Cyrano’s family all have a nose for a good wine
Thérèse de Corbiac runs the acclaimed Chateau Corbiac near Bergerac with her son, Antoine. They produce Pécharmant, one of the smallest and least well-known wine appellations in the Dordogne.
How long the chateau been in the family?
Since 1587. The first owner, François Faure de Lussac was the son-in-law of Pierre-Elie Cyrano Cyrano de Bergerac’s great-grandfather. He was a minister of low (procureur) for the king and was given the chateau for this help in the religious wars. It has been passed down the generations, sometimes via the husband, sometimes the wife, ever since. I married into the family, my late husband Bruno was the 17th generation of the family to run the chateau.
Is it true Cyrano de Bergerac never visited the area?
Actually, it is not true. Everyone, even the family, thougth this but my husband and I discovered Cyrano de Bergerac stayed at Chateau Corbiac in 1648. In fact, he included details of his grandfather and the battles he had fought on behalf of the king in his books, using pseudonyms. To honour our famous cousin, we have recently created a range of Pécharmant wines with his name and picture on them.
During the Revolution many wine chateau were destroyed. How did Chateau Corbiac survive?
It was luck. The owner was married to Caroline de Meslon. She and her son were drummers in Bergerac town band. The revolutionnaries had made a pact to spare the houses of drummers, otherwise the chateau would have been razed.
What was it like marrying into such a long established chateau?
My family have been in the wine business since the timeof Louis XIV so I wasn’t fazed. I love wine and it was a pleasure to work with my husband, he was a very good wine maker and my son, Antoine, has followed in his footsetps.
Does having such a long family histoty help the wine?
Definitly. The value of the information passed from father ot child is immeasurable; details of climate, soil, all that experiencefrom the past is so important. But hanging onto history and tradition is only part of the chateau’s success, it is also important to keep up with the technology and modernise as well. The key to success lies in maintaining the balance.
Would you say yoour wine has changed since you and your usband came to the chateau?
Yes, it has. I’ve been here for 41 years and the wine has evolved; changes in machinery and technical advances have played a part. Tastes change too. To attract new cusotm you have to produce a that suits modern palates.
Bordeaux wines have declined in popularity. Will the same thing happen to Bergerac and Pécharmant?
Bordeaux wine is stil popular and many of their wines are very ggod but I think Bergerac wines are growing in popularity rather than declining. Initiatives like the Route des Vins and the presence of the airport in Bergerac mean our wines are becoming better known and people like them.
Has the recession affected you?
Yes and no. We’ve had to stay on our toes, be flexible and keep reinvigorating our wines but our chateau has only been touched a bit. When you have good wine, your clientele don’t desert you.
What marks out your Pecharmant from others?
We use a lot of Merlot, that’s a key difference. The wine is very fruity. We harvest grapes when they’re very ripe; 100 days after the vines finish blossoming as the grapes need a certain number of hours of sunshine. We have exceptionnal terrain; the soil never becomes waterlogged so we get lots of very small, very ripe, very healthy fruit.
Where does “Pecharmant” get its name from?
The name describes the superb terrain; wines have been grown on the hillsides since the XIth century. The wine was originally know as “Puycharman” as plaisant hill.
Your son, Antoine, is the 18th generation to run the chateau. Are you optimistic for the 19th generation?
I hope so. My son is getting married this month, so I am pretty optimistic. I’d like the chateau to stay in the family.
Lucy Stubbs, in The Advertiser, Dordogne, September 2009, page 7