The Wines of Bergerac – Buying wine under lockdown

by Martin Walker

Despite all the worries, writing about wine in these troubling days of the coronavirus and under lockdown has its benefits. This is the time to review your own cellar, whether it be a handful of bottles or a whole underground cave lined wall-to-wall with liquid treasures. This is also an excellent time to plan for your enjoyment of wines in the future.

Lots of winemakers in the Bergerac are under real financial pressure since so many of their sales outlets have had to close and the lockdown means you cannot visit the vineyards to taste and buy on the spot. The best way to help is to contact your favourite winemaker by phone or email and ask if you can buy a bon d’achat. That means you pay him a hundred euros or whatever now by cheque or credit card, and in return you get a credit note for that amount of wine when you can next visit the vineyard.

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The Wines of Bergerac – Sparkling wine

by Martin Walker

Spring is almost here and a glass of sparkling wine is an excellent way to welcome its coming. But which one? The best way to find out is to recruit the wisdom of friends and fellow-imbibers and there are few happier ways than to organize a blind tasting.

Most countries now make sparkling wine so we are no longer locked into the overpriced and over-hyped grip of champagne, a region which threatens to produce more champers than it can justify. In 1850, the Champagne region produced 20 million bottles a year. By the 1960s they were approaching ten times that output.

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The Wines of Bergerac – Pairing wine with truffles

by Martin Walker

The Fête de la Truffe in Sarlat each January is not only a most enjoyable extravaganza of the black truffles of the Périgord but of food and wine in general. The lovely old town of Sarlat does it very well, offering truffles in every form along with wine tastings, lessons in appreciating wine with various foods and so on.

There are stalls that offer truffles with foie gras; truffles blended with the yolks of hard boiled egg; a clear oxtail soup with truffles; truffles blended into mashed potatoes; a truffled brioche; truffle risottos; truffle chocolate; truffle blancmange and even truffle sushi (albeit with foie gras rather than fish). But if you want fish, there is truffled brandade de morue.

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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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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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