The black Périgord truffle and foie gras
Reaching maturity after the first frosts of the winter, the black Périgord truffle (or Tuber Melanosporum) is the most aromatic truffle of the world’s seventy species of truffle, with a special harvesting technique relaying on the use of an animal “truffler”, which nowadays is most frequently a dog. From January onwards, local products can be found on stalls in the markets at Sorges, Périgueux, Excideuil, Sainte Alvère and Sarlat. Foie gras, products from both ducks and geese, is another one of the Périgord’s star seasonal products. The quality of which is assured by the IGP (Indication Géographique Protégée)label, guaranteeing that foie gras is produced within the boundaries of the “Canard à foie gras du Sud-Ouest Périgord” appellation. Goose foie gras is currently in the process of obtaining IGP status. From November to February, small producers can be seen selling foie gras and other duck and goose products such as confits, gizzards and fat in our local award-winning duck and goose markets.
Cep mushrooms, Périgord walnuts and chestnuts
Cep mushrooms are most often used in fricassee dishes and stuffings, as well as in pommes de terre à la Sarladaise, a typical potato dish from Sarlat. Dependent upon the weather, mushrooms start to appear in our region in August and September. In Monpazier, or under the half-timbered covered market in Villefranche du Périgord, “locals” are the only people allowed to sell their harvest. The onset of autumn also brings with it the annual walnut harvest, where production in the département is the second highest in France. This delicious nut can be enjoyed in myriad ways, either on its own or as the main ingredient in oils, liqueurs, jams, cakes or sweets. In 2001, four varieties were awarded AOC “Périgord walnut” status, namely the Corne, Marbot, Franquette and Granjean walnuts. A journey along the Walnut Route (Route de la Noix) is the perfect way of finding out more about this emblematic nut. The chestnut tree is one of the most widely found species in the Périgord and is grown for its wood, its hoop-shaped branches and its fruit. The chestnut is an integral part of our culinary heritage.
Six varieties of strawberry are grown in our region, in particular on the slopes around the village of Vergt in the Périgord Blanc:
– the Garriguette, a spring strawberry
– the Elsanta, a Dutch variety
– the Cigaline
– the Seascape, Mara and Selva, varieties known as “double-cropping.”
The second largest strawberry-producing département in France, the Périgord’s priority is to produce fruit of the highest quality. Strawberries planted in the open on specially selected strips of land, and with a guaranteed minimum sugar content, have been awarded the “Fraise du Périgord” IGP (Indication Géographique Protégée) label.
Les Magnolias is just 20 minutes from the vineyards of Bergerac. The Bergerac vineyards are another important part of a prestigious heritage of 2000 years. In the Bergerac area there are vineyards planted on both sides of the Dordogne river in an area which includes 93 villages. Vineyards on the right bank are generally terraced and the vines grow on sandy, stony and alluvial soils. On the left bank many of the vineyards are planted on the sides of hills on limestone soils. All benefit from the gentler climate that is found close to the river.
All these factors have conspired to produce six main wine areas in the ‘Pays de Bergerac’ region all of which benefit from the mild climate and the plentiful sunshine:
Pecharmant wines tend to be the best red wines in the Bergerac area. The soil in this area has an iron-clay layer, called ‘Tran’ beneath the soil and this gives the Pecharmant wines their individual flavour. Pecharmant wines are blended from Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc grapes. The wines are suitable for laying down and have a strong, elegant aroma.
Monbazillac is the other king of the Bergerac wines, these are extremely well-known and well-respected sweet white wines. The Monbazillac wines are made from Muscadelle, Sauvignon and Muscadelle grapes. AOC Monbazillac is made from grapes picked by hand to make sure only grapes affected by ‘noble rot’ are harvested. ‘Noble rot’ was discovered by Benedictine monks who set up a priory in Bergerac in 1080 and began producing wine. ‘Noble rot’ is Boyrtis cinerea and is the basis of making all the great sweet white wines.
Monbazillac wines have a lovely golden colour and have a boquet of honey, peach and acacia.
Red and Rosé Bergerac wines are made from Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot wines. Rosé wines are drunk young and fruity as are the reds though some Bergerac reds can be laid down and mature into a very elegant wine.
Bergerac whites are dry and made from Muscadelle, Sauvignon and Semillon grapes. Fruity when young many age well and develop a full-bodied flavour.
Dry white Montravel wines made from Sauvignon, Semillon and Muscadelle wines are often matured on their lees producing a full-bodied, aromatic wine.
Semi-sweet wines are complex and have a floral perfume.
Montravel have, since 2001, introduced red wines made from Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec grapes to their selection.
Saussignac is a very individual semi-sweet wine made from a mix of Sauvignon, Semillon, Ondenc, Muscadelle and Chemin.
Local conditions mean that the ‘noble rot’ develops well here and grapes are left on the vine until their skin changes from pink to black as the fruit shrivells and the flavour concentrates. These shrivelled grapes are then hand picked.
The resulting full-bodied, peachy-tasting wine has a complex and generous bouquet.
AOC Rosette is a semi-sweet wine made from Muscadelle, Sauvignon and Semillon grapes. It is an elegant straw-coloured wine.
In order to promote this extraordinary wine heritage, the Maison des Vins de la Région de Bergerac has developed a special Wine Route(Route des vins). Members of the “Destination Vignobles” association situated along the route will be delighted to share their knowledge and passion for wine with visitors.
Wine lovers and other interested parties can book a package wine tour for a lively journey through the world of wine and everything related to it.
The Dordogne also offers unbeatable value for money in its numerous restaurants, as shown by the many distinctions awarded by food guides. The region also has twenty or so Michelin-starred establishments or highly recommended restaurants with a reputation for high-quality yet reasonably priced fare. Why not try some of the specialities of our local chefs, thirty of whom have come together as part of “Les Toques du Périgord”(Chef’s Hat) association.