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Aveyron Wines

The historical Context

Antiquity

Romans, who were great colonizers of Provence, the Rhone Valley and the province of Narbonne, brought along the first vines to be planted in south west France. These Roman conquerors introduced wine rather than beer, as the most important drink according to their civilization.

The clay-limestone slopes of France's southwest are well irrigated, the climate is mild, there are navigable rivers and soon the wine trade settled at Bordeaux, and Rome along the Roman Empire as well as Northern Europe.


The Middle Ages

  A semi-troglodythe wine cellar

A semi-troglodythe wine cellar

However this wine trade got somehow disturbed by the fall of the Roman Empire, later on picking up with the extension of the Christianity. During close to three centuries, Toulouse was a stable area under a Visigoth kingdom. Thus the wine industry continued its expansion, supported by the clergy which was using the wine for the masses.

Then the Moors and Vikings invaded a few times the region during the eighth century, destroying the vine industry. They cleared numerous area and maritime commerce became null during these times. As a result, the vineyard south west experience became reduced to its bare minimum.


The wines of the High Country

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Gradually with stability coming back, the south west vineyards reconstituted themselves, experiencing a new phase of prosperity. However, another challenge surfaced,
the growing domination of the port of Bordeaux mastering all exports whereas south west vintners did not have good ways of transporting, thus selling their productions.

Bordeaux became the hub, as the port of La Rochelle got closed to exports to Northern Europe. In 1152 with the marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine to Henry II of England, Aquitaine was brought in to the Plantagenet empire and a thriving wine market from the port of Bordeaux unfolded.

As the largest harbour on the Atlantic coast, Bordeaux had control over the inputs and outputs of the wines produced in large quantities in the hinterland, along the Garonne river. These wines were called the wines of the high country and had second-to-none reputation.
Furthermore, they were named after the name of the port sending them; Cahors, Gaillac, Moissac, or directly after the senders’ names.
As examples, wines loaded at the port of Rabastens took the name of Gaillac wines as they were sent from the Abbey of Saint-Michel de Gaillac.

Once arrived at Bordeaux, some wines were loaded on long-haul and sold under different names, likewise the regions of origin of the vessels. Usually, the rest of the load would be purchased by the merchants of the city, added to their own wines before exporting the new mixture. This is how a new market of mixing wines developed. As dealers would be selling Bordeaux wines at the same time, the uniqueness of the Cahors and Gaillac wines would dissipate.

The south west wines had a period of prosperity up to 1241 when the Bordeaux winemakers were granted a privilege from the King Henry III of England. This privilege stated Bordeaux would be able to prohibit the wines of high country entering the port of Bordeaux before Christmas each year, unless heavily taxed. These significant tax and customs privileges allowed Bordeaux wines to get a definite advantage, a larger market share over hinterland’s vintners.

Then, Bordeaux improved its wine business altogether, modernizing production processes thus wine quality, reinvesting profits in the drainage of the swampy surroundings. During the same time, coffee-houses were all the rage in England. To meet this new demand such as a better quality of imported wine, Bordeaux increased the number of wineries, manufactured brand new oak barrels as well as marketed the now common use of glass bottles and cork.


Mass production

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In 1773, Louis XVI ended the Bordeaux privilege. However as different wars unfolded including the French Revolution the maritime commerce of Bordeaux became scarce. Thus needs to get wines blended got suspended, pushing high country vintners to look for other markets to expand. A new market was booming, the working class was looking for wines at low prices.
More productive grapes got planted, pushing down the overall quality of the newly produced wines in high country. 


Phylloxera

The disease phylloxera appeared in the 1860s devastating entire vineyards.
It affected more severely the south west of France as the majority of the land was devoted to viticulture. Back then Bordeaux and the south west of France was regarded as the main wine producer in the world.

It took almost a century to the south west to recover from this dramatic crisis, exacerbated by the economic decline of the 1880s.
Some growers had the opportunity to replant their vineyards with American root stocks, as it seemed the best way to immunize against the disease. However, doing so was not an option, as too expensive to many small
vintners.


The Twentieth Century

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During the twentieth century, the mass production of table wines allowed the development of large vineyards, with productive vineyards and the use of fertile areas . The wine production increased whereas the quality produced decreased, but the table wine—the everyday wine— was more profitable.

However revival would hatch a new disaster. The massive frost of 1956 destroyed once again a large part of the vineyards. Only the most motivated and tough vintners decided to replant vines. With enthusiasm, technical and financial support from Algeria French returnees would soon the vineyards regain their past credentials. 

Following decades of hard work, regional and local high quality wines received recognition through different labels—AOC or VDQS—as well as many local ow renown wines such as Bergerac—AOC in 1936—and Madiran—AOC in 1948—or Cahors—AOC in 1971.


The Aveyron wines TODAY

There are four different vineyards in Aveyron: the Côtes de Millau, Estaing, Entraygues and the Fel, and the Marcillac.

Côtes de Millau

  The Millau Viaduct (tallest cable-stayed bridge in the world) going from one plateau to the other.

The Millau Viaduct (tallest cable-stayed bridge in the world) going from one plateau to the other.

The Côtes de Millau vineyard dates from Roman times, when Millau as Condatomagus under the Roman Empire, was a major Gaulish centre of samian pottery production as excavations at the site of La Graufesenque unveiled.

During the Middle Ages, vineyards’ production was mainly serving the needs of pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostella, as well as the clergy. The wines produced at Compeyre were appreciated by the Popes located at Avignon at these times, and eighty cellars were existing in Compeyre or nearby. Local aristocracy as well looked at getting more vineyards around Millau.  

When the French Revolution occurred, wines were produced to serve the needs of larger crowds. In the 1870s, the vineyard got under attack of phylloxera. As well, railway brought competitors with cheap wine arriving by train from neighbouring region Languedoc. Many vineyards acreages got dropped or new varieties introduced. Again, during WWI, acreages were abandoned as manpower became scarce.
As a paradox, it is the 1956's frost that would revive the moribund vineyard. The only producers left were the ones very motivated by viticulture. They planted grapes of high quality, rediscovered local varieties and introduced the Syrah variety.
A wine cooperative got created and the wine got a new trademark the Côtes de Millau. In 1994, it became recognized and was awarded the label VDQS—wine of higher quality.

These wines have a beautiful garnet that’s quite supported by purple hues when young. When smelled, the aromatic bouquet is clean, intense and expressive with good concentration, with some primary notes of red and black fruit with gooseberry, raspberry, prune aromas giving way at times to fruity notes of brandy, as well as spicy, peppery. As it ages this wine will offer floral notes. In the mouth the wine has a soft attack, it gradually unfolds mid-palate on a dense material quite generous and fleshy, young tannins are firm and will need time to skate away. This is a very good wine that matches well with game and grilled meats. Serving temperature is best at 16°C, and can be decanted in a carafe.
 

Area: 65 ha
Average yearly production over past five years: 2.000 hl

Reds (70% of total production)

  • Exceptional years: 2000 and 2005
  • Very great years: 1995 and 1998
  • Great years: 1994, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2008, and 2009
  • Good years: 2002, 2004, and 2011
  • Average years: 2006, 2007, 2010, and 2012.

Rosés (25% of total production)

  • Exceptional years: 2000
  • Very great years: 1995 and 1998
  • Great years: 1994, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005, and 2009
  • Good years: 2002, 2004, and 2011
  • Average years: 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2012.

Whites (5% of total production)

  • Exceptional years: 2005
  • Very great years: 2001
  • Great years: 1994, 1995, and 1998
  • Good years: 1997, 1999, 2000, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2011
  • Average years: 2002, 2003, and 2010
  • Below average years: 1996, 2009, and 2012.

Estaing

  The village of Estaing

The village of Estaing

Located on the banks of the river Lot in Aveyron, the vineyard of Estaing is one of the smallest in France.
After a long decline, the Estaing wine has rediscovered the acclaim of top vineyard and strong identity thanks to the Counts of Estaing, local aristocrats, during the tenth century.

The reds are simple wines, lively and aromatic and well integrated tannins; they do have a few notes of red fruits and blackcurrant.
The rosés are fresh wines, quite delicate, bright and exhale a fragrant filled with aromas of red berries.
The whites are well-balanced wines, light and lively with floral and honey aromas.

 

Area: 20 ha
Average yearly production over past five years: 620 hl

Reds (70% of total production)

  • Year of the century: 2005
  • Exceptional years: 2000
  • Very great years: 1982, 1989, 1990, 1995, 1998,  and 2011
  • Great years: 1966, 1970, 1971, 1975, 1976, 1979, 1985, 1988, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003, and 2009
  • Very good years: 1978, 1981, 1994, 2002, and 2004
  • Good years: 1983, 1986, 1992, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2012
  • Average years: 1967, 1973, 1980, 1984, 1987, and 1993
  • Below average years: 1969, 1977, and 1991.

Whites (10% of total production)

  • Exceptional years: 1998, 1990, and 2005
  • Excellent years: 1983, 1985, and 1989
  • Very great years: 1975, 1976, and 2001
  • Great years: 1966, 1970, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1986, 1994, 1995, 1998, and 2011
  • Very good years: 1971, 1978, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2004, 2006, 2007, and 2008
  • Good years: 1980, 1993, 2002, 2003, 2010, and 2012
  • Average years: 1967, 1973, 1977, 1991, 1992, 1996, and 2009
  • Below average years: 1969, 1984, and 1987.

Rosés (20% of total production)

  • Exceptional years: 2000
  • Very great years: 1982, 1989, 1990, 1995, and 1998
  • Great years: 1966, 1970, 1971, 1975, 1976, 1978, 1985, 1988, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005, and 2009
  • Very good years: 1973, 1979 1981, 2002, 2004, and 2011
  • Good years: 1983, 1986, 1992, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2012
  • Average years: 1967, 1969, 1980, 1984, 1987,  and 1993
  • Below average years: 1977, and 1991.

Entraygues and Le Fel

  Entraygues valley and the village of Entraygues

Entraygues valley and the village of Entraygues

This little known vineyard has been existing since the Middle Ages. Indeed, the wines of Entraygues were known in France since at least the 8th century. These wines, mainly developed by abbeys, such as Conques, were shipped around Europe especially in England. The vineyard is located north of the Aveyron, the foothills of Cantal and Aubrac. The vines are planted on valleys of the Lot and Truyère, on hillsides with steep slopes. They consist of shale and clay-limestone elements. The main grape varieties for red and rosé wines are Gamay and Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chenin and Mauzac for the whites.

The red Fel Entraygues has a deep red colour, smells some notes of black fruits like blackcurrent. When in mouth this wine develops an austere and rustic aroma of red and black fruits.

The rosé Fel Entraygues appears simple and very fruity, with an overall taste  of pink salmon. When smelled, red fruits such as gooseberry and raspberry emerge. Once tasted its refreshing liveliness comes alive.

The white Fel Entraygues is quite an interesting wine with a pale yellow colour and green hues. It has an intense and straight smell but complex with floral notes and honey aromas. When tasted, it is dense, supple and has a beautiful final aromatic taste left in mouth.

Area: 20 ha
Average yearly production over past five years: 640 hl

Reds (60% of total production)

  • Exceptional years: 2000, and 2005
  • Very great years: 1970, 1975, 1976, 1982, 1989, 1990, 1995, 1998, and 2011
  • Great years: 1966, 1979, 1985, 1988, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003, and 2009
  • Very good years: 1971, 1978, 1981, 1994, 2002, and 2004
  • Good years: 1967, 1983, 1986, 1992, 2006, 2027, 2008, and 2010
  • Average years: 1969, 1973, 1977, 1980, 1984, 1993, and 2012
  • Below average years: 1987, and 1991.

Rosés (20% of total production)

  • Exceptional years: 2000
  • Very great years: 1970, 1976, 1982, 1989, 1990, 1995, and 1998
  • Great years: 1966, 1971, 1975, 1978, 1981, 1985, 1988, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005, and 2009
  • Very good years: 1979, 1994, 2002, 2004, and 2011
  • Good years: 1983, 1986, 1992, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2012
  • Average years: 1967, 1969, 1973, 1977, 1980, and 1993
  • Below average years: 1984, 1987, and 1991.

Whites (20% of total production)

  • Exceptional years: 1998, 1990, and 2005
  • Excellent years: 1983, 1985, and 1989
  • Very great years: 1976, and 2001
  • Great years: 1966, 1970, 1971, 1975, 1981, 1982, 1986, 1995, and 1998
  • Very good years: 1978, 1979, 1994, and 1997, 1999, 2000, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2011
  • Good years: 1967, 1980, 1993, 2002, 2003, 2010, and 2012
  • Average years: 1969, 1973, 1984, 1987, 1992, 1996, and 2009
  • Below average years: 1977, and 1991.

Marcillac

  The Marcillac winemakers Philippe Teullier and his mother proudly showing us a bottle of red, rosé and white tehy produce on their domain.

The Marcillac winemakers Philippe Teullier and his mother proudly showing us a bottle of red, rosé and white tehy produce on their domain.

Marcillac is the largest wine area of Aveyron. One can find reds and rosés wines only. They are characterized by the typical grape Fer Servadou, an emblematic grape vineyard found in south west France. The vines are planted on very steep slopes closeby the town of Rodez.

Marcillac red has a deep colour and violet hues. Its smell is marked by aromas of red fruits like raspberry, blackcurrant as well. When smelled a second time spicy notes are emerging. When tasted this wine is robust on the palate with some rusticity, tannins are firm but powerful.

Marcillac rosé is not as common as red but has a beautiful deep pink colour. When tasted it has a very round texture of ripe, juicy red fruits, finishing on spicy notes of pepper.

Area: 200 ha
Average yearly production over past five years: 6700 hl

Reds (90% of total production)

  A door in the village of Clairvaux, the 'heart' of the Marcillac micro-region.

A door in the village of Clairvaux, the 'heart' of the Marcillac micro-region.

  • Year of the century: 2005
  • Exceptional years: 2000
  • Very great years: 1990, 1995, and 1998
  • Great years: 1994, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003, and 2009
  • Very good years: 2002, 2004, and 2011
  • Good years: 1992, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2010
  • Average years: 1991, 1993, and 2012

Rosés (10% of total production)

  • Exceptional years: 2000
  • Very great years: 1990, 1995, and 1998
  • Great years: 1996, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005, and 2009
  • Very good years: 1994, 2002, 2004, and 2011
  • Good years: 1992, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2012
  • Average years: 1993
  • Below average years: 1991