Originating in Gaul (ancient region of Western Europe encompassing northern Italy, France, Belgium, part of Germany, and southern Netherlands) more than 2000 years ago, the Gaillac is one of civilization’s oldest wine-growing regions. Vines imported by Phoenicians in the 4th century B.C. still grow as ancient wild vitis vinifera in local forests as well as vineyards today. Situated on the Toulouse-Rodez highway, rail line, and the Tarn River, the Village of Gaillac has been a wine transportation hub dating back to its vinicultural origins.
Galliac vineyards still use growing techniques that preserve terroir ensuring continued propogation of authentic grape varieties such as Mauzac and Braucol. Authenticity also drives production particularly when making sparkling wines using méthode ancestrale which predates méthode champenoise (the champagne method). This involves bottling before alcoholic fermentation is complete capturing naturally occurring effervescence. Residual sugars are also free to unfold bottle-by-bottle determining whether they develop into a dry, semi-dry, or sweet. The Gaillac’s Primeur Reds are made from whole bunches of hand harvested fully ripe Gamay grapes with stems intact and placed into airtight vats or tanks for carbonic maceration. Quickly filled with carbon dioxide, the wines’ intracellular fermentation lasts about 4 to 5 days before a short aging similar to Beaujulais yielding a classic red fruity flavor unimpeded by tannic undertones.
You’re sure to get some heavenly tastings popping the cork on these readily accessible vintages.
But to really understand what you’re tasting, you need to visit and explore the Gaillac region’s vineyards clustered along the banks of the Tarn River as well as extending from the medieval city of Cordes-sur-Ciel 25 miles south to Graulhet.
A great starting point is The Maison des Vins (wine house) of Gaillac inside Saint-Michel Abbey. Here you can sample and learn about the region’s more than 100 different varietals helping you select wine routes that best match your palate. In the same building, Tourisme de Terroir partners with over 140 area restaurants, guestrooms, and hotels helping you coordinate your itinerary around your favorite vineyards. Additional explorations can include the 4 villages of Puycelsi, Castelnau-de-Montmiral, Monestiésand Lautrec ranked among the Plus Beaux Villages de France. The Pays des Bastides in the Gaillac’s southwest features UNESCO World Heritage fortified medieval villages near Albi built with exquisitely designed red brick and stone.