Gascogny, the mythical land of D’Artagnan that was once the epicenter of western Roman Gaul (2nd century), and that later the English held, is a beautiful part of the French Southwest – speckled with medieval hilltop towns. Gascogny had once 100,000 hectares of vines and now has just 15,000 hectares. Bordering the enormous Landes pine forest and wedged between the Atlantic and the Pyreneés, the vines breathe pure air and oceanic winds mixed with a warm foehn wind from the Saharan Desert. IGP Côtes de Gascogne shares the same land surface as Armagnac. Of the 3 subzones, our domaine is deeply in the Bas-Armagnac. The soils here are clay and sand, more specifically red sable and alluvial subsoil.
Having immigrated from Switzerland, the Gessler family settled here in 1928. We are now on the 4th generation – operating a robust family business with 20 full time employees. This is one of the more thoughtfully farmed properties – registered HVE 3 and in organic conversion. They tend to indigenous varietals with which dry white and red wines along with Armagnac are made.
Colombard is the offspring of Chenin Blanc and Gouais Blanc. This makes the grape the sibling of the Armagnac Meslier-Saint-François and the nearly extinct Cognac grape Balzac blanc. Tart and fruity Ugni Blanc is also known as Trebbiano. Gros Manseng is a dry varietal found in Jurançon wines.
I also really love this explanation of "terroir" from the Mary Taylor team, so I thought it would be fun to reproduce here:
"The first thing you’re bound to notice when you pick up a bottle of Mary Taylor Wine is the lack of a familiar grape on the label. No Pinot Noir or Cabernet, no Chardonnay or Merlot.
That’s because we, the team of lifelong wine lovers who make up the Mary Taylor company, think about wine differently than the usual brands lining the shelves of your local supermarket or big box store. To us, the name of the grape only tells part of the story of what wine is supposed to be. The missing key, which the great winemakers of Europe have known for centuries, is 'place.'
When founding partner Mary Taylor first fell in love with wine in the early 1990’s, it was the European classics that truly spoke to her and stole her heart. As a young professional selling French and Italian wine, first in the New York wine auctions and then as a merchant, she quickly learned to appreciate wine in the 'Old World' way— not as a luxury good reserved for special occasions, but a living agricultural product that belongs to everyday life.
This awakening eventually led her to move to the storied region of Burgundy. There, deep in the heart of rural French wine country, her experiences living and drinking among the area’s independent artisan growers cemented her understanding of wine as a form of liquid culture, reflecting the people and places where it has been lovingly crafted for generations.
A specific French term exists for this romantic notion that, in addition to tasting delicious, wine should tell us something about the area from which it came. Although impossible to translate literally, this concept of 'terroir' has sometimes been described as a sense of place,' or 'somewhere-ness.' It explains why the Pinot Noir from one village in Burgundy will taste noticeably different from the same grape grown in the next town, or even the next vineyard over.
It’s also the reason why most European wine regions label their wines not according to the grape variety, but the 'place name,' or 'appellation' where it was grown. Whether known in French as appellation d’origine protégée, in Spanish as denominación de origen, or in Italian as denominazione di origine controllata, the basic idea is the same: each designated area imparts its own special identity, no two expressions alike.
After many years working with the wines of Europe, Mary arrived at an important insight. Left in the dark by decades of simplistic marketing efforts that placed grape above geography, American consumers needed a brand they could trust to decipher the complex notion of terroir in a clear and straightforward way. Out of this realization, our elegant 'White Label' was born.
Today, it is our mission to unlock the world of European 'appellation' wines by working with individual growers in multiple villages— from Bordeaux to Nîmes to Valençay— who produce exceptional, regionally-distinctive wines at extremely accessible prices.
In the traditional spirit of the 'Old World,' each Mary Taylor Wine has been selected as a faithful ambassador of its geographical origin, true to local traditions and the vision of the individual farmer who bottled it. We are proud to offer affordable wines of genuine quality and integrity (no shortcuts) that will bring the magic of their “terroirs” to life wherever you choose to enjoy them: at a dinner party, next to the grill, or even just on a quiet night at home
Cheers!" -- The Mary Taylor Team