Wine tours in Bergerac? We’ll drink to that!
BERGERAC is all about the way things used to be in old France – sun glinting across lush landscapes, magnificent chateaux and some of the finest wines in the world.
If you’re new to wine or a seasoned connoisseur, a tour of Bergerac’s wine country is a real eye-opener.
Some of France’s best wines come from the Bergerac region – including the officially-recognised five which bear its name plus other familiar ones including Montravel, Saussingnac and Pecharmant.
The success of its vineyards is down to the area’s great climate, drainage and proximity to the Dordogne river.
The old town – or Vieille Ville as it is in French – is the beating heart of Bergerac – it gives a real sense of being in traditional, rural France. Its centre is the Place Pelissiere, a lovely square edged with cafes and restaurants and always full of flowers.
Around Place Pelissiere are a number of lovely medieval streets including Rue St Clar and Rue St James with half-timbered houses while down towards the river is another picturesque square – the Place Mirpe.
The old town is also home to the Maison de Vins de Bergerac, a beautiful old building dating back to the 12th century with a permanent exhibition showing the history of Bergerac wines and its 13 appellations.
Up from the old town, there is modern Bergerac, with more conventional streets and a larger range of recognisable shops.
There are a number of restaurants in both ‘old-town’ Bergerac among the attractive medieval half-timbered streets and in the pleasant newer parts of Bergerac. There are also various open-air cafes where you can pass a very pleasant hour just watching people going about their business.
After exploring Bergerac it makes a pleasant change to take an organised boat trip up the river to see the town and the nearby countryside from a different perspective. Longer boat trips to neighbouring towns and certain chateaux in the region are also available. Ask as your hotel and they’ll sort you out.
There are three statues to Cyrano de Bergerac in the town, the famous figure from French literature with the big nose, brought to life in movies by actors like Gerard Depardieu and Steve Martin. Sadly, the great man never set foot in the town which seems to have adopted him purely on the basis that he shares the same name.
Bergerac’s restaurants benefit from having one of Europe’s most plentiful larders – the Aquitaine region which surrounds it. It is famous for its wild boar, partridge, hare, quail, duck, geese and trout, all of which will feature on almost all menus. Local specialities include tourins – a local speciality soup – truffles and foie gras.
Everything in Bergerac seems to focus on socialising, eating and drinking wine. So the message is don’t take the car even when you go shopping. As well as shops selling local arts and crafts as well as recognised designer gear, food and wine dominates the market scene in this quaint place.
The food markets are held on Wednesdays and Saturdays to around midday in the Notre-Dame church and Sainte-Catherine area, while over at the Place de la Madeleine, there’s a farmers’ market event on Fridays to around noon.
Tuesdays see an organic food market at the Place Doublet where you can get fresh fruit and vegetables along with cheeses, truffles and meats… and, of course, local wines.
BERGERAC WINE TOURS
To get the most of your trip and squeeze the last drop out of your visit, Bergerac Wine Tours can guide you to the best of the world famous Bergerac wines.
The Bergerac wine tradition started over 2,000 years ago and Bergerac Wine Tours take you through its great history while allowing you to sample some its finest modern varieties.
It takes it a step further, adding the possibility to learn more about the terroir, sample its produce and meet the makers.
In addition to wine-tasting, Bergerac Wine Tours also arranges visits to several local food farms. Here you can sample some of the other delicacies the Bergerac region is famous for, including plums, honey or cheese.
THE TERROIR FEELY VINEYARD & FRENCH WINE ADVENTURES
French Wine Adventures is run by Caro and Sean Feely, two passionate wine tourists who decided to devote their lives to creating a vineyard of their own run along sustainable lines.
Their hard work has certainly brought its rewards. Their vineyard, just a short drive from Bergerac, is celebrating after winning the prestigious Best of Wine Tourism Gold Award for 2013 for sustainable tourism, an award which recognises its commitment to growing its grapes organically.
Wine has been made at Château Haut-Garrigue / Terroir Feely in nearby Saussignac for several years in a way devoted to protecting the environment and it has received organic and biodynamic certification. This estate full of history – the main building dates from the 18th century – with beautiful views of the surrounding countryside.
It offers visitors a chance to see how wine can be made sustainably during a tour of the cellars, tasting, self-guided walking tour, an opportunity to make their own wine and it even has its own accommodation.
A LUXURIOUS STAY AT THE HOTEL EDWARD
LOOKING for the ideal place to stay during your visit to Bergerac and the surrounding vineyards? Look no further than the Hotel Edward 1er to the south-east of the town, a chateau-style hotel in an idyllic setting.
This hidden gem is located in Monpazier, a little village set in a beautiful part of the Dordogne region. Officially, it’s called a “petit-chateau” (“small castle”) but there’s nothing “petit” about the experience you’ll have when you stay here.
The rooms are luxurious, the service excellent and the main restaurant, the Eleonore, has a menu to die for. All complemented, obviously, by the world’s finest wines from the local wineries.
All the rooms have magnificent views across the stunning countryside which surrounds the hotel. And it doesn’t cost the earth to live like a king – double rooms at the Hotel Edward 1er start at just £72 per night.