Wine: Pecharmant reds are beating Bordeaux at its own game

PUBLISHED: 12:14 23 November 2015 | UPDATED: 12:14 23 November 2015

Plaimont's Olivier Burdet-Pees (left) and Andre Dubosc. Picture: Michel Carossio

Plaimont's Olivier Burdet-Pees (left) and Andre Dubosc. Picture: Michel Carossio

Copyright: Michel Carossio

Liz Sagues picks out some top selections for good value French wines.

Nostalgia time: I’ve just been back to the place which led me into writing about wine – a story rather too convoluted to tell here. But as a result I still love the sweet wines of monbazillac, which share many of the characteristics of France’s famed Sauternes but at a much more reasonable cost. Sadly, monbazillac is still way under-appreciated here.

So too are the red wines of this part of south-western France, centred around Bergerac, gateway city to the Brit-beloved Dordogne valley. The appellations of Bergerac and Côtes-de-Bergerac can offer good wines at tempting prices, but the red to beat Bordeaux at its own game is Pécharmant.

Pécharmant uses mostly the same grape varieties as Bordeaux (merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, malbec), has decent limestone-based grape-growing terroir and excellent wines made by caring, serious growers.

But I confess that much as I enjoyed returning to my wine birthplace, the bottles of a near neighbour, Gascony, are now closer to my heart. That comes down, I think, to diversity: the area is home to an astounding variety of different wine grapes. And they’re far from mere appealing curiosities. The resulting wines have style and character, whether happy quaffers or serious food partners, and are usually excellent value for money.

While there are plenty of good individual growers, it’s a co-operative which has put Gascony on the world wine map. Plaimont Producers is responsible for a huge share of the region’s wine and far-sighted former director André Dubosc is rightly credited with realising the potential of white grapes no longer needed in a diminishing armagnac market and then selling the resulting wines way beyond his homeland. He championed the reds, too.

Dubosc’s successor, Olivier Bourdet-Pees, shares that vision and devotion to the Gascon vinous experience, developing the use of ancient, prephylloxera vines and continuing Plaimont’s exciting range of red blends.

The sweet wines of this region are fabulous too. Dare I say I actually prefer the rather fresher style of sweet jurançon or pacherenc du vic-bihl to monbazillac...

More suggestions for good value French wines

Château de Tiregand is the Pécharmant served by most restaurants along the Dordogne valley, and it’s an intense, elegant companion to duck confit and garlicky, truffle-scented potatoes so prevalent on the local menus, and to much more besides. Buy the fine 2009 from tanners-wines.co.uk at an ultra-reasonable £13. Also in the UK is Château Champarel 2010 (£10, thewinesociety.com.

There’s broad availability of Plaimont wines, fortunately. Try these highlights: at The Wine Society, serious food-friendly red Château de Bascou 2011, £10, or intriguing, enjoyable long-ignored grapes in Les Vignes Retrouvées white and red, £7.75/£7.50; at M&S, aromatic Saint Mont white, £8; at Tesco, mellow, full Réserve des Tuguets Madiran 2012, £6.

Both corneyandbarrow.com and adnams.co.uk have a broad choice, from simple £6.50 pleasures upwards to such top bottles as Château Arricau Bordes Madiran 2012 (£18.50, C&B) or Le Faite Blanc 2012 (£17, Adnams); christopherpiperwines.co.uk offers the happy evocation of the vignerons’ headgear, Beret Noir Saint Mont red 2012, £7.90.

One final not-to-miss bottle, though from tiny independent producer Château de Cabidos rather than great big Plaimont. Cabidos Petit Manseng Sec 2010 (£11, The Wine Society) is one of my wines of the year, perfectly mature, fascinating, superb adult drinking.

One final not-to-miss bottle, though from tiny independent producer Château de Cabidos rather than great big Plaimont. Cabidos Petit Manseng Sec 2010 (£11, The Wine Society) is one of my wines of the year, perfectly mature, fascinating, superb adult drinking.

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