famous AOC appellations, including Côte Rôtie, Condrieu and Hermitage.

The landscape of the Collines Rhodaniennes is characterized by the hills and valleys that surround the Rhône river. The Massif Central lies to the west and the embryonic foothills of the Alps to the east. The Rhône river carving its way through the sandstone, limestone and granite between them.

The presence of these different stone types is reflected in the route of the Rhône. Sandstone and limestone provide less resistance than granite, which visibly alters the path of the river. The bend around the granite hill of Hermitage is a prime example of this.

This topography – and the geology that created it – makes for a complex patchwork of terroirs. The local continental climate means warm, dry summers and cold winters, influenced by the strong winds, such as the Mistral. This bowls down the Rhône at speeds of up to 90 kilometers per hour (55mph). Some diurnal temperature variation in the north of the area contributes to the balanced aromatics in the wines made there, and temperatures in the sunny south are cooled by the winds.

The Collines Rhodaniennes IGP denomination is widely used by producers in the region, often alongside AOC-classified wines in portfolios. The IGP offers growers a larger production area than those of the small, high-quality AOC titles here. It also provides more freedom when it comes to winemaking methods and grape variety selections.

Unsurprisingly, given the area from which it comes, a large proportion of Collines Rhodaniennes IGP wine is made from the key northern Rhône grape varieties. Syrah is widely planted here and is often complemented with a small addition of Viognier (the classic Côte Rôtie blend).

Gamay also plays an important role. It is not a variety associated with Northern Rhône AOPs, but its use in IGP wines reflects the relative proximity to Beaujolais to the north. Pinot Noir, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon complete the "international" grape repertoire, borrowed from Burgundy and Bordeaux respectively.

The white wines (which have a much smaller representation than the reds) are dominated by the key Rhône varieties Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne. Jacquère, the white specialty grape of Savoie, makes an appearance exclusively in the Collines Rhodaniennes wines made in the Isère department.
Cotes Catalanes is one of the most important IGPs in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of southern France, covering the Pyrenees-Orientales department on the Spanish border. Vineyards cover the foothills to the east of the Pyrenees mountain chain, an area also used for the Cotes du Roussillon, Banyuls and Collioure appellations. The IGP exists to provide a geographic indication for wines that are made outside the existing AOC vinification requirements or permitted styles.
Côtes de Thongue is an appellation in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, located in the watershed from the river Thongue, the soils range form sandy to gravelly to clay. The climate is Mediterranean - characterized by mild winters, hot, dry summers, with rare, seasonal rainfall over the winters. Whilst all kinds of wines are produced here, the region is synonymous with it's production of Rose.