Where charm trumps glamour

These are not fancy wines. A visit will not be full of Instagram opportunities of Chateaux and tasting rooms with impressive vistas.

Gaillac is as authentic as it gets: rustic, agriculture focused wineries with modest tasting rooms, often upgraded barns.
If you regularly wear a blazer and burgundy trousers while drinking wine – leave them at home.

If you’re happy to drink wine wearing wellies while chatting with the winemaker over a barrel in the corner, read on.

A bit of history

Less than half an hour North East of Toulouse, Gaillac is one of the oldest wine producing regions in France.

Along with Cahors (homeland of Malbec) Gaillac used to supply heavier reds to beef up Bordeaux wines in cooler / weaker vintages and was one of the top 3 most prestigious wine regions in France.

Screwed repeatedly by:

  • English Kings (“Privilege de Bordeaux” taxes in 1200s)
  • Climate Disasters (frosts in 1700s and subsequent focus on bulk production)
  • Disease (1800s phylloxera)

Gaillac fell into relative obscurity, and is only recently finding its mojo again.

It is now benefiting from a new generation of winemakers taking their family vineyards out of cooperatives and into low volume, high quality, minimal intervention production for the 21st Century with many organic / biodynamic / natural producers.

Terres de Gaillac was established in 2006 by Patrice Lescarret (Causses Marines) and Bernard Plageole with a charter for living wines to “offer easy access to the best artisanal wines in the area”. With around 20 members, (increasing annually) they showcase their wines both nationally and internationally. Gaillac wines can now be seen in trendy hipster natural wine bars and festivals in London, Tokyo, New York, Australia.

Fun Facts

  • possibly the oldest wine region in France
  • produced sparkling wine 400 years before Champagne (Méthode Ancestrale single fermentation)
  • Vin de Voile – Jura isn’t the only place making Vin Jaune. This was the first wine to come under Gaillac’s AOC “Gaillac Premieres Cotes” . Mauzac aged for up to 8 years under a veil of flor. Excellent value compared to Jura’s pricier (and trendier) options.
  • The Gaillac Badger – look out for this cheeky symbol on labels, started by Patrice at Causse Marines as a jibe at the local AOC committee

The Grapes

Mauzac  (30% of whites)“maw-zak” 7 different types: including white, yellow, green, rose, red, black
Fresh, crisp, dry whites with orchard fruit profile
Quince / honey in sweet wines
Used in Méthode Ancestrale parkling pet-nats
Loin de L’oeil (30%) – “lwan-de-leuy” Fresh, floral, stone fruity dry whites
Exotic fruit, dried fruit, honeyed sweet wines
Often blended with Mauzac or Sauvignon Blanc
The bunches grow on stalks far (loin) from (de)  the bud (“eye” = “l’oiel”). aka L’en de L’el (occitan)
Ondenc (1% ) – “on-denk” Simple, dry, citrus whites
Sweet wines with riper melon flavours
Ondenc means “undulating” in Occitan dialect
Outside of Gaillac, the only other known grower/producer is in Australia (making a sparkling)
Muscadelle (11%)“mus-ka-del” Whites: fruity, fragrant, floral
Sweet: honey, quince
Often blended with other white varieties
Other white grapes: Sauvignon Blanc (22%)
Braucol (22%) – “Brock-ol” Blackcurrant and raspberry
Often blended with Duras and Syrah
aka Fer Servadou: Ferus (wild) + Servadou (suited to conservation)
Duras (17%)“du-ras” Father of Cab Franc.
Spicy & peppery with dark fruit
Adds body to blends
“Dure”= “hard” (hardness of the wood of its vines)
Prunelard(/t)  (1.6%)“Prün-uh-lar / Prün-lar” Father of Malbec, rediscovered by Plageoles in their vineyard
Black fruit, ripe plums, blackberries, spice
Deep, full bodied intense reds with grippy tannins. Sometimes fragrant rosés
Other red grapes: Syrah (17%), Merlot (13%), Gamay (16%), Cabernet Sauvignon (7%), Cabernet Franc (1%)

The Styles

As well as the usual gamut of wine styles, the following are Gaillac specialities:

Perlé – a bulk sparkling wine best used as a mixer for kir royale (think of it as a Vinho Verde with heavier spritz).

Méthode Ancestrale –  this is worth getting excited over. A Pet-Nat single fermentation sparkling wine. No added sucrose like Champagne. Often bottled over winter when the colder temperatures has paused fermentation.

Sous-voile – aged for 8 years under a veil of flor (dead yeast). Aka “Gaillac Premier Côtes” – a style of Vin Jaune. Since Plageoles registered “Vin de Voile” for their exclusive use, other producers in the region now use alternative, often whimsical names for their oxidative wines aged under flor.

Matt Wallis excellently describes this as: “dried fruit, nut and oxidative elements of an amontillado sherry. Although bone dry it is lighter in body and not as intense in flavour (and lower in alcohol, since it is not fortified). The best are world-class wines of stunning complexity.”
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Look out in future for the experimental Ondenc vin de voile that Bernard Plageoles is ageing in his cellar (as of 2019)

Modern styles – pét-nat, orange (skin macerated), carbonic maceration (Plageoles)

The Producers

Amongst the plethora of cooperatives, there are several notable producers (this is not an exhaustive list, and you are encouraged to seek out your own favourite).
For a good overview of the grapes and styles, Plageoles should be top of everyone’s list, with Domain de Brin.

The Trail Blazers – Plageoles (Bernard, Robert & sons Florent & Romain Plageoles).
Domaine Plageoles, Durantou, 81140 Cahuzac-sur-Vère map

  • 6th Generation winemaker Bernard re-established native Gaillac varieties (Prunelard, Ondenc, Duras, Verdanel, Mauzac)
  • Sons now doing modern interpretations with traditional grapes (Contre-Pied)
  • Look out for their revolutionary labels by an English artist who based this on the iconic revolutionary image from 1968 protests.

The Next Generation- Domaine de Brin (Damien Brin)
Domain de Brin, Brin, 81150 Castanet map

  • Damien took the family cooperative wines to a new level, releasing their own high quality stuff. And he’s a lovely bloke too.
  • A wide range of the white and red grapes that’s a great introduction to traditional grapes in  modern Gaillac styles

The Rebel – Causse Marines (Patrice Lescaret)

  • Natural winemaker Patrice Lescaret, originally from and trained in Bordeaux with strong opinions about everything Bordolais
  • Look out for his rotated “do not drink while pregnant” , “no badgers” symbols, along with grape varieties and vintages written backwards to bypass wine naming regulations in France, and often to simply hold a proverbial finger up to the authorities

Visits / tastings not normally accepted. But you can call and ask.

The Farm – La Ferme du Vert (Jérôme Galaup)

  • Previously of Plageoles – winemaker Jerome insists “we’re not a domaine, we’re a farm with cattle, sheep, vegetables”.
  • The wines have fun names in the local Occitan language (“Langue d’Oc”)
  • Don’t be fooled by Jerome’s humble local agriculture focus, he has been flown out to Holland, USA and Japan as a wine consultant and importers have requested annual quantities higher than his entire production

The Natural – Michel Issaly
Domaine de la Ramaye, 817 rte de la Ramaye, 81600 Gaillac map

  • Not for the faint hearted. These natural wines come with full flavours of the earth and everything found therein.

The Modern – La Vigneureuse
La Vigneureuse, Frayssinette, 81140 Montels map

  • Marine Leys Previously of Plageoles – making modern / fun / accessible wines

The Organic –  Cantalauze
Domaine de Cantalauze, 415 Rte de Lintin, 81140 Cahuzac-sur-Vère map

  • Gaillac’s first organic vineyard, now practising biodynamic. Experimenting with concrete & sandstone eggs and amphora

Other notable producers :

  • Tombée du Ciel
  • Pech del Ciel
  • L’enclos de Braves (Chantal & Nicolas Lebrun) 8Ha of biodynamic vines. Natural. Possibly the nicest winemaker we have ever met.
  • Clos Rocailleux ex financial journalist Luc Bontemps retrained as winemaker and purchased the winery from the previous English owners. A small range of 4 or 5 wines, possibly the best value in Gaillac at under €10/bottle

For a more comprehensive list of producers, keep an eye on our Producer Profiles

The events

De Vert en Verre Festival

Annual tasting with 36 vignerons in late July with a focus on smaller, higher quality producers

Fête des vins de Gaillac early August
(more general with some bigger, cooperative wineries)

Bear in mind that early September is harvest time, and many of the smaller producers will be in the vineyards, less likely to be able to accept visitors for tastings.

24 Hours in Gaillac

(you will need a car to take full advantage)



visit the Maison de Vin for a free tasting of the various styles inside the Tourist office



La Verrerie – a hotel / restaurant with a great value lunch menu and local wines available.



visit one or more of the surrounding vineyards that you have discovered earlier in the day over lunch or wine tasting. Plageoles should be high up your list for an overview of all grapes/styles. Domaine de Brin also have a good range of the regional grapes and styles.

Apéritif at Rouge Gorge – natural wine bar in the main market square.



La Vigne en Foule – a natural wine bar / restaurant established by 4 of the local producers (Bernard Plageoles, Patrice Lescaret, Jérôme Galaup, Michel Issaly)

You may even have time to visit Albi and it’s UNESCO Cathedral Saint-Cecile, or head back to Toulouse for more cosmopolitan dinner choices

Restaurants, Wine bars & Wine Shops


La Verrerie

1 Rue de l’Égalité, 81600, Gaillac – map
Restaurant / Hotel run by husband & wife team (see below for featured restaurant)

La Vigne en Foule

80 Pl. de la Libération, 81600, Gaillac – map
Set up by a group of local winemakers. Restaurant, wine bar, wine shop

Wine bars & Wine Shops

Rouge Gorge

20 Pl. du Griffoul, 81600 Gaillac map
(wine shop, wine bar, lunch served on market days)

Cave La Gabarre

5 Rue Saint-Pierre, 81600 Gaillac map
Wine Bar and Shop

Mademoiselle Carafe

13, Rue des Frères Delga, Gaillac map
Wine store that serves wine by the glass at 5pm for aperitifs

Côte à côte

Delmas Boucherie, Rte de Cordes, 81140 Cahuzac-sur-Vère

Baker, Cheesemonger, Pattisserie, Deli and Wine Store – this place has everything!

Further afield

Cordes Au Bas

9 Av. de la Grésigne, 81170 Cordes-sur-Ciel map

Ateliers Occitans

3 Rue de la Pelisserie, 82140 Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val map


42 Av. du Dr Paul Benet, 82140 Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val map

Featured Wine Store – Rouge^Gorge

Éric Djafour set-up a natural wine merchant and bar in the market square in Gaillac in the late 2010s, just before lockdown.

He runs everything himself, including lunches on market days (Friday).

The left hand wall is dedicated to local producers (some of who may be personally dropping off their wines while you’re there), while the right hand wall is dedicated to other regions around France.

It is here that I found my first bottle of Bouysselet from Domaine de La Colombière.

Featured Restaurant – La Verrerie

Nastassja et Thibaut, La Verrerie

A relatively new establishment, La Verrerie is a boutique hotel and restaurant run by a chef Nastassja and her husband Thibaut who manages the service.

They have a great wine list with at least one local wine by the glass, and some interesting local wines by the bottle (we had Verdanel by Plageoles – one of 2 growers of this grape, and the only producer of a single varietal Verdanel)

There is free parking and a lovely quiet terrace to enjoy lunch outdoors. Reservations advised to avoid disappointment, but you can turn up and take a chance.

Featured Wine Store – Cave La Gabarre

Lucie Birou previously worked at L’Enclos des Braves vineyard with Anne Camille Boucherwho established L’Accalmie in 2021 and whose wines can be found at Cave La Gabarre.

Lucie is knowledgeable about all the local producers and can guide you on the wines on offer by the glass that day.

Located between Rouge Gorge and La Vigne en Foule (on the side street opposite Fromagerie Sainte-Pierre), Cave La Gabarre is a great place to relax with a glass of wine before lunch or as an aperatif (as they close between 12:30 & 17:00)