by Martin Walker
The winemakers of Bergerac are determined that we shall all have an enjoyable summer, with a huge range of fun activities on offer. So feel free to stick this column onto the fridge door and get ready to party.
22 June at Château Court les Mûts, at Razac-de-Saussignac, dinner, wine and music from Les Tire-Bouchons quartet, composed of two guitars, sax and double bass. A farmers’ market opens to buy food at 7 pm, with wine-tasting at 8 pm and the music starts at 9 pm. This is your chance to try their wine called Mains et Pieds, one of the very few these days whose grapes have been trodden by human feet.
Wednesdays between July 18 and August 8, Château de Panisseau at Thénac offers its own wine along with a barbecue and other foods from local producers in the courtyard of the winery with the medieval castle making a fine backdrop for the music and dancing. From 6:30 pm.
July 20 at Domaine du Siorac at St-Aubin-de-Cadelech from 7 pm, a gourmet market with music at the vineyard, with tables and benches and their own wine. Their Bergerac Sec won a gold medal at last year’s Bordeaux concours so you know that Muriel Landat makes good wine and she has for some time been a pioneer of wine tourism. She’s adventurous, planning to start making wine from the Ondenc grape, a traditional variety in the region but so vulnerable to phylloxera that it almost disappeared. They also make verjus in commercial quantities, and Muriel’s own foie gras au verjus has a legendary reputation.
July 28 at Les Verdots at Conne-de-Labarde from 7 pm, a rock concert and gourmet market at one of the top vineyards in the Bergerac. Eat, drink and dance with the famous David Fourtout. He has been a winemaker of the year and his wines are served at the famous Hotel George V in Paris.
4-5 August, Saturday and Sunday, the village fête at St-Laurent-des-Vignes is quite an event, with a traditional fairground with rides for children, moules-frites or magret-frites to eat and a big vide-greniers on Sunday. You are in the heart of the Bergerac vineyards so there is a fine choice of wines. They charge ten euros for dinner on Saturday and 13 euros for the giant paella on Sunday, and it closes with a great fireworks.
August 10 at Château de la Jaubertie – Shakespeare in the vineyard. Antic Disposition, the London-based theatre group which does annual summer tours in the Dordogne and Lot regions, will perform Much Ado About Nothing at one of the loveliest and best-kept châteaux in the Bergerac. Founded in 2005, the acting troupe have built a great reputation in London as well as here. Jaubertie is a former hunting lodge of King Henri IV that he later gave to one of his many mistresses. Hugh Ryman is a terrific and innovative winemaker and his Cuvée Mirabelle wines, red and white, are among the best wines made in this region.
July 12 and 26 and August 9 and 23 at Château Bélingard near Pomport from 6.30 pm to 9 pm, a regular and popular event known as Les Apéros de Bélingard offers drinks, plates of snacks, great wines, a lovely château and an unbeatable view.
August 25, the village fête at St-Barthélemy-de-Buissière offers a wine fair all day and a night market from 6.30 pm.
September 7 at Château de Tiregand is the annual and much-loved jazz festival. It begins with the traditional apéritif, an evening market to buy food while serenaded by the jazz band Red Fish, followed by dancing to the 21 musicians of the Jazz Band de Sanguinet who perform their versions of the Bop and Swing classics. The wines of this grandest of the Pécharmant estates are among my personal favourites and after the vineyard was battered by last year’s April frosts it’s fingers crossed for a great harvest this year.
September 22 at Domme in the Salle de Pradal, a vendanges dinner and ball. The wines of this enchanting hilltop bastide are a Cinderella story. Its 2,700 hectares of vineyards were almost wiped out by phylloxera in the 1880s and in the 1990s the local councillor Germinal Peiro led the rebirth (he’s now president of the council for the Dordogne department). They started with half a hectare financed by local people subscribing for the relaunch and now have seven producers on 21 hectares and they make terrific rosé wines.
Then there are the night markets almost every evening throughout the summer from late June into early September. We like Monday evenings at Beaumont, because they have terrific music and dancing in the medieval square and offer wines from L’Ancienne Cure of Christian Roche. But on at least one Monday evening in August go to the night market at Josephine Baker’s delightful Château des Milandes. Get there early to enjoy the exhibition of falconry.
The trick is to go to the night markets where you know the wine will be good, so Sunday evenings you can hardly do better than the night market at Monbazillac. On Friday evenings there is lots of wine from Sigoulès. On Wednesday evenings the bastide hill town of Belvès offers a very good choice of food and a great location in the main square. Thursday evenings from June 28 is the night market at Issigeac and there is also a market in the courtyard of Château de Biron, where a grander setting can hardly be imagined.
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.