The 2000-year-old history between Gaillac and the development of the vineyards are a result of ideal climate conditions for growing grapes, the ancient wild vitis vinifera grapevine which grows in the forest of Grésigne, and its geographical location. The town of Gaillac is located on the Tarn River where it meets the Garonne River that leads to Bordeaux. It is also situated at the crossroads of Toulouse-Rodez, going toward Lyon. These factors helped the transportation of Gaillac wines. Gaillac continued to be an important port up until the end of the 19th century.
In 972, Raymond I of Rouergue gave the village of Gaillac to Abbot Saint-Michel, who established Saint-Michel Abbey on the banks of the Tarn River. The vine-yards there which the Moors had destroyed, were replanted by the Benedictine monks. Viticulture quickly became a true regional economic strength and gained the support of the Counts of Toulouse.
The strict regulations applied to viticulture and winemaking today originated here. Eight centuries before the creation of AOC (appellation d'origine contrôlée), the Gaillac vineyards were one of the most protected and organised in France. There were bans on mixing wines with “foreign” wines, controlled pruning, officially scheduled harvesting, and controlled use of fertilizer. The only fertilizer permitted was excrement from pigeons. Therefore, many dovecotes (pigeonniers) were placed in the vineyards. Finally, the Les Vins du Coq wine brand was established, which was very unusual at the time. Used since 1387, it was officially recognised in 1501. It is most likely the oldest wine brand in the world of winegrowing.
The vineyard of Saint-Michel quickly became famous thanks to the hard work of the monks who carefully selected grape varieties and respected the strict regulations. Its’ reputation was then spread by the pilgrims following the routes of Santiago de Compostella. Gaillac wines were enjoyed by French kings and also sold in England and the Netherlands, which annoyed the wine-growers of Bordeaux for many years.
Nowadays Gaillac wines are enjoying a bit of a comeback. The best thing is to come and try the many wines from small independent vineyards, who are always happy to welcome you for a bit of ‘dégustation’. We have been here 5 years but have hardly scratched the surface. So many wines, red, white, rosé, sweet dessert wines and of course the bubbly fizz created by the traditional method of the area! It’s hard but someone has to do it – why not you?