Monbazillac is the greatest appellation for sweet wines in the world with its 3600 ha-surface, however, there’s a hint that the redaction of Le 247 thinks it is the greatest appellation for sweet wines, ever!
If nature makes a large part of the wine production, the mind of the Monbazillac winemakers is also very important. Worthy heirs of an ancestral expertise, they took up the modernity challenge with amazing sweet wines which can be drunk with any plate!
Monbazillac, the Saint-Martin monks’ tarte tatin
In gastronomy, like the famous pie of the sisters Tatin, big success often starts with a mistake. It is told that during the Xth century, the Saint-Martin monks had forgotten to harvest their vines because they were busy. They decided to vinify the grapes even though they were at a high level of maturity. Indeed, it was a pretty good idea because it is how the first Monbazillac sweet wine was made!
Row material counts the most (like in cuisine!)
Of course, since the Xth century, what was a fail became a real expertise which Monbazillac winemakers and their associates from the 4 surrounding towns can be proud of. In the warehouse like in the kitchen, row material counts the most. What is the perfect base material for a great sweet wine? Well, it is a rotten grape, colonised by the microscopic fungus Botrytis cinerea!
Sémillon, Sauvignon and Muscadelle, the grape varieties used in Monbazillac make everything possible for a good development of the fungus. During autumn, when the fog of Dordogne valley comes across the vine stocks on the right shore’s hillsides, the fungus settles and grows thanks to the sunny afternoons of the Perigord’s off-season. Not very appetizing, isn’t it?
Well, you are wrong because the noble rot allows the concentration of sugar in berries. It is the cause of the delicious candied fruits aromas in Monbazillac wines when it reaches the “roasted rot” level. As Botrytis cinereal doesn’t develop in a homogenous way, winemakers harvest their parcels in several times, by hand: that’s what we call “tries successives” (understand here successive selections).
It is a real work of patience!
The famous Chateau of Monbazillac
Taste is a question of balance
If you enjoy watching top chefs competition on TV, you have already noticed that a comment often comes to the juries’ mouths: “it’s a good plate, well balanced”. And here’s the reason: balance is the key for a good plate and for a great sweet wine. This perfect balance between sugar and the freshness of the climate and geology of the terroir is what characterise the Monbazillac wines. It is also what makes them extremely modern and easy to drink. Because in Monbazillac, and that’s a great quality, even the exceptional nectars must be drunk. There’s no demo, only generosity! And that’s what makes them sweet wines gifted for gastronomy.
Monbazillac is one of the oldest French appellations. It was created in 1936 and celebrated its 80th anniversary in 2016.
We can produce Monbazillac in only 5 towns in Dordogne: Monbazillac, Colombier, Pomport, Rouffignac-de-Sigoulès and Saint-Laurent-des-Vignes.
4 white grape varieties good for the development of noble rot are used for Monbazillac: Sauvignon blanc, Sauvignon gris, Sémillon and Muscadelle.
Botrytis cinerea, by making the berries porous, encourages the juice volume diminution and its sugar concentration. The yields are hence very small in Monbazillac, inferior to 30 hectolitres per hectare.
The hillsides of Dordogne’s right shore where Monbazillac vineyards are located have the particularity of being orientated North, which prevent them from a too direct sunshine and ensure the development of the noble rot.
Patience is the key word in Monbazillac. Patience for the harvest by hand by successive selections but also patience for the ageing of wines. Indeed, we must wait at least 6 months before we can bottle wines, and 18 months for the noble grain varieties. Then, patience before drinking them because it is always better to keep Monbazillac wines in warehouses.
After the revocation of the Edit of Nantes in 1685, many protestants who were the owners of Monbazillac vineyard left for Holland and contributed to the success of wine commerce there. Thus, the “Holland brand” notion was born (because of the seal on the barrels) for the estates which wines were exported to Holland.