Wines of France. Buzet AOC

Let’s talk about the small wine region Buzet, which I searched out travelling on the barge and tasting local wines; about a trickery of Bordeaux wine negotiants; and about winemaking co-ops.

The explanations about AOC system in particular and Wine Geographic Identification in common, together with the benefits of knowing how to read wine labels and understanding of wine law common for EU are discussed in the article “Learn to Read Labels. Europe.”

AOC system of French major wine regions is discussed in the article “Learn to Read Labels. France“.

In the present article, I am talking about a wine region that is not yet so wild famous around the world as some of its neighbours. Actually, I am writing about one specific AOC of this region where I spent a week of degustation.

First, several words about the region. South-West locates on the south-west of France that is directly reflected in its name. There is a Bordeaux on the north and Mediterranian on the east. The climate of South-West is the Mediterranean in common, from the Atlantic ocean the region is protected by the large forest.

South-West has produced wine form the time of the Roman empire. To the Middle Ages, the wine production started to flourish on this territory by the care of numerous monasteries, and wines of South-West became famous in France and beyond.

At this time Boredeaus merchants started to feel competitors in South-West winemakers. Bordeaux was not only a famous wine region but one of the important European ports. The whole trading of France though Altlantic had provided via Bordeaux. It included England, the biggest importer of French wines. The wines of South-West were also traded through Bordeaux, and Bordeaux traders compelled the privileges from the crown – until most wines of Bordeaux itself wouldn’t be sold, the other wines would have waited. This practically blocked the wine export of the South-West. For five centuries the viticulture of the region had been put on hold. Some producers switched the area, most started to produce simple wines for home consumption, and just the unique ones continued to develop the technology.

Of course, South-West always has been famous because of Armagnac, but Armagnac is brandy, not wine, and it is a whole other story.

Among sub-regions of South-West, only Cahors, that is specialized on Malbec, has kept its importance on the market for the whole time.

Only after the phylloxera epidemy, what almost destroyed wine industry of whole Europe, Soth-West stared to growth again.

South-West includes more than twenty sub-regions, however, this article is about only one of them, small region Buzet. It locates on the south bank of Garonne, and its centre is small village Buzet-sur-Baïse. It was qualified as AOC in 1973.

Mostly all Buzet wines (at least with AOC status) are produced by a co-op of 27 grape yards owners.

Co-op winemaking is an interesting fact. Actually, a huge amount of wine in Europe is produced by co-ops. In France, it is half of all wine. Three-quarters of French IGP wines are produced by co-ops, and in fact, they are very successful in wine transition from Vin de France (the lowest category) to IGP (next level). The proportion of co-ops among producers with AOC status is significantly lower, however, they exist and produce interesting wines. The co-op ration is varied among regions and depends on traditions. There are almost no co-ops in Bordeaux, for example, whereas plenty of them on the south of the country. Co-op is an association of owners of small vineyards. They share possession of equipment for wine production and marketing costs. Modern equipment, cellars and other thing are too expensive for single small owners and without co-op wine production for them becomes unprofitable. With co-ops small produces can compete with large producers.

So, such type of co-op produces wines of Buzet. Their production centre locates in Buzet-sur-Baïse. You can visit them, taste and buy their wines directly from producers.

Buzet terroir is very similar to Bordeaux with the same types of soil (limestone, clay and sand), that are ideal for Cabernet sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet franc. As a result, 90% of wines of Buzet are red, and most reds are Bordeaux blend.

The co-op has produced its own barrels for more than sixty years. It helps them to make aged wines comparable with Bordeaux wines by quality, but less expensive (barrels are very expensive). Actually, the ratio of quality and prices of Buzet wines are very cheerful. Except for Bordeaux blends, Buzet produces some pure-varietal wines, mostly Merlot and Malbec, that they also grow in some amounts.

Last years the co-op has paid a lot of attention to biodynamic wines. This includes a significant decrease of sulphite dioxide in the winemaking process, as a result, the wine cannot be aged and should be consumed then it is still young. I should say that Buzet biodynamic reds didn’t impress me.

Winemakers of Buzet recommend to slightly chill their red wines (14-16C) to highlight their fruit taste and calm tannic expression.
I would agree that it brighten their wine taste.

And final 10 % of Buzet wines are rose and white.

Most Buzet rose are made from Cabernet franc. It is dry, with a bright fruity taste, and some tannins. I like such type of rose, and I enjoyed Buzet rose.

Sauvignon blanc, Semillon and Muscatell are mostly used for pure-varietal and blended white wines. They are mostly dry and crispy, very nice for hot weather. There are also some off-dry whites.

Thus, Buzet is an interesting AOC, if you meet its wine, try them.

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