France: Southwest

Domaine du Haut Pecharmant (Bergerac)

One night, on our recent trip to Bordeaux, after a day in the Medoc, we found ourselves in the quirky Au Petit Bois wine bar, the one with a tree inside the bar. The wine of the evening was not a Bordeaux – shock. It was a wild, sweaty Pecharmant from the Bergerac. The dangerous scent of undergrowth, the animal sweat of this uncompromising, untamed red wine got us excited. So excited that we reorganised our timetable to drive east to meet Didier Roches of the Domaine du Haut Pecharmant, the winery at the top of the slope that is Pecharmant, northeast of the city of Bergerac.

Didier’s Pecharmant is Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc with some Merlot and Malbec. It’s bold, rough and dirty. In a good way. Like arm to arm wrestling with a wild animal and you only just come out on top.

Chateau de la Mallevieille (Montravel)

Montravel Sec is a fascinating dry white wine. It gently hints at lemongrass and nettles, and some of the oily power reminiscent of the finer Graves whites.
Montravel is its own appellation on a hill within Bergerac, to the east of Saint Emilion and Castillon in Bordeaux.
Back when we were in Liberty we bought some Montravel a couple of times from Chateau de la Mallevieille.
On our very recent trip and after 4 days of Bordeaux, Montravel popped into our mind and, seeing how close we were geographically, we thought we would drop in.
Once they had called off the imposing and very vocal Alsatian guard dog, we were very warmly received by Thierry and his father Philippe. The wines are authentic, clear, expressive and thoroughly enjoyable, each punching well above its weight.
The Bergerac Blanc is a zingy, aromatic 90% Sauvignon Blanc with 10% Semillon. The Bergerac Rouge was consistent across the two vintages we tasted – a blend of 60% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Cabernet Franc. Proper red wine, touch of lead pencil in the nose and wonderfully balanced between salty savouriness and ripe saturated fruit.

Saint Guilhem (Fronton)

Much has been written about the French Paradox – the life-enhancing properties of certain red wines protecting the French from high fat diets. We regularly receive streams of data from the very excited former Teacher and Estate Agent Philippe Laduguie of Saint Guilhem, north-west of Toulouse. One of his wines tested with the highest number of Phenolics and Proanthocyanidins, which have been directly linked to a long list of health benefits; reducing histamine production, improving circulation by strengthening capillary walls, helping collagen repair (keeping your skin elastic and wrinkle-free), an internal sunscreen, protecting blood vessels in the brain, increasing mental acuity, decreasing stroke potential, fighting senility. We all want to believe it’s true as we pile into our plate of delicious, high-fat cheese!
“Tradition” is a blend of 70% Négrette, 15% Gamay and 15% Cabernet Franc. “Renaissance”, another of his Magic Potions, is a blend of Négrette, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Think of them less as wines, more as life-extending health drinks.
Southwest French Paradox
In Vino Sanitas