Gaillac is an appellation in the South West of France in the Garonne region (south of Cahors and east of Côtes du Frontonnais) distinguished by its century-long wine heritage and its extraordinary diversity of wine styles and local wine varieties.
Gaillac, located in the northeast of Toulouse between the Garonne, Tarn and Massif Central, claims to be the third oldest French viticultural area after those of Languedoc and Provence. Archaeological evidence suggests that its vineyards were established back in the Roman times, and its wines became much sought after both locally and in Northern Europe (esp. England) in Middle Ages.
However, Gaillac’s trade suffered a sharp decline when the merchants of Bordeaux imposed prohibitively expensive tariffs to wines exported from the South West of France, upstream of Bordeaux on the rivers Tarn and Garrone.
The destruction brought by the arrival of the phylloxera louse towards the end of the 19th century was a major blow to the local wine industry, and for much of the 20th century Gaillac wines have been languishing in obscurity.
Gaillac has experienced a new leash of life since the early 1990s thanks to outside investment and the work of local, aspiring growers.
The diversity of wines is astounding, from aromatic, dry whites, light roses and rustic reds to rich sweet and fruity sparkling. The dominant local varieties for the whites are the low-acidity, fleshy and heady aromatic Len de l'el (“corner of the eye”) complemented by Mauzac (Limoux’s signature grape, distinguished by vivid acidity and pungent aromas of apple peel) as well as Muscadelle, Semillon and Sauvignon Blan. Sweet wines typically have a flavour of ripe peach and use the same grape varieties as the dry white wines with the addition of the indigenous Ondenc.
The red wines are robust, deeply-coloured, perfumed, with intense spice and fruit flavours. The blend is made up from the mandatory varieties Duras, Braucol (aka Fer Servadou that contributes fleshy texture, saturated colour and aromas of cassis and pepper) with the frequent addition of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and especially, Syrah.