One of the advantages (and there were many) of my month long stay in the Dordogne this summer was that we managed to sample more than enough of the delicious local wine. Most of the restaurants and bars in the region support the local wineries, so if you took a liking to any of them you could quite easily track them down via Google Maps. Tiny little signs hidden amongst the vines allow you to meander up to find the wine producers in their own homes or wineries and most offered “degustations”. Try and avoid the sacred two hours they take off for lunch every day from midday to two-ish…it’s a good life.
Who knew that Bergerac wine was so delicious? It’s generally under the radar compared to the big brother Bordeaux wines, but the Bergerac wine growers produce some of the best value wine in France. Up until now, I have been a fan of almost exclusively New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, so imagine my delight when I found a wide variety of dry white wines with interesting fruity flavours at a 10th of the price!
I’ve done what any sensible holiday maker would do and waited until I got home before filing my report because, like so many things on holiday (relationships, summer clothing bought from markets, music, local pottery, rosé…), they tend not to travel well and become a bit of an embarrassment when you get back home. But, to my relief, the white wines, whilst relatively young, remain crisp and refreshing.
The Bergerac wine growing region, a sub-region of South West France has the same conditions and climate as the famous and highly coveted wine blend of Bordeaux. The success of Bordeaux is mainly down to it’s location…and of course Bergerac being so close, shares the ideal climate and soil for growing grapes. Bergerac has the same excellent drainage, very near the Dordogne river with a mild climate and lots of sunshine. From May to August they get over 200 hours of sunshine a month, dry weather in September concentrates the grape aromas and in October, which provides moderate humidity, (which helps develop the noble rot that is vital for the dessert wines), whilst the November and December rain replenishes the soil water reserve. Bordeaux became more well known mainly because it was able to capitalise on the fact that it served as a major port city for centuries.
The name Bordeaux is primarily associated with the red wine blend – generally Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blends. In Bergerac they have some extremely good reds, but not one’s that would compare with a St Emillion or a Margaux so they mainly focus their marketing on dry white wines and the very sweet Monbazillac dessert wines, known for their intensely aromatic and powerful flavours that you can only drink in small doses. The white wines are mainly a blend of Semillon, with Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignion Gris and Muscadelle grapes.
The locals tend to buy it in boxes directly from the growers and then transfer it to sealable bottles or carafes for serving, which makes it even cheaper and more environmentally friendly too!
Bergerac wines are classified into 13 white and red AOC produced in 90 villages. It’s confusing. We went to one vineyard that is actually divided between Bergerac and Cotes de Duras regions. I do not really understand.
There are seven main wine areas in the pays de Bergerac:
1. Parcharment – best red’s
2. Monbazillac – sweet white’s
3. Cotes de Bergerac – rich full-bodied wine blend and semi-sweet wine
4. Bergerac – red and rosé
5. Montravel – red and dry white wines
6. Saussinac – sweet white
7. Rosette – sweet white wines
Chateau de la Jaubertie (they don’t seem to have a website) is one of the more grand vineyards with delicious wine in the region. They also had my favourite sparkling rosé for only £10 a bottle:-
I went with my kids to a wine tasting near Bergerac airport at the Verdots vineyard “un site unique au coeur des vignes” complete with a fascinating cellar sporting an underground river that helps keep the barrels cool. They have an impressive range – I bought some of their AOC Bergerac Blanc Sec, extremely good for the price:-
Monbazillac produces one of the most highly reputed dessert wines in the world from the village of Monbazillac and and has a beautiful Chateau de Monbazillac, a listed historical monument dating back to the 16th century. The appellation covers 4,900 acres of vineyards and and they also have a fab night market on a Sunday evening in the summer where everyone chooses their food from local stalls and then sets up shop on long tressle tables – a real family affair:-
The local rosé is quite different to the Provence rosés, darker in colour and less complex flavours (ie no candy floss Whispering Angel flavours).
My favourite local white wine was in a box that I found in the local supermarché that was £12 for 5 bottles essentially. Called La Tuilerie and grown locally (but actually labelled as a Côtes de Duras wine) so we went in search of the Domaine de La Tuilerie in the Côtes de Duras à Loubes-Bernac and interrupted their lunch…so you can see that they range from the Grand Chateau’s to small warehouses where they mostly only take cash and don’t have a website…but don’t judge – the wine they produce is delicious!
Another great red and white is from the Brandeaux estate – again very inexpensive and this is the one that produces both wine from Bergerac and the Côtes de Duras on one estate with a discernible difference in flavours:-