The grape harvest is under way in Côtes de Gascogne IGP, a designated wine-producing zone in the Armagnac region of Southwest France. Known in English as Gascony, this picturesque area is marked by textured green vistas, medieval towns, sunny skies, and far-off views of the Pyrenees Mountains. With its rich agriculture and rolling hills, the area is often called the Tuscany of France.
For 2,000 years, Gascony’s slopes have been devoted to the art of the vine. The area’s ideal soils, combined with the know-how of 1,200 local wine producers, have made Côtes de Gascogne a leader among the appellations of Southwest France. For example: Côtes de Gascogne IGP white wines, which make up 80% of the appellation’s total production, are among the few French white wines commercialized at more than 100 million bottles per year. Wines from Côtes de Gascogne are among France’s most widely exported white wines. Today 75% of Côtes de Gascogne wines are sold for export.
The vast majority of Côtes de Gascogne wines sold in the United States are dry, crisp, refreshing, and aromatic white wines. Made from local grape varieties such as Colombard, Ugni Blanc, Gros Manseng, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Petit Manseng, these wines offer cool notes of citrus and exotic fruits. With their fresh, enticing flavors, they’re ideal served as an aperitif or paired with fish and seafood. Medium-sweet (“moelleux”) white wines made from mature Petit Manseng and Gros Manseng grapes have also become successful in recent years.
The remaining 20% of Côtes de Gascogne production is divided between seductive red wines and refreshing rosé wines. Grapes used in reds and rosés include Tannat, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon.
A growing number of Côtes de Gascogne wines are available in the United States. For a sampling of producers, see the Côtes de Gascogne page at the Wines of Southwest France website WinesOfSouthwestFrance.com.
Gascony today retains all of the character and charm of years gone by. Local highlights include stunning views of the rolling countryside, delightful market towns, winery tours, river cruises, mountain biking, fishing, golf, health spas, and hiking trails (including the famed Santiago de Compostela routes). Gascony is also home to well-known music festivals such as Jazz in Marciac and Festival de Country Music Mirande.
Local culinary specialties are key ingredients of the Gascony good life. Regional specialties include magret, confit, free-range poultry, and the famed apple croustade pastry.
Note: Côtes de Gascogne is one of several appellations in the Southwest France wine region that will be highlighted in the coming months.
Wines of Southwest France, known in France as the Interprofession des Vins du Sud Ouest (IVSO), is a professional organization of wine producers, cooperatives, and trading companies in the southwestern corner of France. The organization represents nearly 30 appellations in the area of France bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on the west, and Spain and the Pyrenees Mountains on the south. Headquartered in Toulouse, the IVSO is actively building its membership and increasing its promotion of the wines of Southwest France around the world.