Delicious wines and charming historical sites to discover in Dordogne's Bergerac

Thursday, 7 July 2011 2:57 PM

A popular choice for relaxing short breaks in French holiday cottages, the Dordogne is one of the most picturesque regions in France - and among the most exciting when it comes to wine production. During a getaway to Bergerac, you can learn all about your favourite vintages, as well as the enchanting local history.

Bergerac is nestled on the banks of the River Dordogne in the west of the region. In addition to its prestigious reputation for wine, it is also well known for the calibre of its cuisine, so you can really look forward to amazing culinary experiences during your self-catering holidays in the Dordogne.

Indeed, this kind of short break is the perfect choice for holidaymakers keen to spend their trip doing exactly as they please - whether it's visiting the many vineyards, discovering local history or simply relaxing in the cottage.

Learning about wine production and indulging in tasting sessions is a real joy in Bergerac and you'll find there are plenty of places in which you can do it. One of these is nestled in the historic old town in a 15th century cloister.

The Maison de Vins de Bergerac is a great place to begin your wine odyssey, with an exhibition dedicated to the story of production in the area.

Once you've learnt the basics, you might like to visit one of the 12,000 vineyards the region is home to. Each place will specialise in different wines, so you may want to base where you go on your favourite vintages.

The region is known for its fine production of various bottles and one of the most popular is Saussignac. Among the places you can treat yourself to a tasting is Chateau de Fayolle, a 15th century mansion that produces this variety. Sessions are available Monday through Friday in the afternoons and you may want to book to avoid disappointment.

Trying the local wines is arguably the very best way to learn about them, and you may want to bear in mind what you have discovered when eating out. This way, you can select your favourites of the day to drink with dinner, or perhaps let the waiter know what kinds of wines you enjoy so he can help you select an appropriate bottle to accompany your meal.

With a prestigious reputation of its own, gastronomy here is a real experience and sampling the region's specialities is a fantastic way to get an authentic taste of France. The Dordogne is particularly well known for its duck dishes, as well as foie gras and walnuts.

Alongside your forays into the world of wine, you might like to soak up a little local history. To do so, it's best to visit the old town, where you'll find gorgeous medieval half-timbered buildings, as well as scenic squares.

There are also several interesting museums in this area, such as the Musee Regionale de la Batellerie. Here, you can learn about the region's river trade history in addition to facts about wine production and barrel-making.

Alternatively, you can head out a little further afield to Le Buisson de Cadain to see the Maxange Caves - a historic natural wonder. Some of the beautiful formations that can be seen here are quite rare, while you can also see more classic examples of stalactites and stalagmites.

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