TdF Stage 19: Bergerac, But Not the Crime-Solving Kind

How dominant is Vicenzo Nibali in this race? Despite being able to cruise in safely in this stage, without even really exerting himself, and still win the Tour de France on Sunday, Nibali decided to go for the win. He won it by 1:10, leaving the next closest riders, stage winner Rafal Majka, French favourites Jean-Christophe Péraud and Thibaut Pinot, and BMC’s team leader Tejay van Garderen, in the dust. Nibali now leads by 7:10 in the General Classification, so it’s hard to imagine anyone spoiling his celebration on the Champs-Élysées on Sunday, barring disaster. We have seen quite a few disasters in this year’s race, though.

stage 19

Today’s stage is over 200km long and generally flat, which should reignite the sprinters. There is a category four bump near the end of the stage before the cyclists arrive in Bergerac, but don’t expect that to slow the sprinters down, many of whom have been disappointed in recent sprints and want to make their mark on the Tour before time runs out.

We gave this post a title referring to the 1980s British crime series “Bergerac,” despite the fact the series takes its name from its crime-solving hero and not the French city of Bergerac. Let’s face it: it had to be that or something about Cyrano de Bergerac. But why is that? Bergerac AOC is an area with a long history of wine-making going back to the Romans, and until the 20th century, when the AOC boundaries were drawn up, Bergerac wines actually were Bordeaux wines. They were all part of a single, large wine region. When AOC regulators decided to limit Bordeaux wines to the Gironde departément, Bergerac wines went from being part of the prestigious Bordeaux region to being wine no one had heard of and few wanted to buy.

By Père Igor (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Père Igor (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Bergerac is essentially a continuation of Bordeaux, although the climate exhibits more continental influences. Many of its vineyards are on the gravel banks of the Dordogne river, which is very much like Bordeaux’s best vineyards. Moving away from the river, the soil becomes more calcareous, with lots of limestone deposits in the best vineyards.

Reds are chiefly a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot, along with Côt (Malbec), Fer Servadou or Mérille. Bergerac whites are mainly a blend of Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Gris and Muscadelle, along with Ugni Blanc, Ondenc and/or Chenin Blanc. There are 13 AOCs within the Bergerac region:

Red Wines

  • Bergerac Red – Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot Noir, Côt (Malbec).  Elegant, supple and fruity.
  • Côtes de Bergerac Red – Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot Noir, Côt (Malbec). Dark and well-structured with strong tannins and an aroma prunes.
  • Montravel Red – At least 50% Merlot along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Côt (Malbec). They must be matured a minimum of 15 months and are only AOC approved after they are put in a bottle engraved with the words IN MONTE REVELATIONEM.
  • Pécharmant – Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Côt (Malbec) and Merlot Noir. It’s distinctive flavour comes from the soil, which is sand, gravel and a layer of iron clay called the “tran.”

Dry White Wines

  • Montravel – Sémillon, Muscadelle and, especially Sauvignon. Aromatic and well-structured.
  • Bergerac White – Sémillon, Sauvignon, Muscadelle, Ondec and Chenin Blanc grape varieties. Crisp and aromatic.

Rosé Wine

  • Bergerac Rosé – Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot Noir, and/or Côt (Malbec). Elegant and fruity.

Sweet Liquoreux and Sweet White Wines

  • Haut-Montravel – Made of partially raisined grapes. Can apply for liquoreux status if the grapes have developed noble rot instead of drying on the vines. Elegant and concentrated.
  • Côtes de Bergerac White – Sémillon gives this wine its golden hue, crispness, and roundness. It’s divided into medium dry, medium sweet and sweet categories.
  • Côtes de Montravel – Sweet with complex floral aromas.
  • Monbazillac – see below
  • Saussignac – Sémillon, Sauvignon, Muscadelle, Ondec and Chenin Blanc. Rich and full with aromas of acacia, peach and honeysuckle. Made of partially raisined grapes, and as with Haut-Montravel, can have liquoreux status if the grapes have developed noble rot instead of drying on the vines.
  • Rosette – Mainly Sémillon, Sauvignon and Muscadelle. Elegant and round with a very pale straw colour.

By Agne27 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Agne27 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Of these wines, Monbazillac is of special interest to lovers of sweet wines as it makes an excellent alternative to the much more expensive Sauterne. Monbazillac is located just across the river from the town of Bergerac and has a long history of sweet wine production. The wine is blended from Sémillon, Sauvignon and Muscadelle, and is hand-harvested in several passes or tries to select only grapes affected by noble rot. The wines are usually balanced and light with hints of honey, citrus and stone fruit, and in some examples have a suprising acidity to offset the sweetness. Some examples are suitable for long-term cellaring; with ageing the colour of the wine deepens and a creamy nutty flavour develops.

 

 

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