You don't have to be a detective to sniff out a good Bergerac wine
B ergerac, the French wine producing region rather than the 1980s TV detective, is one of the less well-known in this country but that doesn't mean it doesn't produce any decent wine.
Six examples were sent to me for tasting just before Christmas and, although I've only got round to trying them this week, I can vouch for their quality.
Many of you will have tasted Bergerac wines, perhaps without realising it, on your travels because Bergerac lies within the Dordogne in south-west France, a popular holiday destination.
It also lies immediately east of its more famous wine-producing neighbour, Bordeaux, and has perhaps struggled to create its own identity as a result. It certainly didn't help that for hundreds of years, up until the 20th century, wines from Bergerac were sold under a generic "Bordeaux" name.
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Stricter regulations put a stop to that but meant the growers, and there are at least 1,200 of them, had a major marketing exercise on their hands. To say that they didn't do it very well is an understatement.
Acclaimed wine writer Tom Stevenson put it very well when he said: "The dry white and red wines are reasonably easy to understand since there are three dry appellations (Bergerac, Bergerac Sec and Montravel) and three red wine appellations (Bergerac, Cotes de Bergerac and Pecharmant) but there is a veritable galaxy of sweet and semi-sweet appellation)."
He listed eight in this latter category and then said: "It would surely be simpler to have a single Bergerac appellation to which certain villages might be allowed to add a communal name."
Former Beverley wine merchant Phil Hargreaves wrote a book about Bergerac wines in 2008 (The Wines Of Bergerac, Hengate Publications).
"For too long Bergerac has bumped along in the wake of its more famous neighbour Bordeaux. Now top producers are leading the way in putting Bergerac back on the map," he wrote. "The hope is that top estate names will create an identity and a reputation for Bergerac as a whole."
Of the six I tasted, four are readily available locally (see best buys, below); the other two are stocked by Laithwaite's, can be bought online (www.laithwaites.co.uk).
The first is La Petite Genevaise, 2011 – a ripe fruit-filled rose made from Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon and priced at £7.99. Its berry fruit flavours and biscuity notes are offset by a lovely citrus freshness.
Meanwhile, Mon Plaisir Bergerac, 2010 is a limited edition red in the smooth Claret style, priced at £9.99. Deeply coloured and featuring rich perfumed plum and cassis aromas, this velvety wine would work superbly with lamb dishes.
Why: Flavours of redcurrants and blackberries with spicy notes. Well-balanced and supple, this red is made for the region's classic dishes of beef fillets and breast of duck.
Why: Delicious pudding wine with a rich purity of honey and citrus flavours. Great as an aperitif and works with ripe blue cheeses such as Roquefort.
Why: A luscious blend of Cabernet and Merlot, this dry rose is extremely versatile with cold food although it will match well with sauced pasta, too.
Why: Deliciously crisp and elegant white with fresh citrus flavours. Ideal served chilled on its own, as an aperitif or with seafood dishes.