Claudie & Bruno Bilancini

I tasted these wines with importer Eric Solomon, and I have to say, they’re unquestionably some of the most impressive sweet wines I’ve ever tasted.

The wines come from the Monbazillac AOC which is located on the left bank of the Dordogne River, across from the town of Bergerac in South West France, roughly 60 miles east of Bordeaux. This AOC was created in 1936 (one of the first) and is only for sweet wines (the dry wines are labeled as Bergerac Sec). The primary grapes are Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle.

The estate was created in 1992 by Claudie and Bruno Bilancini, who were able to obtain a lease on one of the top Premier Cru sites in the region, the Cru de Tirecul. They subsequently purchased the vineyard in 1997, and today the estate consists of 10 hectares of organically farmed vines and limestone and clay soils.

They produce four wines: Andrea, Les Pins, Cuvee Chateau and Cuvee Madame. The Andrea cuvee is a dry white made from a blend of Sémillon and Muscadelle. It’s aged 18 months in 15% new French oak, and is kept in bottle for two years before release. The Les Pins is the entry level sweet wine and it’s made from the younger vines of the estate and is primarily Sémillon, with a smaller amount of Muscadelle. It’s also harvested earlier, with slightly less botrytis (which is the fungus/noble rot that helps condense the sugars in the grapes). Like all the wines, it’s hand harvested, native fermented and sees 18 months in French oak. The Cuvée Chateau is a late harvest blend of close to equal parts Sémillon and Muscadelle, from 40+-year-old vines, that see over two years in new French oak barrels. Lastly, the Cuvée Madame is a painstakingly, berry-by-berry selection of the best botrytised grapes in the vintage. Like the Cuvée Chateau, it’s fermented and aged over two years in new French oak.

All three of the late harvest wines are dense, concentrated, unctuous beauties that have surprising acidity and depth. As I hope these reviews show, these are sensational wines.