Always on the look out for different wine regions to delve into, we took a few days off to explore the exciting, slightly under the radar French region of Bergerac and Gascony.
Starting our trip in Bergerac we drove down to the heart of Armagnac country. After Simon’s trip last November with the Armagnac academy, we decided it would also be a great opportunity to unearth some different wines for the shop.
We were really lucky to set up some fantastic visits with some of the best growers in this region, Elian da Ros in the Cotes du Marmandais, l’Ancienne Cure in Monbazillac and with the Conti family at Chateau Tours des Gendres in Bergerac. We were really impressed and excited by their wines and we are looking forward to stocking a selection in the shop.
Elian Da Ros, Cotes du Marmandais
Elian has around 16 hectares of vines which he farms organically, some biodynamically and uses minimal sulphur in the winemaking process. Each parcel of vines are vinified separately and Elian uses several different vessels for the ageing process; cement eggs, a diamond, clay amphorae called Goicoeche from the Basque Country, as well as the more traditional barrel and cement tank.
We started our tasting with the red wines, including one that is 100% Abouriou which was a new grape variety for me!
Le Vin est Une Fete Rouge, 2016 AOC Cotes du Marmandais *** BUY ONLINE
This wine as the name suggests is a fun, juicy blend of 40% Cabernet Franc, 20% Merlot and 40%Abouriou. It had an abundance of juicy, brambly berry fruit along with a touch of leather. The wine is vibrant and fresh and indeed a whole lot of fun!
Le Vignoble Elian, 2015 AOC Cotes du Marmandais
This is Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Franc. The wine spends 12 months in barrique giving the wine more structure and tannin than the fete rouge. This is a more serious wine, with dark black fruit, leather and spice. One to crack open with roast beef or some hard cheese.
Abouriou, 2015 AOC Cotes du Marmandais
100% whole bunch fermentation until the wine is described as smelling vegetal, the juice is then put into oak barrel for 12-15 months. This grape variety is native to the village Cocument where the winery and vineyards are, but it is also apparently found in parts of the Loire valley and Bergerac itself. The wine was perfumed and pretty on the nose, bright cherry fruit comes through and it also has wonderful structure with balanced acidity and tannin. This is a wine I really enjoyed tasting.
Chante CouCou, 2014 Cotes du Marmandais
This is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Syrah. The wine spends 18 months in barrique. On the nose I immediately detected the addition of Malbec with its signature dark fruit coming through. The wine is well structured with complex aromas of dark fruit, spice, leather – this is a wine for the cellar.
Clos Baquey, 2013 AOC Cotes du Marmandais
This is Elian’s Grand Cuvée, the wine spends 18 months in barrique and it is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Abouriou, and Cabernet Franc. The wine is from a south facing single vineyard plot on Argile/Calcaire soil. Really intense on the nose and palate, rich notes of prune, dark berry fruit along with balanced tannin and freshness. We were also lucky to try the 2005 showing how this wine is one to cellar for a while and enjoy with a bit of bottle age.
Cou Cou Blanc, 2015 AOC Cotes du Marmandais
A blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Gris and Semillon, the wine is aged in large oak barrel and concrete egg for 19 months. The wine has tropical notes with pineapple, mandarin and mirabelle. Fresh and aromatic with a beautiful roundness on the palate which would make it a great match to shellfish, white meats and also Asian food.
Sua Sponte, 2011 AOC Cotes du Marmandais
And finally and intriguing sweet wine made from Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon of which 50% are affected by noble rot. All hand harvested carefully. The wine is aged in concrete egg for 18 months. The wine has 50g of sugar but is wonderfully fresh with white tropical fruit, passionfruit and other exotic notes. The finish is long.
This was such a memorable tasting the wines were vibrant and pure with a sense of place. From the Vin du Fete which is a beautiful vin du soif to the more serious CouCou these are definitely wines to enjoy at every level.
Chateau Tours de Gendres, Bergerac
A visit around the Tours des Gendres cellars was well worth the trip alone to Bergerac and the small village of Ribagnac. As with Elian da Ros, the cellars were full of different vessels to age wine, barrels, Austrian Stockinger barrels, clay pots or Basque Goicoeche. The Conti family are of Italian descent and started producing wine in the 1980’s. They want to make traditional, authentic wines of the region from the Bergerac grape varieties. Their wines are all produced organically with respect for nature, below is just a snapshot of what we tasted.
Chateau Tours des Gendres ‘Cuvée des Conti’ 2016, AOC Bergerac Sec
A blend of Sauvignon, Semillon and 10% Muscadelle. This wine is made in stainless steel to retain freshness and vibrancy. It is aromatic and is best drunk young with seafood or creamy goats cheese.
Chateau Tours des Gendres Moulin des Dames 2016 AOC Bergerac Sec
100% Sauvignon Blanc aged in foudre. This wine is more tropical on the nose and has apricot and passionfruit notes on tasting, along with a minerality and lemony freshness that balances the wine beautifully. This is a white wine that could age.
Chateau Tours des Gendres La Gloire de Mon Pere 2015, AOC Cotes de Bergerac Rouge
Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc – Aged in barrique and Foudre. This wine has a deep nose of forest fruits and liquorice. Well structured on the palate, leather comes through as well as spiced fruit. This can be cellared for 10 years or more.
Chateau Tours des Gendres La Vigne Albert 2017 (tank sample), AOC Cotes de Bergerac Rouge Buy 2016 Vintage HERE!
Cabernet, Merlot, Malbec, Servidou, Perigord and Abouriou. This produced from a small plot and the wine is only aged in stainless steel with no additions of sulphur. Juicy, very drinkable and would be enjoyable with some charcuterie or other rustic French food.
The Conti family were one of the first in the region to move away from pesticides and towards 100% organic farming. The wines are beautifully crafted with lovely purity of fruit.
Domaine Ancienne Cure, Monbazillac
We could not visit Bergerac and not visit one of our longest standing producers of sweet wines. This organically certified Domaine not only produces sweet wine, but also dry whites and reds. We were both really impressed with the consistency of the wines, but for us the sweet wines stole the show! Ancienne Cure have around 40 hectares of vines, predominantly planted with white grape varieties, including Semillon, Sauvignon, Sauviginon Gris, Muscadelle and Chenin.
Domaine l’Ancienne Cure “Jour de Fruit” 2014 Monbazillac
This has been a favourite sweet wine of ours for many years, it has white peaches on the nose, honeyed fruit but not too sweet. It is a versatile wine and is drunk in this region as an aperitif, but can also be enjoyed with foie gras (of which this region has an abundance of), or fruit based desserts.
Domaine l’Ancienne Cure “Cuvée l’Abbaye” 2009 Monbazillac
70% Semillon and 30% Muscadelle picked over several days to ensure the grapes have botrytis. This wine is up there with Sauternes in style and quality. Deep gold in colour, the wine has honeyed notes, dried apricot and vanilla. The finish is really long and elegant.
With Bordeaux just down the road it is understandable why the wines of this region have been slightly overshadowed, but what we found were really exciting wines, made by dedicated, forward thinking winemakers. The wines were enjoyable and had a real sense of place, and like a good quality Bordeaux some were worthy of some cellar time. We are looking forward to sharing some of our finds with you!
Join us on Friday 2nd and Saturday 3rd February for ‘Flight Club’ where you can try a selection of these wines!