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Francis Darroze

Two situations led to the founding of the Darroze domaine in the 1970s. The production of fine Bas Armagnacs was at that point done artisanally through the Gascon countryside without any real commercial organization. In charge of the wine list at the renowned family restaurant in Villeneuve-sur-Marsan, Francis Darroze had to comb the outlying farmlands in order to secure supplies of Armagnac. It then occurred to him to create a négoce operation that would produce and age (for extended periods) Bas Armagnacs aimed at restaurants and in-the-know consumers. Mark, the son of Francis, is now in charge of operations.

These days, the Darroze estate enjoys a stellar international reputation underpinned by their distribution of thirty crus of eaux-de-vie, each retaining the fingerprint of their originating property, as well as a range of Armagnacs made of assemblages of different vintages.

Domaine Rotier

Domaine Rotier is an archetype of those French wines found far from the crowd of famous names in Bordeaux or Burgundy.

Located in the south-east of the sud-ouest, Gaillac is the most picturesque appellation in France with regard to the permissibility of its production and the variety of cépages which can be used. The AOC allows for the production of dry white wines, sweet white wines, rosés, reds and also different types of sparkling wines from their many varieties, several of which are native.

Alain Rotier and Francis Marre are fully committed to representing Gaillac’s true identity. The reds are mainly made with Duras and Braucol, while the white are dominated by a variety called Loin de l’Oeil. The vines are grown organically. The step-brothers’ unwavering efforts are all aimed at increasing the quality of their grapes. In 2001, they courageously decided to increase the density of their vines as a way of accentuating the character of the terroir and providing more throttle to their wines. Their red Gaillac Renaissance is a solid bet as an SAQ specialty product.

Domaine de Ménard

In the heart of the Bas-Armagnac, the Domaine de Ménard can be found on the famous Via Podensis, the route taken for centuries by pilgrims traveling to Saint Jacques de Compostelle. In this beautiful corner of southwestern France, so typical of the Gascogne, the domain exploits 120 hectares of vines, made entirely under the appellation of Côtes de Gascogne.

Our team’s unanimous favourite wine is the Colombard-Sauvignon, a wine which offers not only a great expression of the terroir, but at a price that is hard to believe.

Château Haut-Monplaisir

As mentioned in our description of Château du Cèdre, the good-natured Pascal Verhaeghe plays a role advising other domaines in the region. For the past decade, Mr. Verhaeghe has guided the work of Château Haut-Monplaisir, from the vines to the cellar, which is undertaken with painstaking care by the owners Cathy and Daniel Fournié. The vineyard is located on the best terroir of the Cahors appellation, namely on the “troisieme terrasse” that the Lot River carved through Kimmeridgian limestone during the Mesozoic era.

The Fourniés’ updating of their family vineyard required immense efforts in order to bring it up to modern standards. Having completed that lengthy undertaking, they are now making wines that are paragons of the appellation. Wine guides are recognizing the high quality of Haut-Monplaisir’s Cahors. The 2012 Guide des Meilleurs Vins de France notes that “their entire range of wines reveals a pleasant homogeneity from the lower-end cuvées, which are serious and well-defined, to their fuller, more expansive prestige cuvées.”

Château du Cèdre

Any delegation of Cahors winemakers invited to the imaginary opening ceremony of the Wine Olympics would certainly include the brothers Pascal and Jean-Marc Verhaeghe as flag bearers of the appellation. These are elite winemakers and ambassadors of both their region and the malbec grape. To put it succinctly, Château du Cèdre is the reference in Cahors.

Jean-Marc is more active among the vines and while Pascal plays a bigger role on the winemaking and commerce end of things. With their domaine-owned land, they produce three Cahors wines, all of which are specialties at the SAQ. The cuvée Château du Cèdre (formerly called “Prestige”) attempts to mellow the inherent angularity of most malbecs, without compromising the robust typicity of Cahors wines. Their cuvées Le Cedre’ and GC come from the finest terroirs in the appellation, soils with a similar composition to Burgundy, mainly limestone scree. The name GC (aka Grand Cru) is also evocative of the comparison, both in terms of terroir and winemaking style. (A burgundian Cahors? Yes, this is it!) After successively eliminating chemical weed control in 1992, and then, ten years after, doing away with all chemical fertilizers, they’ve been farming fully organically since 2009.

The Verhaeghe brothers also oversee a co-op that regroups vintners from across Cahors. Le Chatons du Cèdre, at all SAQ stores, is a brilliant example of this partnership’s achievements.