Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Wines of Bergerac – A Mini-Bordeaux

During the four delightful days we spent in the Dordogne, the main wine region represented in every restaurant was Bergerac. Each “verre de vin blanc, rouge, or rose” we ordered was always from a Bergerac appellation, but since the 13 AOC’s in the Bergerac region are part of the department of the Dordogne, that makes sense.

Before leaving home, I checked my wine atlas to verify the types of grapes allowed in Bergerac wines, and they are identical to Bordeaux – for the most part. Bergerac reds are a blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and cabernet franc (Bordeaux is also using petit verdot, but has pretty much stopped adding malbec). Roses are made from any or all of these three red grapes, and whites are a blend or single source of sauvignon blanc, semillon and/or muscadelle. Nearby is the Monbazillac AOC (see next post), which produces a famous botrytis dessert wine from the same white grapes.

Having just spent 4 days in Bordeaux, it was easy to compare the two. In general, I found the wines of Bordeaux to have more elegance and complexity. However, we did find some lovely Bergerac white wines – one that was 100% Semillon and quite amazing. The reds were very tannic and astringent, while the roses were refreshing yet simple. The sweet dessert wines of Monzabillac were probably the best aspect of Bergerac.

On our last day, we visited Cave Julien de Sauvignac which produces Bergerac wines, but is located in Le Bugue – about 30 km from the city of Bergerac. We received excellent service with an English speaking sommelier manning the counter that day. We tasted through (spit) 3 roses, 3 whites, 4 reds, and 3 dessert wines. Again, I found I preferred the unoaked whites and dessert wines over the more tannic reds and simple roses. The tasting was completely free as is the case with most wineries in the Bergerac region, and I purchased a small bottle of the dessert wine and some truffle oil before departing. The winery was located in an amazing wine shop that included a fabulous collection of wines from across France including verticals of Petrus and most of the 1st growths of Bordeaux.

One interesting point is that in all 3 wineries we visited in Cahors and Bergerac, we passed local French people carrying out large containers of house wine in big plastic jugs or boxes. Michelle was amazed, and I explained that it is the custom for locals to bring their own containers and buy direct from the winery. They usually fill it up out of tank or barrel, and then wheel it out to their car on a small cart. This used to be the custom in California as well, but now there are only a handful of wineries that still practice this delightful service, which is also good for the environment in terms of recycled containers.

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