La Min-sú de Terrasson

retreat, reflect, refresh

Discover the hidden vineyards of the south-west

ortunately, wines of the south-west of France are not limited to those of the AOC Bordeaux. And Bordeaux wines are not limited to the hundred or so snobbish ‘star labels’. Those represent only 4,000 out of a total of 115,000 ha. Surrounding the city there are over 7,000 châteaux vineyards that together produce more than 10,000 different Bordeaux wines.

Map of wine areas in the south-west of France.

And if you widen your scope; you will find the vineyards following the Garonne river extending into the Côtes de Duras, Côtes du Marmandais, Buzet, Brulhois and Fronton. In between the Garronne and Lot rivers the Coteaux du Quercy and Gaillac. Visit the city of Cahors at the center of the AOC Cahors on a day trip by train. Famous for its 'black' malbec (côt) wines cultivated on both sides of the Lot river.

Follow the Dordogne river and you will find the ‘rive droit’ extending into the bordering AOC Bergerac wine area, with appelations Montravel, Rosette and Pécharmant that can take on Saint-Émilion, and on the left bank Saussignac and Monbazillac equal Sauternes.

Photo gallery of the wine areas in the south-west of France.
Visit the AOC Corrèze from Terrasson, divided in its two distinct areas; the 'ardoise' or black slate soils of the Coteaux du Saillant, and the calcium and sandstone soils between Turenne and Beaulieu. The vineyards of the Vin de Paillé or 'straw wines' including Mille et une Pierres, leave their grapes to dry on straw before pressing, producing a very sweet dessert wine.

Further south, but outside our scope, you find the Armagnac, Saint-Mont, Madiran, Tursan, Béarn, Jurançon and Irouléguy wine areas.

Bordeaux vs. Bourgogne

‘Having more than one grape variety is one way of making corrections. I am opposed to artifices which allow repentance. I like the idea that a grape variety is a key, the unique key that opens up a terroir and allows it to reach its truth and mystery.’

Burgundy is the French wine par excellence, it corresponds to the French idea of what a good wine should be. Bordeaux is often seen as ‘foreign’, characterized by order and balance. It represents measure, symmetry and domestication of nature. Bordeaux appellations makes no allusion to the ‘terroir’. It is the owner who marks the quality of the vintage, producing wines in accordance with the reputation of the château. Cosmopolitan, international and quality viticulture: shared belief in progress and investment. But there is also a certain form of theatricality in the wine-growing château, invented by the Bordelaise to market their wine.

If Bordeaux is the product of a human-will, this opposes Burgundy’s ideal of a prevailing terroir, openness to nature, mystery or spontaneousness. Invented and sculpted by man the Bordeaux vineyards are a real garden at the cost of draining and moving soil. Burgundy presents itself as a vineyard of its unchanging terroirs. Bordeaux is a blended wine, Burgundy is married to its Pinot Noir. Bordeaux pragmatism of vs. Burgundy idealism?

Almost every classified cru has changed hands since the original 1855 classification. Since the turn of the century tycoons, investors, moguls and the world wide nouveau riche have descended on the Bordeaux vineyards. An excellent bourgeois or grand cru has become more of a commodity.

AOC Bordeaux

Map of the AOC's of Bordeaux and Bergerac.
You are a wine lover?! You are in luck. Bordeaux is the dynamic capital of the Nouvelle- Aquitaine region at the heart of the vineyards. Taking the early train, Bordeaux is a 2 hours train ride away from Terrasson, and heading back by the end of the afternoon will give you enough time to explore the historic center. To visit the vineyard outside the city, have time to explore the museums or sample the nightlife, you should spend a few nights in Bordeaux. Spend a day our two in Bordeaux on your way-in or out. Leave your luggage at the consignes counter of the Saint Jean train station and explore Bordeaux lightweight!

The Bordeaux wine area is divided into five sub-regions: Médoc, Graves, Entre-deux-Mers, Rive Droite and Sauternes, all benefit from the same temperate oceanic climate. As the saying goes; ‘Le merlot fait le beau, le cabernet fait le bouquet, le teinturin fait le vin.’ The main red grape varieties in the region are Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. A teinturin grape is a red wine grape with dark skins and flesh, the best known variety is Malbec. The three white grape varieties are Semillon, Sauvignon and Muscadelle. This mixture of grape varieties is at the core of the Bordeaux vs. Bourgogne ideological divide.

Wine in the city

In Bordeaux, the wine merchants (cellar men) offer you thousands of references, red, rosés, whites, crémants. Bordeaux world is famous for it’s wine production, but there are no vineyards or wine makers in the city itself, two 'wine destinations' in the city stand-out.

The Cité du Vin

Bordeaux has gone through a remarkable transformation since the days it was known as ‘the black pearl of the Aquitaine’. Under mayor (and former Prime Minister) Juppé decades old dossiers on public transport, markets and infrastructure started to move. But Bordeaux was also in need of some modern statement architecture. A High-tech ‘cathedral of glass and metal, curved and rounded, where with the help of innovative technologies, visitors will be able to discover ancestral savoir-faire’, ‘a place to celebrate wine, its culture, its economy, its traditions, and the men and women who produce it.’ The architects were given the explicit instruction not to construct a traditional wine cellar or wine barrel, the building ‘evokes the swirling of wine in a glass’. Reserve 2 hours to visit and end at the roof terrace to sample a glass of wine.

Musée du Vin et du Négoce de Bordeaux

Close to the Les Hangars (Médoc) river ferry stop this museum is everything the Cité du Vin did not want to be. Old equipment representing 2000 years of wine production in the region, housed in the building of the royal broker of Louis XV. Discover (and smell) three centuries of history and fame in the vaulted cellars built in 1720. The Museum offers self-guided tour with tasting of 2 Bordeaux wines(€ 10.00) and wine workshops.

Excursions to the vineyards

There are some 250 guided tours of the city, its vineyards and its wine. If this is what you are looking for, the website of the tourist office ( is a good place to start. To visit the surrounding vineyards the tourist office in Bordeaux offers half day and full day tours, they include visits to châteaux, vineyards and villages like Saint-Émilion to taste the famous Bordeaux wines. A day trip to Saint-Emilion seems to be a must on the itinerary. To visit these vineyard you should spend a few nights in Bordeaux.


Saint-Émilion is maybe too much: too immaculate, too typical, too glorious, too opulent, too touristy. Saint-Emilion is a beautiful city ... The only thing one can find fault it with is its lack of mystery.’

The quote above is from 1989… today Saint-Émilion has become the ‘bucket-list’ destination of the global globetrotter class. Do not worry if you not like french food, you will find tapas- and sushi-bars, and if you do not like wine, the ‘Irish pub’ will pour you a pint of Guinness. Asian women in school-girl coseplay-outfits…

No other wine is associated with its ‘city’ the way Saint-Émilion is, perfectly placed for the 80’s tourism – product promotion trend it is slowly becoming self-defeating. Tourists attracting tourist services and facilities, which in turn attract more tourists.

Independant travel by train:
The Ligne du Médoc (42), Bordeaux – La Point de Grave

For the independent traveler, depending on public transport, this local train line (TER) is a way to explore some of Bordeaux’ better hidden vineyards. To the north of Bordeaux the relatively flat Médoc peninsula has been classified a Regional Park since 2019. It is home to large lakes, forests, beaches and salt marshes. And, on the gravel banks, is covered with 16.500 hectares of vineyards. Comprised of 8 appellations; Médoc, Haut-Médoc, Margaux, Moulis-en-Médoc, Listrac- Médoc, Saint-Julien, Pauillac and Saint-Estèphe.

A SNCF/TER leaflet suggests a number of attractions that offer you reductions or an extra glass at their wine tasting on showing your train ticket. The Château d’Agassac at 9 minutes walk of the Ludon-Médoc station, Château Maucaillou at 1 minute walk from the Moulis-Listrac station. We explored Macau, just out of curiosity, but recommend to walk the Boucle des Chateaux in Margaux which passes the train station. The 5km (or extended 8.5km) walk passed through the vineyards and past a number of (some prestigious and some quite theatrical) châteaux.

Map of the Boucle des Chateaux in Margaux.

Turn left after exiting the station and follow the indicators. First attraction on leaving the village is the Château Marquis de Terme, you then skirt the vineyards of the Château Marojallia, across the road from Château Rauzan–Ségla you walk through the vineyards towards the Château Palmer. After a left turn you cut through the vineyards again, with Château Pontac–Lynch in the distance on your right. Or walk the extended Route de Port passing Château Pontac–Lynch on your left and the château and port of Issan. Both routes will lead you to the Saint-Michel church and Château Margaux that gave the appellation its name. Château Malescot Saint-Exupéry and Château Ferrière/La Gurgue bring you back to the village were the Maison du Vin et du Tourisme welcomes you. From here you head back to the station passing Château Lascombes.

Alternatively, if you have a bicycle, take the TER train to Céron (direction Agen) and cycle a 35 km circuit passing the Châteaux of Céron, Myrat, Caillou, Sigalas Rabaud, Rayne Vigneau, La Tour Blanche, Guiraud, Yquem, Suduiraut, Haut-Bergeron before taking the train back to Bordeaux at the station of Langon.

Wine Marathon

“Wine Marathon” for all you Marathon enthusiasts and tasteful people!!! You could combine with a stay at our min-sú after the run (Bordeaux -> Terrasson 2 hours by train only).

The world's most idiotic Marathon (according to the UK telegraph): ”Who could possibly have thought it a good idea to combine a 26.2-mile run with a feast of oysters, cheese, entrecôte and foie gras, all washed down with up to 23 glasses of wine? Well, the French, of course.”

The 38th edition of the Medoc Marathon will take place on Saturday, September 7nd, 2024, the theme will be “Gastronomy !”. Registration opens in March! The Marathon du Medoc.

AOC Corrèze

Coteaux de la Vézère.

Allassac was once famous for its vineyards until the phylloxéra epidemic arrived in 1876. Though vineyards and livelihood disappeared, the centuries of cultivation had left their mark on the landscape. In the architecture of the wine merchant houses, with their presses and cellars. And in the terraces and wine cabanes still dotting the hillsides despite the new land-uses.

The vineyard Coteaux du Saillant - Vézère has replanted 21 hectares of the schistose slate soil of Allassac, Donzenac and Voutezac with Chemin, Sauvignon-gris, Chardonnay, Merlot, and Cabernet-franc. They were the first to plant the fragile and delicate Chemin variety in the South-West wine area (more usually found in the Loire valley).

The modern approach is either biological or raisonnée cultivation. Raisonnée translates to integrated or sustainable agriculture. Compared to biological it’s a less emotional/dogmatic (more reasoned) break from the intensive agriculture. Keeping the soil covered to preserve the soil, limited artificial inputs, pruning, thinning, suckering and harvesting by hand. Though new parcels do now go straight into biological cultivation.

The chai uses modern metal tanks to produce wine from different grape varieties parcel by parcel. This allows the master wine maker to select particular qualities of the year, and create appropriate mixtures or varieties or wines of a single grape variety. Not using wooden barrels allows for the preservation of the ‘minerality’, in which the schistose slate soils contribute to the terroir.

The owner allows the public to hike over a trail and visit the vineyard unguided, best done walking down hill from the village of La Chartrouille towards Le Saillant. The views are spectacular and going this way has the added advantage of arriving at the chai for a little wine tasting afterward!

Visit our Vézère Ardoise page to learn more on including a visit to the vineyard as part of a day trip.

Vin de Paillé; Mille et une Pierres.

Located in the extreme south of Corrèze, the Branceilles vineyard was the first to be replanted in 1986. Branceilles' 8 winegrowers are united under the 1001 pierres (1001 stones) banner. Cultivating a total of 30 hectares with principally merlot, cabarnet and gamay to produce some 150.000 bottles of wine a year. The wine has been marketed since 1990, from their cooperative chai.

We were told at the chai that about half the production is certified ‘biological’ and noticed the difference whiles hiking around the vineyards, as some had strips of grass between the lines of vines and had clearly been sprayed to control the weeds under the vines. Whiles others had a combination of beans and grains grown in between the lines that was used to mulch the vines to both control the weeds and fertilise the soil.

Parking opposite the chai there are three walks: 2.8, 4.1 and 5.5 km, to explore the vineyards. After the hike a visit to the chai, with the oak storage barrels in the basement, sample (and buy) some of the wines. The straw wines are exceptional and the taste lingers for long.

Visit our Vicomté de Turenne page to learn more on including a visit to the vineyard as part of a day trip.

AOC Cahors

Prestigious with centuries old tradition, cultivation was introduced under the roman empire, and the wine featured on the wedding banket table in 1152 when Alenore d'Aquitaine married the future king of England. But as emperor Domitien had done to protect Italian wines, in 1373 the Guyenne 'highland' wines (notably Cahors) received extra taxation to protect the Gironde wines (Bordeaux).

Production peaked in 1870 with 40-60.000 ha before phylloxera destroyed the vineyards. By 1947 the Malbec grape was reintroduced for Argentine stock to the community of Parnac. Although the appelation Cahors (AOC since 1971) only produces one type of wine, and the wine is centered around a single grape variety, there are distinct differences in soil and hence the terroir and characteristic of the wine. The Malbec grape; also known as Côt, locally known as Auxerrois or around the world just as Cahors (still popular in Russia, but today grown on the Crimea).

The majority is grown on the old alluvial soils (up to 200,000 years old) of the terraces and relief above the river Lot, whereas there is also wine produced closer to the river where soils are still being deposited (or less than 20,000 years old), as well as higher up the slopes of the causse. Vines in the valley of the Lot produce more grapes that make a lighter vin de rivière; ready to drink in 2 to 3 years. The vines on the terraces produce the classic dark velvet Cahors wines that age over 4-5 years (the first three years on the barrel). The calcium rich red clay of the causse (500,000 to a million years old) produces a very strong wine so rich in tannins it takes about 10 years to lose its 'fire'. Cahors wines have a minimum 70% Malbec with some Merlot (for fruit, alcohol and rondeur), Tannat (to improve colour and aging).

By public transport

The vineyards are located outside the city of Cahors, and most tourists would drive their own car to visit the chateaux. Alternatively you can use bus line 913 (Cahors to Monsempron Libos) which leaves from the Cahors train station and passes: Douelle, Parbac, Luzech, Albas, Castelfranc, and Puy-l'Evêque. These places have vineyards located along the river, which makes for a nice hike if the weather allows. For the real enthusiasts there is a Departmental farm in Anlars-Juillac, an experimental/research farm that houses the mother plants of the Malbec variety.

Cruise on the Lot

There are 'full day cruises' on Fridays in July and August with lunch onboard, passing through locks and than transfer to a coach to visit the Chateau de Cayx, Queen Margareth II of Denmark's holiday home, tasting their wines and the option to visit her castle and gardens (that is, if the Queen's not in). Return to Cahors by bus, after a wonderful day. Reservations obligatory.

La Villa Cahors Malbec

Although there are plenty of restaurants, bars, terraces and shops where you can buy and sample Cahors wines around town. This visitor information and wine tasting center next to the tourist office invites the visitor to discover all about the wonderful wines of Cahors and their history. Run jointly by the Tourist Office and the Union of Cahors Wine Professionals it offers wine tasting and background information.

Visit our Cahors page to learn more on a day trip to the city of Cahors by train.

AOC Bergerac

(still to write)

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