Come with me in the heart of the monbazillac harvest!

Monbazillac
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Monbazillac is one of the most sought after wines of the Bergerac vineyard. Famous in France, but also abroad, it an emblematic product from the Perigord and considered a highlight of good meals; it is excellent with foie gras, duck breast, strawberry desserts or Périgord walnuts … Monbazillac wine is ranked at the top, always providing buzz and enjoyed all year! We followed the 2018 harvest season, Nathalie takes us for a tour around the hills dotted with well aligned rows of vines, bathed in sunlight, with a special guest: the Botrytis


ONCE UPON A TIME, THERE WERE THE MONBAZILLAC VINES...

The Monbazillac vines are located close to the town of Bergerac. Watered by the Dordogne River, The Bergerac Valley has a lot of sunshine during the Indian summer at the beginning of the autumn; its not only very popular with tourist tours … but it also helps grapes ripening! Indeed, the hills of the Valley form a claylimestone soil perfect for the ceps mushrooms which thrive in this draining, rocky and crumbly soil, like on the plain where sand and former silt of the river mix.


The hills of Monbazillac, that surround the town, are mainly exposed to the north and rather steep. The grape varieties are carefully selected (Muscadelle, Sauvignon, Sémillon…) and have acclimatised perfectly to appreciate the warmth at the beginning of the autumn in Périgord. They absorb the moisture in the morning, when the mists of the Dordogne raise to their feet … A beautiful landscape that the winegrowers, who grow the vines that produce Monbazillac, appreciate all year!

La ville de Bergerac et le lit de la Dordogne au loin, depuis les coteaux

The town of Bergerac and the Dordogne riverbed in the distance, from the hills of MonbazillacUn environnement de travail, que savent apprécier les fiers vignerons

A working environment appreciated by the proud wine-growers and winemakersLe climat ensoleillé de l’été Indien en Périgord

The sunny climate of the Indian summer in the Périgord is also the ground in the perfect alchemy of the Monbazillac production.

IT IS ALL THE FAULT OF THE BOTRYTIS

This is what makes the sugar level of the grapes used for the Monbazillac increase! Botrytis, is a  ungus, also called the « noble rot », which develops on the vines in the springtime. The « botrytisation » of the grape is important, as all the skills and the know-how of the winemakers, is needed to control the development of the fungus. 


The effect is as follows: to spread out, it feeds on water contained in the grapes which then dry them up and concentrate the sugar content of the pulp. It is like if the grapes were turned into compote on the vines, they are confit on feet! The mushroom also produces enzymes, which must be controlled in order to avoid any unpleasant taste during the winemaking process. This is made more complex by the strong sugar level, which complicates the work of the yeasts. During the winemaking, the product of the harvest (the grape juice is the most important ) is sown with yeasts, which, if processed in a favourable environment (meaning an environment warm enough), is going to consume the sugar of the grape juice and produce an alcoholic fermentation: the wine! Ta da!!

Je vous présence Botrytis, sur des grains pas tout à fait à prêts

Let me present to you Botrytis, on grapes that are not quite ready to harvest 

THE MONBAZILLAC HARVEST: A LATE HARVEST

The harvest of the sweet wines and specifically the Monbazillac, are part of the latest harvests. The winegrowers wait as long as possible to harvest the fruits of their labour, just at the right time! It is an art of patience and fine meteorological observation. The perfect configuration combines the cool mornings, bringing mist, and humidity, to beautiful dry sunny days. The grapes have then the time to refine, dry up during the day while leaving Botrytis to spread out during the night and the morning.


The Monbazillac harvests are made in several sortings, this means that the harvesters go through the rows several times (2 to 3 times), to only harvest the perfectly ripe grapes. They are ready when they are all wrinkly like dried raisins. The harvest is done exclusively by hand, because the botrytised raisin is fragile! 


On the “must” (the juice extracted from the grapes), there are some fine volatile spores and with the drying-up of the bunch of grapes, it creates a fragility which requires a great deal of care to handle. The harvesters are equipped with gloves, pruning shears and a bucket which once filled, is brought to a dumper truck (a tractor with a skip). The harvest is quickly brought to the winery to be immediately processed.  

C’est super bon, même comme ça !

It is delicious, even like this!On coupe, on met en seau

Cutting and placing in the bucketsOn achemine les seaux et hop !

We bring the buckets and voila!On met les raisins dans le tombereau

The grapes are placed in the dumper-truckDirection le chai

Heading to the winery

LET’S GO TO THE WINERY!

The bunches of grapes are then quickly brought to the place where they must be processed in order to conserve the maximum flavour in the juice and avoid oxidation:

  • The wine growers grow their own plot of vines, but leave the winemaking and business matters to their cooperative cellar. After the harvest the Cave Coopérative de Monbazillac takes over the rest of the operation.
  • The winemakers are producers of grapes, but they can also look after the winemaking and commercialisation. They have the relevant equipment and manage all the steps of the transformation, from the cep to the bottle. 

The harvest is brought via a conveyor belt to the wine press. This press is unique, providing a slow and gentle pressure, the pressing works with a type of balloon which inflates against the open sides, letting through the juice but not the seeds. The ‘must’ (the juice extracted from the grapes) is harvested and stocked in a first tank. The grape ‘pomace’ is the product that remains after all the liquid is extracted from the grape must. This remaining substance is dried and used to feed the cattle, sometimes it is distilled to create brandies and other strong alcohol!

Le jus de gouttes

The free run juice is the first juice which flows due to gravity, without mechanical action except the weight of the grapes on top of each other

Les grains vont au pressoir

The grapes heading to the wine press

La vendange tombe dans le pressoir

The harvest falls in the press wine, the grapes needs to be spread out for an even pressingA la cave coopérative, une vis sans fin dirige la vendange

At the cooperative, an endless screw manages the harvestLe raisin est acheminé dans un pressoir et ensuite dirigé vers la cuve

The grapes are brought o the wine press and then directed towards the tankLa Cave Coopérative de Monbazillac

The Cave Coopérative de Monbazillac

THE MONBAZILLAC, AN EXCEPTIONAL WINE ON YOUR TABLE


The quality of the Monbazillac comes from a multitude of factors. Regardless of whether it’s a wine produced by a winemaker through a cooperative cellar or a winemaker who uses his own equipment , the standard is always met.

Les cuves à la Cave Coopérative

The tanks at the Cave CoopérativeLes cuves chez un vigneron

The tanks of a winemakerUn réfractomètre pour mesurer la teneur en sucre et adapter le dosage des levure

A refractometer to measure the sugar content and adapt the dosage of the yeasts


Once the must is extracted from the harvest, it is mixed with yeasts, then brought to a certain temperature so that the yeasts can do their work. They consume the sugar of the juice and their digestion produces the alcohol, C02 and heat which transform the juice into wine (the fermentation). The wine is going through several steps, it is extracted, it rests, the fermentation is stopped (with the famous sulphites used sparingly) when the expected result is obtained then it is bottled. But all of this … is another story that I will tell you another time! Ha ha!! 


Now, let’s go to the shops and meet the Monbazillac: Visit a producer, the Cave Coopérative de Monbazillac, your wine merchants or other outlets.

Les belles bouteilles …

The beautiful bottles …La Cave Coopérative

The Cave CoopérativeLes produits du Périgord pour aller avec

The products of the Périgord to be served with MonbazillacLaissez-vous conseiller, goûtez si possible !

Let one of the experts advise you, taste if possible!Un beau cadeau pour Noël ?

A beautiful gift for Christmas?


It is important to be well advised; maybe you think there is only one Monbazillac, not at all! There is a variety: the sugar content, the aromas, the chill, the body… you probably noticed that recently, very sweet wines are less trendy, The current fashion is for fruity aromas, while retaining flavour. The winegrowers and winemakers know it and can adapt their products to the consumer’s tastes. Bring a Monbazillac bottle to your special dinner, it can be served with a walnut salad and a blue cheese, it can sublimate a meat dish, reveal all the aromas of a good cheese or give a cheeky addition to a crème brûlée, a tart or a walnut cake…the Monbazillac is a guarantee for success.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Visit the Périgord Attitude’s page, for all you information on the Perigord lifestyle

Visit the Vins de Bergerac Duras’ website

Discover our article on the Wines of Bergerac Duras

Discover our article on the Périgord Attitude, for a pastoral picnic

Our tips for a successful family meal!

On compte sur vous pour les vendanges l’an prochain !

We count on you for the harvest next year!


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