My last Tarn evening was enjoyed at domaine Peyres Roses by invitation, among the leaders of the next generation of Gaillac wine makers, for a wine tasting with merry company and which turned out to include a bountiful dinner.
For my last night in the Tarn during this sortie, I was invited to wine tasting, to join the ‘young bloods’.
Meaning, people who’s parents have dedicated their lives to restoring the natural qualities to wines of Gaillac (pronounced Guy’ack).
This next generation is tasked with continuing that fine work and more, a heavier responsibility, beginning to restore to the reputation of the Gaillac wines to their former very special place, a reputation lost because of the catastrophe of the grape phylloxera during the 19 th century, a disease effecting vines, for which there is still no know cure.
I was made very welcome, it was easy to ‘fit in’ and I learnt quite a lot about wine while strengthening new friendships.
I was most touched to be treated as something of an honoured guest, even embraced by my principal host before I eventually unmoored.
I find it impossible not to miss the Tarn, the very many people who have shown me such appreciation and friendship.
Will I return? Yes, there is more work to be done. with Gaillac Wine’s Growth Potential..
Why is it that Gaillac, which had such a wine glory, somehow completely lost it?
How was it that the wines prized by Kings of England, in Holland and all Northern Europe had fallen into near complete obscurity during the 20 th century?
Parts of the answer: the inland remoteness of Gaillac, it’s transport served mostly by the capricious, dangerous river Tarn, and later by the railways.
Part of the responsibility is with the restrictions imposed giving priority to Bordeaux, and duties imposed at Bordeaux the principal port of shipment.
Then in the 19 th century there was the quasi-mortal shock of phylloxera.
A devastating disease that arrived in France from North America causing a sort of hysteria among the growers, a disease that was worse that devastation among the vines; very, very few ‘old’ varieties survived.
Then there are problems compounded by the planting of replacements, ‘popular’ vines many of which produce good wines but don’t always reflect the original character of the ‘old’ vines and wines of Gaillac.
In the words of the great authority M.Robert Plageoles of domains des Tres Cantous: ““Gaillac is one of the oldest vignobles of Gaul. No vignobles was chosen by hazard.
Particularly Gaillac; intelligent men saw that Gaillac combined two climates, the humidity of the Bordelais with the heat of the Mediterranean”.
”When a crepage (variety of grape) has been used for five hundred years it can be considered a crepage of Gaillac”.
“Everything else is not a crepage of Gaillac”. His opinion…
Further reading: Le Vin de Gaillac, 2000 ans d’histoire Relié – mars 2001
de Fernand Cousteaux (Auteur), Robert Plageoles (Auteur)
To tour the Gaillac region, meet the people and sample the wines is an amazing voyage of discovery.