Discover the wines of South-West France

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With the Summer holidays fast approaching, the Francophiles amongst you may be planning a trip across the channel to soak up the relaxing way of life, not to mention a little food and wine. Hopefully the various strikes affecting transport will be over soon, leaving both locals and visitors to enjoy the football, the Tour de France or simply a little sunshine.

One of the largest wine producing countries of the world, France has an astonishing number of different wine regions and sub-regions, all producing a varied range of wine types and styles. Down in the south-west of the country are the world famous vineyards of Bordeaux, with well-known regions such as Medoc or Saint Emilion. A little further inland to the east, is the region of Bergerac, producing red, rose, dry and sweet white wines, which are becoming ever more popular due to their great value for money.

But within the general Bergerac area are some lesser known appellations making great quality wines which deserve much wider recognition. One of these is the relatively new appellation of Montravel, created only 15 years ago. Producing both red and dry white wines, the winemaking and viticultural stipulations are quite exacting, resulting in some wines of exceptional quality for a very reasonable price. The area is bordered by the mighty Dordogne river and only 15 miles from Saint Emilion, the grape varieties grown being similar to those used for Bordeaux wines. I am a great fan of Montravel dry white wines, made from a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. They generally have lovely fruity, herby aromas, plenty of body, good fruit on the palate and a crisp, dry, refreshing finish.

To the east of the town of Bergerac itself, is another little known area called Pécharmant. This produces some very robust and full-bodied reds of some considerable quality. Often aged subtly in oak casks, they are deliciously full flavoured and many will age well for 10 years or more, certainly benefitting from six or seven years’ maturation. The wines are made mainly from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec and due to small quantities, are seldom seen for sale outside the area. One of the best is Chateau de Tiregand, producing rich, concentrated reds well worth seeking out.

Slightly overlapping the Pécharmant appellation is that of another unknown region - Rosette. Situated to the north-west of Bergerac town, it is a tiny area, producing some noteworthy sweet white wines. Though somewhat in the shadow of the nearby and much better known sweet white region of Monbazillac, Rosette produces more delicate, lighter and fresher style sweet wines which are very appealing, both as dessert wines and with other dishes such as foie gras or blue cheese.

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