Buying in Bergerac
- Sunday 1 September 2002
Just east of the Dordogne, Bergerac produces Bordeaux-style wines, many at half the price – especially when buying direct from producers. NORM ROBY visits
If you like the Bordeaux style, but not the prices, you should think about exploring Bergerac. East of Bordeaux in Périgord, and snuggled up against the Dordogne River, Bergerac shares the same climate as St-Emilion and Pomerol and grows traditional Bordeaux varieties.
Merlot is increasingly important in the region but red wines must also contain Cabernet Sauvignon and a dollop of Cabernet Franc or Malbec. There are more than 12,000ha (hectares) planted, and 13 ACs – Bergerac, Côtes de Bergerac, Pécharmant and Montravel Rouge are the appellation controlées for red. The latter is very young, new with the 2001 vintage, and Pécharmant is small, and has yet to fulfil its potential. A simple AC Bergerac red can be as good as a Côtes de Bergerac despite the latter's lower yield requirements. Oak-aged whites and reds are usually labelled 'elevé en fûts de chêne'. For whites, Bergerac Sec varies widely in quality, but a great source for dry whites with effusive Sauvignon character is Montravel Sec. Côtes de Montravel is medium-sweet finished and Haut Montravel is a sweet wine.
Bergerac's vintages mirror those of Bordeaux. Over the last decade successes are 2000, 1998, 1996 and 1995, with 1997 being average and 1999 variable. Of the 10 producers recommended below, all outperformed the pack in the difficult 1999 vintage. The 2000 reds can be enjoyed now or over the next three to five years. If you want to stock up in Bergerac, two itineraries are proposed. The first aims you west on the D32 towards Sainte Foy. This will take you to the cellar doors of Château Moulin Caresse, Château Puy-Servain and Château Masburel, the resident movers and shakers. Everything they make is worthwhile, but their special cuvée claret-style reds from 1999 and 2000 are cellar worthy. New owners at Château Jonc Blanc are making rich, juicy reds at bargain prices. Good value is also the theme at Château Laulerie, Château Marot and Domaine de Mayat.
The second route heads south towards Monbazillac. Grande Maison is a promising newcomer, farming the 'bio' way, and also makes a fine dry white, Cuvée Sophie, as well as Monbazillac. In Ribagnac, the Conti family produces excellent red wines with Tour des Gendres. Its top wine is Moulin des Dames, the priciest wine in Bergerac. To the east in Colombier is Clos des Verdots whose 'Les Verdot' red wines are polished and whites are brisk. In the same village seek out Château la Jaubertie, a rising star. In Pécharmant, Domaine des Costes makes rich, claret-style wines that can be cellared for three to five years.
Travelling from the UK
Buzz has two to three flights daily (except Sunday) to Bergerac from Stansted, taking just over one hour.
When in Bergerac
The Maison des Vins (2, Place du Docteur Cayla, +33 5 53 63 57 55) has a fine map of the region's wine routes and a handy guide book. On Wednesday and Saturday morning, Bergerac hosts a large market in the town's place. 15th-century Château Monbazillac is worthy of a stop despite its entrance fee, and while there, you can taste a few Monbazillacs.
The Best Caves for One-Stop Shopping
Cave Laregnere (on the D936 in Sainte-Foy-La-Grande) offers an unbeatable range of wines from Bergerac, Bordeaux and the south of France, selected by caviste Michel Baraton. In Bergerac's old village, L'Art et le Vin (Place de Marché Couvert) offers a wide range of Bergerac wines.
Best producers & Their Best Wines
Tel: +33 5 53 24 77 27
Bergerac Rouge, Terrement 2000 (£5.60)
Songe de Puy Servain, Montravel Rouge 2000 (£12)
Montravel Sec, Marjolaine 2000 (£5.60)
Tel: +33 5 53 27 55 58
Bergerac Rouge, Elevage Fut 2000 (£4)
Montravel Sec, Elevage Fut 2001 (£4)
Montravel Sec 2001 (£2.50)
Tel: +33 5 53 24 77 73
Cotes de Bergerac Rouge, Cuvee Speciale 1999 (£7)
Tel: +33 5 53 82 48 31
Montravel Sec 2001 (£3.50)
Bergerac Rouge, La Cuvee 1996 (£5.30)
Tel: +33 5 53 74 18 97
Cotes de Bergerac Rouge, Cuvee Automnale 2000 (£4.30)
Tel: +33 5 53 58 32 11
Bergerac Rouge 2000 (£5)
Tel: +33 5 53 58 34 31
Bergerac Blanc Sec 2001 (£3.50)
Tel: +33 5 53 57 12 43
Cotes de Bergerac Rouge, Cuvee La Gloire de Mon Pere 1999 (£5.40)
Tel: +33 5 53 58 26 17
Cuvee de Chateau, Monbazillac 1998 (£13)
Tel: +33 5 53 57 64 49
Norm Roby lives in the US and France.