Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

Monbazillac, increasingly serious sweet white wine appellation within the bergerac district in south-west France immediately south of the town of Bergerac on the left bank of the dordogne. Monbazillac has a long history of sweet wine production, which here seems to pre-date the influence of the dutch wine trade (one property’s label still boasts ‘Réputé en Hollande depuis 1513’).

Like sauternes, it is made from Sémillon, Sauvignons Blanc and Gris, and, particularly successful here, Muscadelle grapes and the vineyards lie on the left bank of an important river close to its confluence with a small tributary, in this case the Gardonette. This environment favours autumn morning mists and the development of noble rot, particularly on north-facing slopes, and an increasing number of producers are willing to take the risks involved in trying to produce fully botrytized wines. In a determined quest for quality, mechanical harvesting was banned from 1993 and successive tries through the vineyard insisted upon. The top-quality botrytized, often orange-tinged wines offer exceptional value. Basic maximum permitted yields here are 40 hl/ha (2.3 tons/acre), as opposed to the 25 hl/ha in Sauternes, but in a good vintage such as 1996, the average yield in Monbazillac was 26 hl/ha (as opposed to Sauternes’ 22.5 hl/ha). By 2012 the area of vineyard dedicated to Monbazillac had grown to 2,122 ha/5,241 acres, considerably more than Sauternes, where picking generally takes place earlier so vintage characteristics can be very different.