One of the top appellations of Southwest France, the Bergerac appellation makes Cabernet-based wines powerful enough to appeal to fans of Bordeaux. Often, these wines can reach the level of quality of a 4th or even 3rd growth Médoc red.
Located only slightly to the east of Bordeaux, Bergerac covers approximately 93 communes in the Bergerac departément of France. The titular town was named after Cyrano de Bergerac, the man around whom the famous play of the same name was based--although, ironically, Cyrano himself never made his home there. The vineyards are located on the Dordogne river (the same river which flows through the famous vineyards of Bordeaux châteaux) and include about 20,000 acres of prime growing land. Production is estimated at around 4 million cases per year, of which about 2.5 million are red.
The Bergerac region has a history at least as long as that of Bordeaux. Trade was easy, as the vineyards were right on the river. Bergerac wine grew with Bordeaux wine, as Bergerac was considered part of Bordeaux before official rules governed what could be sold as Bordeaux wine. The growth of the wine industry was cyclical, but the great fortune of the Bordeaux region meant that the Bergerac region also prospered.
But AOC regulators struck Bergerac a major blow by limiting Bordeaux wines to the Gironde departément, a decision which excluded all Bergerac wines from the prestigious Bordeaux region. As a result, Bergerac has lost much of its former renown. But in recent years, Bergerac has benefitted from the trend toward less established, less expensive red wines.
Climate and Viticulture
Many of Bergerac's vineyards are located on the gravel banks of the Dordogne river, a setup which parallels that of Bordeaux's best vineyards. Not surprisingly, these vineyards make for the most Bordeaux-like wines. Away from the river, the soil is more calcareous, with limestone deposits in the higher-quality vineyards. Bergerac's main disadvantage is not really its climate; its lack of establishment among great wines, and the difficulty of competing with a region such as Bordeaux, are the greater factors.
Bergerac differs from most of the rest of Southwest France by not using local grapes. Here, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and, to some extent, Malbec are used in the red wines. Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, and Muscadelle are the white grapes. These are the exact same grapes used in Bordeaux.
Though Southwest France wines are not particularly commonly exported to the United States or, for that matter, any country outside France, many of the wines of Bergerac are easy to find. We have four producers to recommend whose wines are commonly exported.
- Château Bélingard: A very solid producer which makes a white Sauvignon Blanc, a red Bordeaux blend, and also a rosé. Prices are generally in the $9-$15 range.
- Château de la Colline: Colline is increasingly one of the most ambitious producers of this appellation, making a wide lineup of wines, all very good and in general selling for under $15 a bottle. Except for one Sauvignon Blanc, the whites are made from Sémillon and the reds from Merlot.
- Domaine de l'Ancienne Cure: This oddly named producer is a powerhouse in Bergerac, making a variety of elegant reds and dry whites. The sweet wines are also interesting, although outdone by Ancienne Cure's own Monbazillacs.
- Château Tour des Gendres: Tour des Gendres makes wines that seriously rival some midlevel Bordeaux offerings. The red, white, and rosé versions of the Classique cuvée are all good, while the Merlot-based Gloire de Mon Pére competes with Right Bank Merlot-based wines, such as lower-end Pomerols. The white Moulin des Dames is an excellent example of Sémillon, but the red version is also good.
Bergerac has many subregions. In fact, few wines are sold under the standard Bergerac AOC. Bergerac Sec covers dry whites, Bergerac Rosé is a designation for the generally Cab-based rosés, and Côtes de Bergerac offers higher-quality wine that is closer to Bordeaux in terms of richness, concentration and ageability.
Bergerac is sometimes considered the parent appellation of Monbazillac, Montravel, Pécharmant, Rosette, and Saussignac. However, the wines produced within these five regions are so diverse that this grouping seems somewhat arbitrary. As a result, on this website we treat these five like their own separate regions.