South-West France, Paul Strang

Published by Sally on May 6, 2010


Title of book:   South-West France
Author: Paul Strang
Publisher: University of California Press
Publication date: 2009
ISBN      978 0 520 25941 6
Pages: 374
Price:   £30.95


South-West France, Paul Strang

South-West France by Paul Strang

This is a long-awaited follow-up of Strang’s 1994 book ‘Wines of South-west France’, and it deals with a quietly dynamic area of France’s vineyards that too often flies under the export and knowledge radar because of its complexity and the plethora of indigenous grape varieties and appellations.  As Strang says “the South-west is at the opposite pole from globalisation.”

The book travels through each region, including its Vins de Pays in a logical and consistent format. Each chapter begins with a map and representative image, plus a short fact file on the appellation – such things as the grape varieties, area planted and other regulations.

For each region Strang evocatively unwinds the history and culture that litter this part of France to reveal the individuality and sometimes quirkiness of the current situation of each, before the best producers are discussed, followed by details of other producers the author feels worthy of note. For example the reader learns of the méthode gaillacoise sparkling wine, more ancient than Champagne, and experiencing a revival, he says, being sweeter and “appealing to the taste of younger drinkers, who may view it as a halfway house between coca cola and Krug.”

One delimited geography, two completely different appellations: unravelling Madiran and Pacherenc produce has been made much simpler by the inclusion of a useful table summarising at a glance which producer does which, most successfully, of the multiple possible styles . 

Strang gently brings to life these individual appellations, and their winemakers, dealing with all the necessary wine ‘purist’ stuff such as climate, grapes, soils, and adding plenty of additional flavour, personality and perspective to these too often, too little-known wine areas. Jurançon reads like an idyllic olfactory-fest during the long harvest period “apple-and-pears … lemons and grapefruit … apricot, almonds, figs, mandarins … while the latest-picked grapes will give the richest juice, recalling honey, mangoes, guavas and caramel.”

All of which make this book part text-book (though completely lacking the dryness sometimes associated with those), part contacts book and wine tourism route planner, and part one-stop-shop for vinous knowledge in this disparate part of winemaking France.

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