Gaillac Wines

Gaillac wines – because wines of the future always have a past  

« Parce que les vins d’avenir ont toujours un passé ! » Gaillac 1990s Marketing slogan


It’s becoming a bit of a cliché that everything you write about in this region is a “best kept secret” or a hidden gem, and Gaillac wines are no different. The region was producing wine during the Roman times in the 2nd century BC, and claims to have been the Bordeaux of wines even before Bordeaux had grapes.

Having been a run of the mill wine region post World War II, in the latter part of the 20th Century, Gaillac wine growers seriously upped their game and developed various wine varieties from grapes unique to the region. So grapes such as Braucol, Mauzac and the interestingly named Loin de l’Oeil (far from the eye) are integral in the key Gaillac wine types. 

The wines produced are many and varied and this could be a reason for its lack of celebrity for anything in particular. As well as the usual three main colours, it produces a sparkling white, and a perlé which is a very slightly fizzy wine, achieved by keeping the wine cold until it is bottled.

Gaillac Primeur


After this year's beautiful warm autumn we were blessed with another gloriously sunny weekend for Gaillac Primeur. This is when the vineyards from throw open their doors on the weekend following the third Thursday of November to show off and celebrate their Gaillac Primeur, the first wine of the year. Having seen the commercial success of Beaujolais Nouveau in the 1970s, several other regions have followed suit and introduced an early young wine, to boost interest and sales, and the Gaillac wine growers put on a good show.


Following the official release of the wine and the competition on the Thursday, almost all of the vineyards make an effort to welcome all comers with free food, ranging from buffets of cheese, paté and charcuterie, to heart warming Garlic soup, and the season’s oysters. All designed to tempt visitors into dégustation of their range of wines, if temptation were needed.

So we did our research and set off to visit three vineyards, which looked like they may offer good wines and a good buffet. It was a really good way to visit vineyards, because the welcome was so warm and the atmosphere was buzzing with walking groups, cyclists and families enjoying the late November sunshine and far reaching views towards the Pyrenees. At the end of the day we’d eaten our fill of paté and garlic soup and visited an extra two vineyards following recommendations from other punters.

Wine selection at Gîte des Milans


The Gaillac Primeur experience was also Stage 1 of our winter resolution to learn a bit more about the Gaillac wines in order to be better informed for our guests, and be able to recommend vineyards and tasting experiences, rather than leaving it to pot luck which of the hundreds of vineyards they roll up to for a bit of holiday tasting. All in the interest of professional research for guaranteeing the best holiday experience, of course.

Our guests in 2018 will be greeted by a wine rack stocked with a selection of Gaillac wines, a sort of minibar with big bottles (maxibar or vinibar), and an honesty box.

2018 Gaillac Wine Events

3-5 August 2018                      La Fete des Vins

15-18 November 2018            Gaillac Primeur

River Swimming

So it's the beginning of August and it's knocking on the door of 30 degrees and we have some guests making good use of the pool and sunbeds, what do we do, both to cool off and make ourselves scarce?

I remember a few years ago coming down to breakfast in a small hotel in the Lot, and breakfast was being served inside in the restaurant. We asked if we could take it outside on to the terrace, which was met with a classic "bof" and a shrug, and I explained that for us a holiday meant eating outside and swimming in rivers. Although the UK experience of my adolescence of swimming in the River Dart in South West England, was always far more of a bracing macho one than any experience in the rivers of Southern France! 

A mere 5 minutes from the gite in the car, the River Viaur winds its way down the valley below the village of Bar before it joins the River Aveyron some 10km downstream. We can either park and walk a few hundred metres and join the climbers and their families at the Roc de Gorb, or we can take a small hike and enjoy complete peace and isolation.

A little way along the river and a walk down a steep path through the woods, we arrive at the ruin of a mill whose old barrage creates a perfect pond for swimming. Not much of a beach, but enough for the two of us and the dogs.

River Viaur Bor et Bar

And as a bonus just below the barrage there is a huge web of water weed with beautiful little white flowers (Water Crowfoot?), which attract the dancing damselflies desperately looking to mate and lay their eggs. You can just about see them in the photo. The presence of damselflies apparently signifies a clean and unpolluted river.

Water Crowfoot

Meanwhile back on the bank, Tess our 12 year old Tibetan Terrier, who has always shied away from the water has decided to stalk the minnows like Grizzly Bear stalking Salmon.

A really beautiful, relaxing afternoon. 

Tough choice for our guests; pool or river?

Via Ferrata Roc de Gorb

We were having dinner with some friends back in June, (well it was actually an "apero dinatoire" which for those who want to increase their French vocab, is when you have an aperitif with such a generous serving of canapes, pizzas and tapas type stuff, that it's really a "diner"), and a group of the guys announced that they were going to do the Via Ferrata the following Sunday morning and invited me along. A perfect opportunity; I'd seen it as we walked the dogs along the river, and marvelled at the height of the zip wire(tyrolienne), and needed to find someone to show me the ropes(pun intended).

The Via Ferrata is a cabled climbing route around the rocks next to the river, and includes a few cable bridges and a zip wire high over the gorge.  You hire the equipment (harnesses and helmets) from the village and the rest is up to up to you. Amazing really when you consider the public liability and Health and Safety restrictions which would be placed on it in the UK.

So we set off on a bright, dry and sunny morning,  four blokes spanning middle age(40-65), not exactly built to climb or do long distance running, two of whom had done it before.

The kit is basically a harness with two carabiners which you clip on to a very heavyweight steel cable. The cable follows a route which either has clear hand a footholds or a steel ladder is provided to help out. The key to success and safety is that you are clipped on at all times by at least one clip.



The route takes you up the side of the gorge and through the various obstacles, to the final piece de resistance, the tyrolienne zipwire, which you can miss out if you want. I was told by one of my fellow climbers who is a member of the council and responsible for the maintenance of the Via, that the Tyrolienne is tested annually to a weight of 12 tonnes - which was some reassurance.

Good company, good fun, good to get the heart and adrenaline pumping, and great views. Well worth it if you have a head for heights.

Spring Activity

So what ornithological event marks the arrival of Spring? Cuckoo, first Swallow? Apparently the Hoopoe is also an advanced messenger. Well, they're all here.



But nobody told the Redstart who has decided to squat belligerently in one of the Swallows' nests in the wood shed. She is just sitting in there, fluffing up the hard edges of the old nest while the Swallows, fly in, flutter round screaming. A definite look on her face which says "go on, make me".

What's in a name?

I think my first blog had better answer the one question that is already being asked, why Gîte des Milans?

Le Milan is French for the Red Kite and one of the many birds of prey that are finding their aerial territory above us this spring.

The house is actually called La Lande, which roughly translates as high pasture or moorland, but as we are one of about three La Landes within a 5km radius, we thought we would find a new more suitable and appealing name for our holiday home. We thought of all the other birds which are busy at the moment, Swallows, Redstarts, Kestrels, Buzzards, Hoopoes, and Nightingales, but the majestic Kite won the day. We may get a rebuke from the Post Office for not picking a name like 122 Bis, but we will cross that bridge when we come to it.