The Wines of Bergerac – The making of wine

by Martin Walker

This is going to be a memorable year for the wines of Bergerac. Despite the wet spring and the hot, dry summer, we had just enough rain at the end of the season to refresh the grapes and dilute the sugars and thus the alcohol.

I was able to get a real sense of how good it could be on the first day of November at Château de Tiregand when François-Xavier de St-Exupéry showed me round his full vats and the first fermentation was well under way. Then came the treat. He opened a tiny tap in one big vat and let an inch or so pour out into my glass. That was the Merlot, full of fruit, light and easy but already round in the mouth.

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The Wines of Bergerac – Pécharmant and the personality behind the wine

by Martin Walker

Many of us will have seen dotted around the Périgord the posters advertising Château Corbiac and proclaiming it to be ‘le meilleur Pécharmant’, which is to say the best of the special appellation that has traditionally been seen as the finest wine of the Bergerac region.

This is quite a dramatic claim and it is based on an assessment of the number of coups de coeur awarded by the ‘Guide Hachette des vins’ to the various producers of Pécharmant over the past two decades. Corbiac has won five of these coveted awards, followed by three for Château de Rooy, two for Château Terre Vieille and for Domaine du Grande Jaure, one for Château de Tiregand and so on.

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The Wines of Bergerac – Monbazillac wines

by Martin Walker

The annual Concours for the best Monbazillac wine is always a festive occasion, unlikely as that may seem on a grey Monday morning with some welcome rain at last replacing the long weeks of heat and drought.

This is not your usual wine-tasting, although each bottle was wrapped in the traditional black cloth and we were each equipped with a tasting notebook and a pen at the hospitable new Maison des Vins on the Bergerac quayside. It’s really worth a visit, with dozens of different wines on display.

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Phylloxera: Why all French wine might really be American

by Steve Martindale

France is rightly famous for its wine industry and produces some of the most sought-after vintages in the world. Wine has formed an important part of this country’s culture and economy for centuries, but 150 years ago a tiny American aphid brought the industry to its knees and very nearly signalled the end of French wine.

Who ‘invented’ wine is a topic of heated debate, with a number of countries laying claim. As early as 7,000 BC, ancient tribes from the Yellow River Valley of China were drinking a fermented rice/honey/fruit wine which they stored in earthenware jars, but this would not be recognisable as wine as we know it today. Between 6,000 and 5,000 BC, there is increasing evidence of wine production in Georgia, then Armenia and Iran.

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The Wines of Bergerac – Consistency over time

by Martin Walker

South of the town of Bergerac and dominated by the Renaissance jewel of the château is the long ridge that forms the backbone of the Monbazillac appellation. At its eastern end, this ridge slopes down to the N21 and the much flatter plain that leads to Issigeac and Beaumont. The ground is deceptive, not being nearly as flat as you think, with little dells and gentle hillocks and they make excellent wine here, David Fourtout’s Les Verdots being the best known.

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The Wines of Bergerac – A chat with Pierre Desmartis

by Martin Walker

It will soon be ten years that I have known Pierre Desmartis, one of the first Bergerac winemakers to become a friend. We met in Paris, celebrating the way he’d just won three gold medals in a row at the Paris Concours. To give somebody else a chance they gave him the overall Prix d’Excellence instead.

Pierre was the first of the makers of Bergerac white wines to astonish me with the level of quality he achieved. Most of the Bergerac Secs I had tried before were perfectly quaffable but seemed destined more for a quick glug or to mix with crème de cassis to make a Kir than for a serious wine with dinner. For that I usually turned to a Sancerre, the white Burgundies or a Pessac-Léognan from the Bordeaux.

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The Wines of Bergerac – Château du Rooy

by Martin Walker

These are the months to be jumping in and out of the pool or the river and to enjoy eating in the open air and to welcome the long, slow ending of the day with a p’tit apéro. And here in the Périgord you can enjoy an evening drink that is wholly unique to this part of the world.

It is light, charming and delicious. It is still quite rare. And we can enjoy it thanks in large part to one extraordinary family, Gilles and Laetitia Gérault. It begins over twenty years ago when Gilles, who had graduated from wine school and had been working at a vineyard, suddenly had the opportunity to rent some vines at one of the oldest sites for wine in the Bergerac.

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The Wines of Bergerac – Summer calendar

by Martin Walker

The winemakers of Bergerac have some wonderful plans for this summer, so snip this article out of the paper, stick it on the fridge door and prepare to sip, taste, buy and realise just how much fun can be had while learning more about the wines that provide the best quality for the price in France.

On May 31 and June 1 is the Vinata, a two-day festival of wine and music in Bergerac itself. Because the Maison des Vins, the headquarters of Bergerac wine, is under renovation, the event will be centred at the place Barbacane on the southern side of the old bridge and will kick off at 11 am with tastings and a gourmet market, musical parades and a concert in the evenings.

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The Wines of Bergerac – Domaine de l’Ancienne Cure

by Martin Walker

Hearty congratulations and a sincere toast to Christian Roche who has just been named Winemaker of the Year by the Hachette wine guide, the French bible of wines. It is a great honour, not just for him but for the recognition it signals for the wines of Bergerac, so long dismissed and patronised as the little brother of Bordeaux.

Along with a growing throng of other winemakers in the region, Christian is making seriously good and even great wines and selling them for a fraction of the swollen prices of Bordeaux. And now Hachette has recognised that the Bergerac offers the best quality for the price of any wines in France.

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The Wines of Bergerac – Château Bélingard

by Martin Walker

If you want a bit of history to go with your wine tastings, you can do no better than to visit the Château Bélingard in Pomport, ten minutes south of Bergerac on the D17. Just before the turn-off to the vineyard you will pass a small stone monument. This was the place where a disaffected and partly dispossessed local baron, Antoine de Rudel, started the Hundred Years War with a little local skirmish. The vineyard is less than an arrow flight away.

If you like your history even older, you will find on the château grounds a boulder into which the Celts carved a sacrificial stone chair. Indeed the name Bélingard comes from Celtic roots. Belinos was their god of the sun and of war. Gaard was their term for garden. So this is the garden of the sun god and maybe the war god, too. The stone chair is aligned precisely along the point of midday between sunrise and sunset on the day of the spring equinox.

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