Just an hour's drive to visit these producers...
Toulouse wine tour: Exploring Gaillac in south-west France
Planted area (AP) 3,300ha
Main grape varieties Red: Braucol, White: Mauzac
Rare grapes varieties Red: Duras, Prunelard, White: Loin de l’Oeil, Ondenc, Verdanel
The vineyards of Gaillac are just an hour from Toulouse, and have been transformed by a new wave of younger winemakers.
Gone are the days of rustic, tannic reds and old fashioned, oxidative whites, and quality is on a steep upward curve, so hopefully we will see more of the crafted, individual wines from this area in the near future.
One of the best producers is Damien Bonnet, who has taken over from his parents at Domaine Brin. This estate is focused on an organic and minimalist approach with great results for whites and reds (his sweet wines are also outstanding). Damien’s father is an avid collector of old cars, so expect to see him doing some maintenance when you visit.
Open Monday to Saturday (10am-12am / 2pm-6pm). Closed on Sundays and for bank holidays.
Back towards Gaillac, drop in to the new tasting room at Domaine du Moulin, where sixth-generation winemaker Nicolas Hirissou is challenging local traditions by planting Tannat vines to complement old-vine Syrah and Braucol (aka Fer Servadou) – the latter one of the main local red varieties.
Open from 9am to 12pm and from 2pm to 7pm. Closed only on Sundays in January, February and March.
One of Gaillac’s trump cards is the presence of several rare and exclusive grape varieties. Several have been saved from extinction through the efforts of Domaine Plageoles, which has promoted local terroir through a focus on single, ancient varieties. Visit here to taste the deeply coloured Prunelard (one of the parents of Malbec and unique to Gaillac), which accounts for 1% of red plantings but is growing rapidly. More recently, Plageoles resuscitated Verdanel, a long-lost white grape which only survived at a Montpellier vine library, and is also credited with rescuing Ondenc from extinction – although this variety is found outside Gaillac.
Opening 8am – 12pm and 2.30pm – 6.30pm. Monday to Saturday – Only on RV Sunday morning.
Gaillac has its fair share of radical winemakers, such as Michel Issaly of Domaine de la Ramaye . At this picturesque estate, the emphasis is on encouraging natural flora and fauna. The wines are thought-provoking as well as high quality. Top of the range is Le Vin de l’Oubli, a product of oxidation and ageing under flor.
Shop open from Monday to Saturday from 10am to 12pm and from 2pm to 6pm. Visit only in the afternoon and by appointment. The domaine is closed on weekends and public holidays.
Domaine d’Escausses is closer to Albi, off the main route between the city and the famous hilltop bastide of Cordes-sur-Ciel. At the attractive tasting room, try the méthode gaillacoise sparkling – an ancient form of fizz fermented in one bottle. The best wine here is La Vigne de l’Oubli, an oak-aged, Sauvignon dominated blend that can challenge top white Bordeaux.
Open 9am – 1pm, 2pm – 7pm.
Over on the gravelly soils of the left bank (close to the A68 autoroute) is the consistently excellent Domaine Rotier, where Alain Rotier doesn’t put a foot wrong with any wines in the extensive line-up. He also has a very smart new visitor centre to explore.
Open 9 am – 12 pm, 2pm – 7pm ( 6pm from November to March), every day except on Sundays and holidays. Please call before visiting.
Getting there: Gaillac is a one hour drive from Toulouse. Fly to Toulouse from London with British Airways, Ryanair or Easyjet, or take the Eurostar from London St Pancras.
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