When it comes to great wines, there’s more to South West France than just Bordeaux. Located to the east, in the Lot-et-Garonne, is the Côtes de Duras – an appellation of fifteen communes that stretch out over roughly 1500 hectares and produce a variety of exceptional quality (and very affordable!) wines crafted by some two hundred passionate growers. There are reds (52%), whites (33%), rosés (13%) and sweet wines (2%). The reds and rosés consist of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Malbec; the whites are mostly Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon and Muscadelle; and the sweet wines are made of Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc.
The vineyards of Duras have been producing wines since the 12th century and were one of the first to obtain the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée certification in 1937. Here are some of my favorite selections, plus some delectable tips.
The cave coopérative Berticot produces award winning wines and unites more than half of the region’s wine growers.
Try: The honey-sweet Quintessence de Berticot Moelleux 2009. Delightful aromas of candied fruit and apricots.
Pair with: Heavenly with foie gras, ideal as a dessert wine.
Domaine Les Hauts de Riquêts
The fifteen-hectare vineyard has been producing organic wines since 2005 and is run by seventh generation growers Pierre and Marie-Jo Bieraud. Wine tastings and culinary workshops are available at the domaine.
Try: Le Mignon 2009, a silky blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. Ripe blackberry flavors. Complex aromas with herbal notes and a hint of violets. Long finish. Aged in French oak for eight months.
Pair with: Autumnal dishes such as magret de canard, lentil stews and roast guinea fowl.
Domaine de Laulan
The thirty-five-hectare estate of Laulan was founded by Gilbert Geoffroy in 1974. Known to produce some of the region’s best whites, Geoffroy has been described as ‘L’artiste du Sauvignon’.
Try: The dry, minerally Sauvignon Blanc 2012. Crisp, clean palate with hints of gooseberry and grapefruit. A nose of freshly-cut grass. Elegant and refreshing.
Pair with: Fruits de mer!