The Bergerac, a sprawling umbrella AOC in the South west of France’s Aquitaine region, is not always the first on one’s list of ‘must drink’ wines from France. The region is often thought of as an extension of Bordeaux due to the use of identical grape varietals. However there is a significant distinction in attitude when it comes to the Bergerac, an AOC much less governed by strict rules and tradition. In spite of the many fine AOCs within Bergerac (one of which is the sweet wine bastion of Saussignac) many producers choose to stick with the more generalized Bergerac AOC due to the lack of renown of these tiny AOCs.
Richard Doughty, a half-English, half-French, former deep-sea diver, started cultivating vines in Bergerac in 1991 after sustaining an injury that disallowed for further deep-sea activity. One of the pioneers of the current winemaking iteration in Bergerac, he’s always cultivated his vines and produced wine 100% organically, uses very little sulfur (his Cuvée Naturel uses no SO2 whatsoever) and preserves a propensity for old barrels. Both his whites and reds display a clean acidity, a trait, he says, that is common for organic viticulture. This linearity extends right on down along the line to his Saussignac, a sticky made of Sémillon and Muscadelle the sees as many as eight selections (or tries) before the final selection is made.
His reds are crafted from different proportions of the Bordeaux varietals Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc while the wines are made from Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Muscadelle (the Saussignac does not include any Sauvignon Blanc.) These wines however bear no semblance to their neighbors to the north (and west) – they are entirely singular, self-expressive and reflecting the white lacustrian and beach limestone and marine clay of their soils.
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