Perches Gallery Gaillac vineyards, Tarn

The Gaillac Vineyards around Perches.

Despite Gaillac having been one of France’s earliest wine-growing areas, Gaillac and its wines have been pushed into the shadows by bigger names in Bordeaux and Burgundy. It should be remembered, however, that at one time the Gaillac vineyards around Perches produced wine which was enjoyed by Henry VIII! Gaillac is also home to the oldest wine cooperative in France.

Gaillac’s winemaking has a history dating back to Roman times: some of the first vines in the area were planted in the first century BC, a fact which can be backed up by the Roman remains of a pottery in the nearby village of Montans, which produced amphorae specifically for the transportation of Gaillac wine up the Tarn river to Bordeaux.

Subsequent years of warfare saw many of the vineyards destroyed and it was the monks at the Benedictine Abbaye-St-Michel in Gaillac who tenderly and meticulously brought the Gaillac vineyards back to life. It was then Henry VIII, several hundred years later, who did a great job of marketing them in the UK! In 1520, he met the French king François I in Calais, who gifted Henry with 50 barrels of Gaillac wine – clearly a quality wine he held in high regard. Henry allegedly very much enjoyed his present and drank it frequently afterwards, introducing the wines from this part of France to the rest of his friends. (This was much to the annoyance of Bordeaux wine producers.) In jealousy, they obstructed the ease of exporting Gaillac wine through crippling tarifs until its reputation abroad faded to almost nothing.

Gaillac wines

Domaine de Perches has a situation and a soil-type which lend themselves perfectly to wine making and to this day 5 hectares of the estate are dedicated to vines. After years of being allowed to deteriorate, the vineyards were brought back to life in the late eighties by the then owners who replaced many of the aging vines and introduced more modern production methods. Their success was endorsed by the oldest wine merchant in the UK– Berry Bros. & Rudd – who described Perches’s Sauvignon Blanc as displaying “a wonderful purity of fruit”.

Gaillac wine

When Alain bought the domaine, he wanted to keep the connection to wine alive so, despite the cuves having been long-hidden behind walls as the house was slowly renovated many years ago, there are still discreet clues within the house as to its former purpose.

The pigeonnier at Perches has also been retained although it is now home to a Barn Owl and her two babies! It was originally built to provide a plentiful supply of pigeon droppings – strictly the only form of fertiliser allowed on the vines according to the rules laid down by the Benedictine monks.

Another recent little discovery was a pile of notes pinned to an old door at the back of a barn. The notes date from 1961-1969 and are a record of quantities of marc (the solid residue of stems, pulp, seed and skins remaining after the grapes have been pressed). It is clear from these notes that the marc was sent off for secondary usage, possibly to make an eau-de-vie de marc or as a fertiliser.

Gaillac wine

The present vines are now looked after by Bernard Auque at Mas Pignou

vine de Gaillac

It was perhaps serendipity that brought Alain to Perches: when he came on his first holiday to the house he had just bought in Cordes in 1999, he very much enjoyed the Gaillac wines. When he flew back to the UK, he could not carry enough Gaillac wine for his friends and took it for granted that it would be available in London. As it turned out it was almost impossible to buy and the only one he eventually managed to find was the white wine from Domaine de Perches!  Nobody could have possibly guessed then and not least Alain himself, that 14 years later, he was going to become the happy owner of the Domaine de Perches and its vines!

Visit the beautiful village of Puycelsi


Visit the beautiful village of Puycelsi, one of ‘les plus beaux villages de France’ which is draped across the top of a hill in the Tarn. It is about a 20-minute drive from le Domaine de Perches.

Visit the beautiful village of PuycelsiThe village can be seen for miles around. As you wind up the hill to the centre, you can’t help but feel you are going back in time. And as you reach the top, you are blown away by the breathtaking views across the Grèsigne Forest.


Tourists to the Tarn, visit the beautiful village of Puycelsi for its historical background. But they also for the surrounding walks in stunning countryside. A well-trodden trail is the Sentier du Patrimoine which follows the Audoulou stream through the cool forest. Crossing wooden bridges along the way, the walk reaches a little waterfall of the same name.  A circular route, you can stop and have a picnic by the stream. Or, you can make your way back to the village for lunch at one of several lovely restaurants there.Visit the beautiful village of Puycelsi


A popular village eatery is ‘Au Cabanon‘, at the entrance to the medieval village. Run by a young couple who determinedly use only local produce such as organic wine by La Vigneureuse, Marine Leys, or the local goat’s cheese Le Pic, made just up the road in Penne by the Remond family since 1977. The family also own the fabulous La Fromagerie Saint Pierre in the centre of Gaillac.

The BBC recently produced a beautiful nature film on an amorous red squirrel living in the centre of the village in their series ‘Wild Tales from the Village’. It beautifully shows off the village, albeit from the rooftops. For a more grounded experience, it is possible to have a guided tour and take in the Chapel of Saint Roch and the Church of Saint Corneille. And there is even a local orchard which runs a project to plant and protect old fruit species.


Maison d'hôtes de luxe près de Cordes-sur-Ciel

Albi a UNESCO World Heritage Site


Albi a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the episcopal city built along the River Tarn. Additionally, it is the administrative centre of the département of the same name. The city is home to the magnificent Cathédrale Sainte-Cécile and the globally-recognised Toulouse-Lautrec Museum located just next door. This photogenic city is only 20-minutes drive from le Domaine de Perches and is therefore not to be missed.

The old quarter, Saint-Salvi is over 1,000 years old and along with the Pont Vieux, the Palais de Berbie and the cathedral, has made Albi a UNESCO World Heritage Site. According to UNESCO, it has a sector which “forms a coherent and homogeneous ensemble of monuments and quarters that has remained largely unchanged over the centuries.”

A stroll through the narrow streets on foot reveals the strong use of traditional red brick. This was a trend shared by its neighbouring cities of Montauban and Toulouse, with the bricks being used to construct the old city’s buildings in a colombage style.

Albi a UNESCO World Heritage SiteAlbi a UNESCO World Heritage Site: Saint-Cécile Cathedral

The gothic silhouette of the cathedral and its 78 metre tower, dominates the area for miles around and is equally striking up close. Declared the largest brick cathedral in the world, the construction of Saint-Cécile began in 1282 to demonstrate the strength of the Catholic Church. The interior is as impressive as the exterior. It is home to exquisite frescos painted by Italian Renaissance artists in the 16th century. Furthermore, the cathedral also houses one of France’s largest classical organs.

Albi a UNESCO World Heritage SiteAlbi a UNESCO World Heritage Site: Toulouse-Lautrec Museum

Most noteworthy, next door to the cathedral is the Palais de Berbie. This was formerly the Bishops’ Palace and is now home to the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum. One of several post-impressionist artists of his era, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec was born in Albi in 1864. Although he spent much of his life in Paris, the city very much claims him as its own. The museum holds probably the largest collection of his works anywhere in the world. As a result, it welcomes some 175,000 visitors every year.

In conclusion, Albi is without a doubt, a ‘must-see’ while visiting this part of South West France.