The Wines of Bergerac – The pleasure of buying directly from the producer

by Martin Walker

One of the great pleasures of being in this part of France is the chance to potter around the wine country, calling in at vineyards to taste the wines and buy directly from the producer. Winemakers enjoy these visits, and not only because they get the full price for their wine rather than sharing it with various middlemen.

The best place to start is at the Maison des Vins de Bergerac on Quai Salvette on the riverbank in the heart of old Bergerac. They offer tastings and sell wine but the real prize is their Carte touristique du vignoble, the map that shows (almost) all the vineyards and gives phone numbers and addresses. To be listed in the guide, vineyards have to be open to the public and offer tastings (dégustations), but it’s best to check opening hours, and more and more of them have modern tasting rooms and even English-speaking staff.

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The Wines of Bergerac – The pedigree of Bergerac wines

by Martin Walker

Like most Brits who live in this part of France, I enjoy the wine and believe that the wines of Bergerac represent what the French call un bon rapport qualité-prix, or excellent value for money. The effect of speculation, wine investors and the surging demand from China have combined to price the most celebrated wines of Bordeaux out of the reach of most of us. In this and future columns, I plan to suggest some of the Bergerac wines that I find most appealing and which will not break the bank.

Bergerac wines have a very long pedigree. Laurent de Bosredon, who built up Château Bélingard, reckons his is the oldest vineyard in Western Europe, and proudly displays a Celtic chair chiseled from stone to prove it. The name itself comes from the Celtic: ‘gaard’ meant garden and ‘Belinos’ was the god of the sun and of war. And wine was being made when this region was part of the Roman Empire. The competition so alarmed the Italian winegrowers that in 96AD they appealed to the Emperor Domitian to ban the sale of wines from Gaul and destroy the vines.

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