Tag: Bergerac

Vinisource – bulk wine production in Bergerac

This is a post in the Spotlight on: Bergerac series

Almost every wine region in the world has room to make grapes for mass market wines and Bergerac is no exception.

Vineyard, Château Thénac, Bergerac

At Château Les Merles, I sat down with Gerrita Thiart-Martin from ViniSource to taste some of the wines the company made for the mass market.

Firstly, mass market does not equate bad wines, necessarily, but merely that the wines had been made in bulk quantities, and blended for consistency. This means that any “terroir character” that you might have detected with small batch productions are likely to be lost in the blend.

For ViniSource, it was a matter of acting as a sort of négociant by working with producers to blend their wines, often using the same base wines, to create different products for different clients.

ViniSource produces wines for a number of supermarkets in the UK including ASDA, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Tesco. To give you an idea of numbers, in 2013 its total production was around 4 million bottles.

I tasted a tiny selection of the red and whites on offer.

Kicking things off was the Sainsbury’s Grande Reserve de Bergerac 2012, an easy-drinking citrusy and simple white, blended from Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon. The Tesco Finest Bergerac Blanc 2012, in comparison, had more crisp apple notes. And along with a little more minerality, there was a rounded simplicity.

Moving up the scale was a white wine made by David Fourtout, the Château les Tours des Verdots Bergerac Blanc Sec 2012. Gooseberry, citrus and fresh, crisp apple was flanked by nice acidity.

For the reds, the Sainsbury’s Grande Reserve de Bergerac 2012, made from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, had notes of woody vanilla with blackberry, strawberry and even sour cherry coming through. It’s not quite elegant though as the bolshy fruit pushes forward. In contrast, the Clos Le Joncal Mirage du Joncal 2007 was much more refined with hints of sweet spice harmonising with the black cherry and blackberry.

Of course the object of bulk wine production is that there’s consistency in the product year after year. This tiny selection has certainly demonstrated that bulk wines aren’t necessarily bad, though they can be overtly simple and doing little to express their terroir at times.

But I suppose not everyone is ready to work so hard for their wine, or pay a sufficient premium for terroir.

Château Thénac, Thénac

This is a post in the Spotlight on: Bergerac series

Château Thénac could be said to be its own town. Or at least that’s what it feels like when you find yourself in the village of Thénac, where there are precisely three buildings in its centre – the Château, the Marie (Mayor’s office) and the church.

Château Thénac, Bergerac

The Château itself is split up into the house and the winery.

Although built entirely in the traditional style, almost everything is new – even the vines. Not all the vines, mind.

It’s evident that big changes have been made since the property was bought by a Russian oligarch; that oligarch is none other than Eugene Shvidler, friend and business partner of Roman Abromavich. At the same time, many things have stayed the same. The staff, for example, have been retained.

The estate is a sizeable 200 hectares though only around 50 are under vine. Majority of the wines are your average Bergerac blends though a few odd ball varieties, like Ondenc have been thrown in.

Wines, Château Thénac, Bergerac

The resident chef at the Château is really rather excellent but pining for his food did detract from writing down tasting notes.

It is, however, worth noting that with the changes in the ownership came a change in the style of wine produced. Experimentations are made with the blends as well as the winemaking itself so we should see some more interesting samples coming out in the future. But the downside of being one to watch is that the odd vintage is still experiencing some youthful imbalance.


Château Moulin Caresse, St Antoine de Breuilh

This is a post in the Spotlight on: Bergerac series

The owners of Château Moulin Caresse has been investing a lot of money into the estate recently. Most notable is perhaps the brand new eco-friendly warehouse winery which offers digital controls over temperature, humidity and CO2.

The recent bout of spending is something the owner Sylvie Deffarge is attributing to luck; in that luckily for her and her husband Jean-François, their children are keen to join the family business and therefore making long term investments financially viable.

And what a family business it has been – the property has been in the family since the 1700s although winemaking has been a much more recent phenomenon.

The Château makes three key ranges – Cuvée Cépage, Magie d’Automne and Cent Pour 100 – across the Montravel, Haut Montravel and Bergerac AOCs.

The Cuvée Cépage Montravel Blanc Sec 2013 was fresh and crisp with notes of apple and citrus flanked by flinty minerality. The Magie d’Autumne Montravel Blanc Sec 2012 was more floral, from use of Muscadelle grapes, with a stone fruit character and possibly a hint of toast. The top range, Cent Pour 100 Montravel Blanc Sec 2012, was nutty and creamy in the way Chardonnay can be at times except this one used Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon and had very high acidity.

On the red side, Magie d’Autumne Bergerac Rouge 2010 was still too young to drink really but it’s filled with intense berry fruit, a hint of vanilla and a herbaceous pencil shaving finish. The Cent Pour 100 Montravel Rouge 2010, meanwhile, had the beginnings of leafy, leathery development while still holding on to a mix of black and red fruits and light spice. When you move on to the Cent Pour 100 Montralvel Rouge 2008 you can see the visible difference in development. The wine becomes wonderfully aromatic but not forgetting its dose of blackberry and herbaceous character.

Château Moulin Caresse, Bergerac

A slightly different offering was the Coeur de Roche which the Château has only recently started producing. The idea is to make a special cuvée from the best grapes of the old vines. The grapes are fermented, must and all, in custom-made oak barrels before being blended for the final cuvée. The Coeur de Roche 2009 was the first vintage and shows off its production method with a dark, inky hue. Somehow, despite all the oaking, it manages to be incredibly fruity, with notes of cherry and blackberry as well as a hint of liquorice. It’s really quite delicious.

Château Moulin Caresse, Bergerac

The region also had sweet wine appellations and the Château made both the moelleux (lighter) and liquoreux (more concentrated) styles. The Cuvée Cépage Haut Montravel Semillon Moelleux 2012 was very light indeed with a refreshing style that held the undertones of apricot and white flowers. The Cent Pour 100 Haut Montravel Liquoreux 2011 had much more of a floral note with only a delicate overtone of botrytis.

Château Moulin Caresse, Bergerac

Looking back, the red wines at Château Moulin Caresse were often a little austere while the white wines, and sweet wines, showed much better. But then again, the region’s traditions lay in white and sweet wines so you wouldn’t expect anything less.


Château des Eyssards, Monestier

This is a post in the Spotlight on: Bergerac series

Pascal Cuisset of Château des Eyssards is said to be one of the biggest personalities in Bergerac.

Pascal Cuisset, Château des Eyssards, Bergerac

Meeting him, I can understand why.

Cuisset was a tall, rotund man who gestates as he talks about his wines, almost none stop, all the while pointing out the pluses and minuses of wines in general.

While producing organic wine, he doesn’t use copper as he thinks it kills the worms. And unlike many wine-types, he doesn’t believe in terroir. Instead, he thinks that most of the effects of the soil can be manipulated with technology and fine tuning of viticulture.

He had been a foie gras producer and a one-time chef until he discovered wine one day and headed wholeheartedly down that route. Stints of working in South Africa and tastings of wines from New Zealand and Chile formulated his wine making approach. There’s admiration in his attitude to the New World too.

Apart from believing that Oregon Pinot Noir is much better than Burgundy, he thinks the New World wines are so good because “they have no past and they’re very positive about the future”. Essentially, “they dream of a wine and then they make it”.

The wine that Cuisset dreams of is one that’s big, powerful and a real flavour experience because “a man with passion needs a wine with passion”.

Dessert wine, Château des Eyssards, Bergerac

His Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon 2013 is bold with notes of lychee, white flower and apricot.

The flavourful l’Adagio des Eyssards 2010 spoke of rounded vanilla and warm wood over blackberry, violet and cherry notes. The tannin-tastic Semental 2010 was too youthful at tasting but was filled with blackberry, dark cherry and bramble. With rest, it could be very interesting.

The Saussignac Cuvée Flavie 2007, made in the Quarts-de-Chaume style, boasted apricots, dried fruit, marmalade and white flowers. As well as having really good balance, the hint of botrytis showed off just a little amidst all the acidity.


Château Tiregand, Creysse

This is a post in the Spotlight on: Bergerac series

Back of house, Château Tiregand, Bergerac

The Château at Château de Tiregand showed tell-tale signs of the enormous wealth of the family in the years gone by, not only in the size of the building but also in the basic facilities. Today it stands in strange contrast to modernity.

The courtyard that once welcomed horse-drawn carriages, with room for at least six carts, now provides ample facilities for parking cars. The pair of zinc windows, recently restored in Paris for a sum of more than 30,000 euros, glistened in the setting sun the way that its modern counterparts could never imagine. And what seemed like abandoned dove cots were in fact homes to ostriches that would have been de-feathered to furnish the hats of the ladies of the house.

All that pomp aside, the Château is still making incredibly good wines.

Wines, Château Tiregand, Bergerac

I took part in a vertical tasting of the Grand Millésime Cuvées, a blend that’s considered the best wines of the house. It’s one which, over time, has changed from a Merlot-dominant blend to one with Cabernet Sauvignon at its heart.

Starting with a youthful 2011, the Grand Millésime 2011 was incredibly smooth and fruity with red berries, strawberry and sweet cherry notes coming through.

The Grand Millésime 2010 was more restrained with blackberry dominating backed by myrtle and herbaceous vanilla.

Grand Millésime 2009 swings back to strawberry but also includes black cherry and blackberry as well as bramble fruits and sour cherry, all while managing to be extremely smooth.

The Grand Millésime 2008 proves to be a very complex blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Malbec. The result is a heady blend of red cherry and blackberry with liquorice, flanked by soft, silky tannins and the first peaks of development.

It begins to get rather smoky with the Grand Millésime 2007 where the black cherry fruits have developed into rounded chocolate notes. While the tannins have become smooth and developed, the acidity is still high.

While the Grand Millésime 2005 is looking more developed in colour, with the beginnings of sediments, on the palate it actually feels fresher than the Grand Millésime 2007. Again, high tannins, black cherry and bramble fruits show through.

The Grand Millésime 2001 was showing incredibly well. The complex nose spoke of leafy development with blackberry notes while the herbaceous, minty, sweet spice on the palate added an extra dimension. Somehow, it manages to be refreshing enough to still feel youthful.

Grand Millésime 2000 unfortunately turned out to be rather green and stalky with leafy herbaceousness and a mix of red and blackcurrant. It’s also the first vintage where the previously Cabernet Franc dominant blend was changed to Cabernet Sauvignon.

The change was obvious when you try the Grand Millésime 1998, a Merlot and Cabernet Franc blend, which was all strawberry and chocolate but not very developed.

Changing to a much older blend, I tried some seriously old vintages from the Pécharmant area. It’s a region close to Bordeaux with a significant amount of iron in the soil.

The Pécharmant 1989 spoke of prunes and cherries with lots of animal and vegetal development. The Pécharmant 1983 had visibly aged with brown tints and slightly oxidised character to its coffee notes. However, while the clearly perfectionist owner (who asked not to be written about) said the wine was passed it, I thought it was still drinking incredibly well with notes of cherry and liquorice still showing through in the long finish.

But even without extensive ageing, the Pécharmant wines were extremely expressive. The Pécharmant 2010 had spicy vanilla notes underpining herbaceous blackberry and violets.

On the more mass market side, the Bergerac Blanc 2012 was crisp with rounded citrus (lemon in particular) and extremely high acidity. The first sample I tried of this had actually been left open for eight days, mistakenly sampled obviously, but even so, it remained fresh and vibrant. Now that is a good wine.


Château de la Jaubertie, Colombier

This is a post in the Spotlight on: Bergerac series

Château la Jaubertie, Bergerac

Is Château de la Jaubertie well regarded? I couldn’t tell.

The winemaker Hugh Ryman (son of Nick Ryman, the man who began the Ryman stationery empire) is certainly held in high regard by the industry. He’s often applauded as one of the first flying winemakers who consulted, and still consults, on winemaking projects around the world. What’s more, the wines from Château de la Jaubertie had sold very well in British supermarkets and independents.

And yet it was once a property that was dogged by financial woes and towards the end of the 90s there were reports that it would have to be sold to cover debts.

Both of these were facts that I didn’t find out until further research after my visit and in learning of them, it was easier to understand what I had seen at Château de la Jaubertie.

In the first instance Hugh Ryman is still very much involved in Château de la Jaubertie.

And while trying to make quality, but mass market, wines for consumers, Hugh Ryman himself admits that there was a period in the estate’s history where the aim was bulk production in the style of emergent Latin American regions. Since then, they’ve made a conscious effort to dial back production to a level that was more quality conscious.

Still, while taking a tour through the vineyard, many of Ryman’s comments remained heavy on the costs of wine production. The density of the vines, for example, was resting on a fine balance on the sliding scale of price, quantity and quality.

That said, it’s not all bad.

The Bergerac Blanc Sec 2013 had notes of apple, lime, pear drop and slight effervescence, finishing with a hint of pineapple. Bergerac Blanc Sec 2012 was citrusy but, I felt, had already lost a lot of its freshness and certainly not as aromatic as its younger sibling.

In the slightly more up-market Mirabelle range, the Mirabelle Blanc 2012 had creamy apple and citrus notes, underlined by stone fruits and medium acidity. The Mirabelle Blanc 2010 was much better in comparison with the same rounded stone fruits, apple and citrus but also lime and minerality.

In the red, the Bergerac Rouge 2010 had strawberry highlights and chewy tannins while the Bergerac Rouge 2011 also had vanilla and a little hint of toasted corn.

Going back to the Mirabelle range again, the Mirabelle Rouge 2010 was very herbaceous and steely with blackberry overtones while the Mirabelle Rouge 2008 had minerality showing through the blackberry and black cherry notes.

Moving on to the dessert wines, the Muscadelle Vielles Vignes 2011 was a semi-sweet (moelleux) floral number with notes of white flower, gardenia and apricots. The refreshing Mirabelle crème de tête 2011 was the best of the bunch with notes of apricots and marmalade and a slightly nutty finish. Also finishing with a nutty tang was the Monbazillac 1997 which was softly floral with truffle, marmalade and apricot notes and a very drying finish.

I think given the spectrum of wines tasted, Château de la Jaubertie clearly has potential for great winemaking. And though the wines weren’t terrible, they didn’t exactly inspire great poetry so, for me for the time being at least, the wines are suffering from temporary misdirection.


Château Barouillet, Pomport

This is a post in the Spotlight on: Bergerac series

Château Barouillet, Bergerac

I get the feeling that Vincent Alexis is more at home in trendy Shoreditch than making wines but perhaps it’s too much of a clumsy generalisation to typecast someone with bed hair, wide rimmed glasses and skinny jeans as a hipster.

It is, of course, wrong to assume that Alexis is without credentials. As well as learning his (winemaking) trade in Mâcon, Burgundy, he once worked in the Crouch End branch of Nicholas in London. And as a 9th generation wine maker, he has serious pedigree.

His first vintage was in 2010 but already he has moved away from the family mould by shifting the family’s vineyard towards organic and biodynamic winemaking.

Château Barouillet, Bergerac

To give you an idea of the style of his wines, it’s worth knowing that he designed all of the labels himself with inspiration beginning at the bottom of the bottle. Many of them are named after Greek goddesses and are fermented from natural yeasts.

Gaia 2012, a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle, was fresh and limey with an almondy finish. Added to that is just a touch of effervescence making the wine reminiscent of Moscato d’Asti at times. The Pandora 2012, made in the egg, was flavoursome with notes of citrus and white stone fruits, bolstered by a toasty, nutty finish.

The reds offered no respite for the palate. Bergerac Rouge 2012 was intensely farmyardy with lots of cherry and animal notes coming through on the palate. Pécharmant 2012, meanwhile, spoke more of liquorice, blackcurrant and sweet spice; there was even a little coffee on the finish. Hécate 2012 had heady fruit with dark and smoky notes over the black and red berries.

Moving on to the sweet wines, the well balanced Monbazillac 2011 had just a touch of botrytis on the nose but offered a diverse expression that included marmalade, marshmallow, apricot and tropical fruits.

A little left field was the very limited release of Apicula 2009. It’s a wine that would have been Monbazillac but was left on the vines at the end of the production. Unfiltered and high in viscosity, it also had an oxidative character that’s very like Pedro Ximinez. Unlike PX, it also boasted an extremely long finish with Christmas fruits, prunes, pickled walnut, caramel and honey all coming through. Delicious stuff, if you can get hold of it.


Spotlight on: Bergerac

Monbazillac castle, Bergerac

With the success of the, Spotlight on: Languedoc-Roussillon series, I thought I would expand that into some of the other wine regions I’ve visited. Most recently, that was Bergerac (read my post for Yahoo here).

Lying to the east of Bordeaux, Bergerac is often seen as the younger cousin of the famous wine region. Yet in many respects, Bergerac is not like Bordeaux at all. That sentiment is shared with the winemakers – some promoted their wines as Bordeaux-style while others preferred to tout Bergerac as something entirely different.

While it’s true that the terroir of the two regions are largely similar, it’s important to note that Bergerac, being further inland, has less maritime influences.

In terms of grapes, there are similarities too. Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc are used in the main for reds while Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon are used for whites and sweet wines. Bergerac also seems to make much bigger uses of Malbec, now more associated with Argentina, Muscadelle and even Ugni Blanc (or Trebbiano).

What is interesting about Bergerac wines is the incredible diversity in styles and approaches to winemaking. Some producers are still making that very elegant style of wine, which is too austere when drunk young; others are being influenced by the wines of the South West and using more unusual grapes in their blends; and others still are influenced almost entirely by the New World and fashioning wines for drinking today, tomorrow but probably not ten years down the line.

With that in mind, here are the few wineries I visited in Bergerac with tasting notes to be posted in the coming weeks:

Château Barouillet

Château de la Jaubertie

Château de Tiregand

Château des Eyssards

Château Moulin Caresse

Château Thénac


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