Bergerac

Bergerac is a wine region in south west France, covering an area along the Dordogne river. Despite the region's long, varied history, Bergerac wines often play second fiddle to the famous cuvées of Bordeaux, just to the west. Indeed, the wines of Bergerac are made in the image of Bordeaux from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon, albeit in a significantly softer, less-serious style.

The area's vineyards cover the hilly land on either side of the river valley in the southern half of the Dordogne administrative department. This centres on the small city of Bergerac, around which there are a scattering of AOC appellations that fall within the region. The most famous of these are Monbazillac, which produces exclusively sweet white wines, and Côtes de Bergerac, responsible for the slightly higher-quality red and white wines of the region.

Wine has been made in Bergerac for thousands of years, although land under vine grew considerably in the Middle Ages thanks to the monasteries who established many vineyards along the banks of the Dordogne. Bergerac was of particular note in during the Hundred Years War, when the port (and vineyards) of Bordeaux came under English rule. Upriver, Bergerac (along with Cahors, Gaillac and Buzet) remained under French rule, and so wines exported from these regions via the Dordogne were taxed heavily by the Bordelais, as well as being held back until the Bordeaux wines had been exported.

The climate here can be described broadly as maritime, although Bergerac's inland location means that winters are colder and summers hotter than those of Bordeaux, closer to the Atlantic coast. This also means that there is less rainfall, and so vineyards are often planted on sites where the soil retains sufficient water to see vines through the drier growing seasons. Certain parts of the area (particularly in the narrower parts of the Dordogne river valley) are humid enough to support the development of Botrytis cinerea, leading to sweet, luscious styles of wine.

The soils around Bergerac vary considerably. Limestone soils from ancient marine deposits are found in the area, as well as sandy, gravelly clay soils known as boulbènes. Vines are most often planted on clay limestone soils that are favourable to the development of flavour and structure in the grapes.

Bergerac wines are distinctly unfashionable, and do not often stand out as being exceptional. However, some producers in the region are experimenting with barrel maturation and other winemaking techniques to improve the image of these wines.
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