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.

The Domaine du Bois de Pourquié is off the beaten track but it is well signposted and is very much worth the journey. Its 2003 red wine is favourably listed in Phil Hargreaves’ very useful book of 2008, The Wines of Bergerac. This slim volume is a real labour of love by a man who spent his life in the wine trade and ended up running the Premier Cru wine club and the Hengate Wine School in Yorkshire. The Domaine was also praised in my other wine bible, the Guide Hachette for 2001, which I find valuable for checking the consistency over two decades of vineyards I appreciate.

The Mayet family have been producing wine commercially at the Bois de Pourquié since 1971 and they have certainly passed the consistency test. A couple of years ago they won Bergerac’s Winemaker of the Year and I was very impressed by their red wines on a recent visit. Before turning to wine, the place was since 1820 a farm and the family took quite a risk fifty years ago in transforming the fields and pastures into a vineyard. But then back in the 16th century their trade was building cathedrals, so the Mayets have a tradition of changing professions.

Le Bon Dieu’s loss was our gain. They make very impressive wine, reasonably priced. Their reds come in three categories. The standard Bergerac red is 6.50 euros a bottle, half Merlot and half Cabernet Sauvignon, an honest, straightforward wine that I liked immediately and said so.

The medium-price range is filled by a 2015 Côtes de Bergerac red, at 9 euros, composed of two-thirds Merlot to one-third Cabernet Sauvignon. I was not surprised that it won a silver medal at the Concours of independent winemakers. It was excellent, a clear fresh bouquet with plenty of fruit and a more complex taste in the mouth than I had expected and with a longer finish. There is another version, the 2014, which spent ten months in oak barrels and which won a gold medal at the same Concours.

Then there is the top-of-range Révélation 2015 at 20 euros. It was just opened when we arrived and I was tempted to go off for a walk for a couple of hours to let it breathe. It was a serious wine, a little austere being so newly opened, but full of promise. My hostess for my visit was grand-mère, who with her husband had launched the family’s wine venture. She confided that she was delighted that I had liked the first, the cheapest and simplest of the wines since that was her own favourite.

She steered me to a wine I usually avoid, the Moelleux white wine, which has always seemed to me neither one thing nor the other; neither a serious dry white wine nor a liquoreux like a Monbazillac or a Sauternes. I began to learn better thanks to the Rosettes of Bergerac. And here the 2015 Bergerac Moelleux at 8.50 euros won gold medals at Paris, Bordeaux and Bergerac, a most unusual trifecta. I am still not converted because this sort of sweet wine makes me think of maiden aunts but I begin to see the attraction.

The real surprise was the 2018 rosé, marketed under the top-of-range Révélation label and a real bargain at 8.50 euros a bottle. It is a very good wine indeed, with all the instant charm and freshness one wants in a rosé but it comes with a real sense of depth and structure. Maybe it comes from the family heritage in building cathedrals but it struck me as a wine with its own architecture.

We already drank the bottles I bought so I shall have to go back for more, and maybe also pick up one of their ten-litre boxes of the Bergerac red, the sec and the rosé. In these summer days with the house full of friends and family, ten litres of very drinkable wine at 29.50 euros is worth having. Just be sure your fridge is big enough to take one, otherwise the 5-litre boxes are 18.50 euros.

Martin Walker, author of the best-selling ‘Bruno, chief of police’ novels, is a Grand Consul de la Vinée de Bergerac. Formerly a journalist, he spent 25 years as foreign correspondent for The Guardian and then became editor-in-chief of United Press International. He and his wife Julia have had a home in the Périgord since 1999 and one of his great hobbies is visiting the vineyards of Bergerac.

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