Monbazillac, an emblematic sweet wine from the South West
Produced opposite Bergerac, on the left bank of the Dordogne, Monbazillac is one of the most famous sweet white wines in France, if not the world. It has nothing to envy to the Sauternes, it is distinguished by its elegance and its bouquet, as powerful as it is delicious. Monbazillac owes its originality to a particular geographical location and climate, as well as to an ancestral know-how preserved by an AOC since 1936.
General presentation of Monbazillac
The Monbazillac appellation has its roots in the Bergeracois vineyards of southwestern France. It has more than 3,000 hectares of vines, spread over 5 communes in the south of the Dordogne: Monbazillac, as well as Colombier, Pomport, Rouffignac-de-Sigoulès and Saint-Laurent-des-Vignes.
The Monbazillac vineyard is traditionally divided into three zones. The first extends from Colombier to Pomport on the terraces of the Dordogne. The second occupies the plateau and slopes gently down to the south. The third, the most famous, dominates the Bergerac valley from the northern slopes. This is one of the particularities of this wine region. A large part of the vines is exposed to the north, which favours a phenomenon that is essential for the production of sweet wines. The alternation of cold, damp mornings and warm, sunny afternoons leads to the formation of this noble rot, which allows the natural high concentration of sugar in the grapes. It is this over-ripening of the grapes that gives Monbazillacs their personality.
Three grape varieties rule the Monbazillac vineyard: Semillon, Sauvignon and Muscadelle. A few accessory grape varieties are however authorised: chenin blanc, ugni blanc and ondenc.
Two categories of wines are produced: the so-called "classic" monbazillacs and the "selection de grains nobles" monbazillacs. The latter come mostly from the north coast. They are more concentrated in sugar: at least 85g/l, against 45 g/l for the others. These exceptional Monbazillacs are aged for a minimum of 18 months before being marketed.
Characteristics of Monbazillac
A Monbazillac AOC can be recognised by its straw-coloured robe with golden hues. With the years, it tends to darken to amber. The aromatic bouquet of these sweet wines from the South West is also characteristic. It smells of honey, acacia and peach. Notes of spices, mirabelle plums and candied citrus fruits are generally added. Over the years, dried fruits such as hazelnut and almond further enrich this powerful aromatic palette.
These sweet wines are full-bodied, fat, ample and greedy. They manage to balance sugar, alcohol and acidity in fine harmony. Monbazillacs are wines that keep well. The best of them can be aged for 30 years or more. Even if they can be drunk young, at 4-5 years, these Bergerac wines benefit from ageing before being enjoyed.
How to enjoy a Monbazillac
Served slightly chilled, at 8-12°, Monbazillac goes well with white meat and cream-based main courses, such as Bresse poultry with morels. For cheese, serve a Monbazillac with a blue-veined cheese, such as a Bleu d'Auvergne, a Fourme d'Ambert or a Roquefort. Monbazillac is also an excellent dessert wine. It goes perfectly with strawberries and melon, as well as with cooked fruits and creams.