France: South West France

Valleys of the Tarn and Lot

The wines of Cahors, Gaillac, Fronton and beyond
By Paul Strang

This Guide was last updated on 28 July 2011
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Main grape varieties


A local grape variety that has good colour and adds suppleness, pepper and spice to the wine. Useful grape for rosés too.

An early ripening grape that is also difficult to grow. It imparts good structure and a vast range of flavours to wines: violets, blackcurrant, blackberry, raspberry, liquorice and pepper. Can lack acidity so often blended to compensate for this.

Also known here as Côt or Cot, and as Auxerrois in Cahors, it is the main grape for Cahors (70% minimum) and giving both good colour, structure and a range of aromas, it is also a useful blending ingredient for other reds.

Fer Servadou
Also known as Braucol (in Gaillac) and Mansois (in Marcillac) it produces wines with good colour, rusticity and body with blackcurrant and raspberry tones.

Cabernet Sauvignon
Adds structure and tannins to the blends, with flavours of blackcurrant.

Produces supple wines that develop early and can be a useful component in the red wine blends.

Cabernet Franc
Important here for the wines of Quercy, it is lighter and fruitier than Cabernet Sauvignon.

Rustic, highly coloured astringent grape variety with a minor role in red blends.

Adds structure and complex aromatic qualities to blends.

Useful for vins primeurs, giving simple fruit characters.

Another old variety now fashionable for stylish varietal reds but only allowed to be classified as Vin de Pays. Said to be a member of the Cot family.


Produces wines with flavours of apple and pears, dry when the grapes are picked young, but, since it loses its acidity as it ripens, also famous for sweet whites.

Len de l’El
Also known as ‘Loin de l’Oeil’ and other spellings is an ancient Gaillac variety that imparts floral aromas, freshness and suppleness. Often used on its own but is also sometimes blended with Mauzac.

Adds perfumed character to the sweet whites.

Once important in Gaillac and used occasionally in blends, there is a revival of this grape especially for sweet wines.

Sauvignon Blanc
Used by some growers for dry whites.

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