I live in France\u2019s southwest, in the C\u00f4tes de Gascogne region (it also produces Armagnac). Across the valley is Madiran. It\u2019s an exciting place to be, offering unique flavors from grapes found nowhere else.\r\n\r\nIn fact, the southwest is one of the wine world\u2019s great indigenous grape incubators.\r\n\r\n\u201c[The grapes] are the identity of each region,\u201d says Lionel Osmin, who created his n\u00e9gociant company, Lionel Osmin & Cie, in 2010 to produce and market southwest wines. \u201cThey are both our history and our future.\u201d\r\n\r\nHere\u2019s a quick look at the region\u2019s major appellations and grape varieties.\r\nBergerac\r\nOf all the wine oases of the southwest, Bergerac is the one that\u2019s closest, geographically and stylistically, to Bordeaux. An extension of the St.-\u00c9milion escarpment, Bergerac was once a poor relation: same grapes, lesser wines.\r\n\r\nIncreasingly, the winemakers are getting it right. Thanks to an astonishing vineyard renaissance and quality-minded producers, Bergerac is now a treasure trove for lovers of Bordeaux blends. The reds are principally made from Cabernet and Merlot, while the whites are mainly crafted from Sauvignon Blanc and S\u00e9millon.\r\n\r\nAs the Dordogne River flows toward Bordeaux, the Bergerac vineyards spread up the banks on north- and south-facing slopes in a pastoral setting where tobacco once vied with vines as the major crop.\r\n\r\nBergerac is needlessly complicated. It has 13 appellations, some for red and white wines, some for red, white and sweet wines and some for sweet wines only. Simplify your life by remembering these three: Montravel for full-bodied reds, P\u00e9charmant for long-lived reds and Monbazillac for sweet, botrytized whites. All offer excellent value.\r\n\r\nTop producers: Ch\u00e2teau de Corbiac (Bird Rock Imports), Ch\u00e2teau de Tiregand (Bird Rock Imports), Ch\u00e2teau Tour des Gendres (Baron Fran\u00e7ois), Domaine de l\u2019Ancienne Cure (Bird Rock Imports).\r\nCahors\r\nThis is Malbec country, the home, as the producers like to describe it, of the original Malbec. In Cahors (don\u2019t pronounce the \u201cs\u201d), the grapes result in powerful wines, stacked with tannins in their youth. To compare them to the silky, transplanted Malbecs of Argentina is a lesson in terroir.\r\n\r\nEvery Cahors is red. Some are blended with a little Merlot to soften the structure. For a rougher style, some winemakers blend Malbec with Tannat, adding tannin to tannin. But true Cahors is all about Malbec, with its dark color, flavors of black plums, cedar and chocolate. The best are impressive wines, worth aging 10 years or more.\r\n\r\nAlong the sinewy Lot River\u2019s deep valley, the vineyards of Cahors descend in a series of three terraces. Each terrace gives a different wine style: the highest creates the most austere, the middle one produces the most ageworthy and the terrace closest to the river yields the lightest. With an increasing number of high-quality estate wines, Cahors is at the cutting edge of the southwest\u2019s renaissance.\r\n\r\nTop producers: Ch\u00e2teau du C\u00e8dre (Martine\u2019s Wines), Ch\u00e2teau la Caminade (Wine Traditions), Jean-Luc Bald\u00e8s (Misa Imports), Mas del P\u00e9ri\u00e9 (Wine Traditions).\r\nMadiran\r\nMadiran is a red-wine spot in the white-wine sea of the Gascony region. On the first foothills of the Pyr\u00e9n\u00e9es, spicy, black-fruited grapes grow in deep clay and stone soils.\r\n\r\nThe region\u2019s indigenous Tannat grape traditionally yielded powerful and tannic wines, which sometimes never softened.\r\n\r\nTaming the Tannat and realizing its true potential has been the work of Alain Brumont of Ch\u00e2teau Bouscass\u00e9 and Ch\u00e2teau Montus and talented oenologist Patrick Ducournau, who developed micro-oxygenation, a technique to add carefully measured amounts of oxygen during winemaking to soften harsh tannins.\r\n\r\nThe result has been intensely concentrated wines that develop over a decade or more. The technique is now used in wineries around the world.\r\n\r\nust 40 years ago, there were only 15 acres of vines in Madiran, and the region\u2019s wine industry was dying. Now there are 3,200 acres, and the region\u2019s top producers can justifiably claim that they make one of France\u2019s great red wines.\r\n\r\nTop producers: Alain Brumont\u2019s Ch\u00e2teau Bouscass\u00e9 and Ch\u00e2teau Montus (Verity Wine Partners), Ch\u00e2teau d\u2019Aydie (Five Grapes), Domaine du Crampilh (Bourgeois Family Selections), Producteurs Plaimont (PlaimArques).\r\nJuran\u00e7on\r\nStep forward Petit Manseng and Gros Manseng. These two varieties are the white stars of the southwest. Maybe these two grapes are the future in a white-wine world ready to venture beyond Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Nowhere are these white varieties better expressed than in Juran\u00e7on.\r\n\r\nNearly 2,500 acres of vines are planted on terraces and in sheltered valleys set against the Pyr\u00e9n\u00e9es, just outside Pau and to the northwest of Lourdes. Cold and wet in winter, hot in summer and autumn, these ancient vineyards produce attractive dry white wines and legendary sweet ones.\r\n\r\nWhile Gros Manseng is the power behind the dry whites, Petit Manseng creates the region\u2019s unique sweet wines. Its balance between acidity, sweetness and concentration yields some of the most poised aromatic sweet wines anywhere in France.\r\n\r\nProducing them is a risky process. Pickers may make several passes through the vineyards, harvesting shriveled grapes over a period of weeks. Sometimes the vintage extends right up to the end of November.\r\n\r\nTop producers: Ch\u00e2teau de Jurque (Wineberry America), Ch\u00e2teau Jolys (Baron Fran\u00e7ois), Clos Lapeyre (Charles Neal Selections), Domaine Bellegarde (Bourgeois Family Selections).\r\nC\u00f4tes de Gascogne\r\nThe C\u00f4tes de Gascogne is Armagnac country. It\u2019s the land of The Three Musketeers, of rugby, bullfights and berets, and where Wynton Marsalis takes up a two-week residence at Marciac, home of arguably the best annual jazz festival in Europe.\r\n\r\nThe same local varieties that go into Armagnac\u2014Ugni Blanc and Colombard\u2014also go into the many dry whites of the C\u00f4tes de Gascogne. The gently contoured vineyards produce some of the best value white wines around. Gascogne is light, fresh and immediately drinkable.\r\n\r\nOther grapes grown in the region are a Who\u2019s Who of white French varieties, including Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay. Among reds, Tannat is a small player, but the classic Bordeaux varieties are more popular. Blends are the norm.\r\n\r\nTwo big producers dominate the region\u2014the privately owned almost 2,000-acre Domaine du Tariquet (celebrating its 100th year in 2012) and theinfluential cooperative, Producteurs Plaimont. Investment here is on the rise.\r\n\r\nTop producers: Domaine du Tariquet (Robert Kacher Selections), Haut-Marin (Elite Wines Imports), Producteurs Plaimont (PlaimArques).\r\nOther regions\r\nAll across the southwest of France, from Marcillac, which is almost in Languedoc and close to the Mediterranean, to the Pyr\u00e9n\u00e9es vineyards of Iroul\u00e9guy, in Basque country and with views of the Bay of Biscay, there are pockets of vines.\r\n\r\nThe variety is immense. Chief among the other regions is Gaillac, with its peppery reds, soft whites and light sparkling wines. Marcillac has chunky, perfumed reds from Fer Servadou grapes. Fronton, close to the regional capital Toulouse, specializes in spicy reds predominantly from the N\u00e9grette grape. C\u00f4te de Duras and C\u00f4tes du Marmandais are close to, and influenced by, Bordeaux. B\u00e9arn and Iroul\u00e9guy add Tannat and other local grapes to the Bordeaux varieties.