Saussignac is a small village in the Dordogne department, nestled in the heart of the Bergerac wine region, and located about 18 kilometers southwest of Bergerac and 10 kilometers southeast of Sainte-Foy-la-Grande. This charming little village gave its name to the surrounding wine region, which exclusively produces sweet white dessert wines, on the southern bank of the Dordogne, a stone’s throw from the Gironde department.
Somewhat similar yet a little drier and definitely lesser known than the neighboring wines from Monbazillac, the grapes used for Saussignac are generally botrytis affected Sémillon grapes. To qualify for the appellation, the grapes must be grown, and the wine produced, in the 4 villages of Saussignac, Razac de Saussignac, Monestier and Gageac-Rouillac.
May be for practical but frankly and mainly for economical reasons, because they surely couldn’t survive only on their production of dessert wines, most producers of Saussignac also produce red, rosé and dry white wines, which can only be sold under the "Bergerac" and "Côtes de Bergerac" appellations.
Due to lack of reputation and promotion of the region and the wines in the export markets (outside of a few European countries), the local estates and Châteaux have diversified their portfolios by producing various appellations wines within the Bergerac region. They are often open for visits and always happy to guide you with a tasting of their reds, rosé, dry and sweet whites.
Located in the little village of Razac de Saussignac (about 5 kilometers west of Saussignac), Château Le Payral is a small family owned property, run by Thierry and Isabelle Daulhiac. In 1992 Thierry inherited the vineyard from his father who had, in turn, inherited it from his father.
Besides being a wine estate, Château Le Payral is a large, welcoming, 19th century manor house, which is also used, has a Bed & Breakfast for agro-tourists, offering to its guests, two huge, cozy and comfortable bedrooms.
However, the estate extends over 15 hectares (37 acres) of hillside vineyards in the Saussignac and Bergerac appellations (AOC), comprised within the region of Bergerac and located between the appellations of Monbazillac and Sainte-Foy-Bordeaux. Since 1992, Thierry has gradually adopted more natural vineyard management methods, and nowadays, the vineyards and cellar are entirely managed in organic culture tending more accurately towards Biodynamic.
Château Le Payral produces both Saussignac and Bergerac (AOC) wines from hillside vineyards. The vines are planted on mainly sandy-muddy-clay soils and the various parcels, planted with same grape varieties as Bordeaux, are divided as follow:
- 3.40 ha (8.4 acres) of Sémillon,
- 3 ha (7.4 acres) of Sauvignon Blanc,
- 1ha (2.47 acres) of Muscadelle
- 0.60ha (1.48) of Sauvignon Gris.
- 4 ha (9.88 acres) of Merlot,
- 1 ha (2.47 acres) of Cabernet Sauvignon
- 2ha (4.94 acres) of Cabernet Franc.
As previously stated, although based in Saussignac, for practical and especially economical reasons, Chateau le Payral produces understandably much more Bergerac dry wines than Saussignac sweet wines, the later only being produced when weather and micro-climate ideal conditions allows it (thus a challenging production and not a good source of revenues).
Out of their portfolio, which includes more than 8 different labels (depending of the vintage, more especially for the sweet wines), the average total production can be divided as follow:
- - Bergerac blanc sec: 50,000 bottles
- - Bergerac rosé: 8,000 bottles
- - Bergerac rouge “Traditionnel”: 40,000 bottles
- - Bergerac blanc Sec Réserve “Petite Fugue”: 2,500 bottles
- - Bergerac rouge “Terres Rouges”: 6,000 bottles
- - Bergerac Rouge “Cuvée Héritage”: 4,000 bottles
- - Côtes de Bergerac Blanc “Tutti Frutti”: 6,500 bottles
- - Saussignac & Saussignac "Cuvée Marie-Jeanne": between 2,000 to 4,000 bottles
Out of the total production, 40% of the bottles are sold to the local markets to retails, cavistes, restaurants and wholesalers; while 60% are sold to the export markets led by the UK (London more precisely), Belgium and Netherlands, and followed in smaller quantity by the United Sates of America and Japan. Their Bergerac white Sec, Bergerac red Traditionnel and Saussignac are consistently receiving the most recognition from the press and the critics, and are understanbly the ones that are found the most on the export markets.
These 3 wines from Château Le Payral are available in New York, and part of Savio Soares Selections: Bergerac Dry White, Bergerac Red and the relatively little known rich, sweet, "liquoreux" Saussignac.
2009 Château Le Payral Bergerac Blanc Sec France
Suggested retail price $10-$13
Imported/Distributed by Savio Soares Selections
Grown and nurtured organically with emphasize on biodynamic methods, the grapes are harvested so that quality is the best possible, preceded a few month earlier by a green harvest to maximize concentration and complexity, and followed by manual sorting at the winery before fermentation to keep only the most healthy grapes. The grapes undergo a maceration lasting 18 hours on average. Gentle pressing is carried out since 1998 with a pneumatic press, which ensures a smoother and more refine extraction of juice. The alcoholic fermentation starts after addition of natural selected yeast. During fermentation, the temperature is maintained at 18 ° C. Moreover, during the vinification process the lees are oxygenated, meaning that they are separated and aerated for one to three weeks until their full expression. They are then reincorporated. Shortly after the wine is bottled. An average of 50,000 bottles are produces, depending of the vintage.
A blend of 50% Sauvignon Blanc, 25% Sémillon and 25% Muscadelle from vines planted on sandy-muddy-clay soils, the Bergerac dry white (Traditional) is very flavorful and extremely round in the mouth due in part to the blend of the three local white grape varieties, and also to the particular methods of vinification (skin contact, lees contact). The Sauvignon brings cleanness, crispiness and acidity. The Sémillon brings fruit weight and depth with complexity. The Muscadelle brings freshness and slight floral aromas. The resulting wine is a food friendly, earthy, versatile white to drink at anytime, enhance by a lovely acidity and a well-rounded mouthfeel.
2008 Château Le Payral Bergerac Rouge “Traditionnel” France
Suggested retail price $11-$14
Imported/Distributed by Savio Soares Selections
Mechanical harvesting provides a total de-stemming the grapes. Fermentation lasts from 15-30 days depending on the characteristics of the lot: ripeness of the fruit, color, etc… Initially, the pumping-over takes place twice a day, then only once a day at the end of fermentation. The goal is to break up the "hat of marc topping the must" (skins, flesh, etc…) in order to extract the best tannins and "anthocyanes" (color and flavor elements). During this period, the temperature is controlled and does not exceed 33 ° C. The malolactic fermentation takes place thereafter. Because full ripeness can somehow be difficult to reach and most Bergerac reds possess slightly hard tannins and hints of green that need a bit of time to settle for the wine to be more approachable, occasionally, they use micro-oxygenation on lots during aging, in order to "soften" the tannins a little too rough and thus obtain a wine easier to drink in its youth. About 28, 000 bottles are produces.
A blend of 50% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon from vines planted on sandy-muddy-clay soils, the resulting wine is quite nice and fresh and earthy, fairly rounded and easy drinking with good balance and acidity and slight tannic touch in the finish. Overall, a touch spicy, with rich, soft, red berry fruits flavors, it boasts generous ripe fruit with slightly peppery and herbal hints and good structure.
2002 Château Le Payral Saussignac sweet white France
Suggested retail price $25-$28
Imported/Distributed by Savio Soares Selections
This Saussignac is sourced from the oldest vines on the estate and is crafted out of botrytised Sémillon grapes in a small portion of the selected parcels with up to 4 'tries' or passes of the pickers in order to hand select the appropriate grapes from each bunch.
Only produced in the best vintages that combines moist early morning with good amount of humidity and the right amount of sun during the day for ideal ripeness (like in 1997, 1998 and 2002), Saussignac is the château’s most prestigious wine, a rich "liquoreux" wine produced from the vineyard’s oldest white vines using the same methods as Sauternes.
The region’s early morning mists and the proximity of the Dordogne river favor the development on the grapes of the fungus, Botrytis Cinerea, which is responsible for the high concentration of sugar level in the grape. It effectively causes the fruit’s skin to disintegrate and shrivel (or “raisins flétris” in French), which in turn leads to the evaporation of the water in the grape. The fruit dries out leaving behind a gray-purple blue dust partly covering the grapes.
The grapes don’t, at this stage, look very enticing but their taste is surprising and wonderful, a bit like dried raisins. Harvesters with the most experience to choose the most concentrated grapes at each successive "tri" or passage slowly and carefully harvest them manually, going thru the same vineyards and rows up to 3-4 times over a period of a few days or even weeks sometimes.
The harvest can go on till very late in the season, in 1999 the third and final "tri" took place on 24th November. It is hardly necessary to point out that yields are extremely low, generally speaking, 10-15 hectoliters per hectare. It is also an extremely risky business as, if the autumn is wet, the grapes will not become concentrated, noble rot will not develop and it will be impossible to harvest. Once harvested and pressed, this nectar ferments and ages in oak barrels for approximately 18 months.
Made from 100% botrytised Sémillon, the resulting wine is absolutely delightful, sweet yet balanced and enhanced by great acidity with honey, apricot, coin fruit and ripe yellow fruit flavors. The palate is fairly rich and long and tremendously enjoyable. Great as an aperitif, or complementing a pan-seared slice of “Foie Gras Frais”, it will be ideal with pear or apple tart and fruit salad.
LeDom du Vin
Info partly taken and edited from a word document sent directly to me by Isabelle & Thierry DAULHIAC to compile info to create a technical data sheet on behalf of and for Savio Soares. Other info taken from the winery blog at http://chateaulepayral.over-blog.com/; as well as the Bergerac region’s website at http://www.pays-de-bergerac.com/
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