Roses of Bordeaux on board in the Bay of Archachon

Jul 31, 12 Roses of Bordeaux on board in the Bay of Archachon

Posted by in Food and Wine, France

Rosé is still fighting an up hill battle. Despite the variety of styles available, most people either associate it with sickly sweet Blossom Hill or the light, pale rosés of Provence. There are however, wines that fall into the middle and that is where you can find the rosés of Bordeaux. Deeper in colour but still bursting with fruit, they are dry with balanced acidity and some even have a hint of tannin to them. As part of my trip to the Fete le Vin with the CIVB, we got to spend one sunny day on the Bay of Archachon, which is less than an hour’s drive away from the centre of Bordeaux, sailing, eating and drinking those lovely wines. Archachon is the beach playground of Bordeaux and it has a long promenade of cafes facing a wide beach of tan coloured sand. We arrived at around 10am as people were setting up beach football pitches and sun umbrellas. Arcachon is also famous for its oysters and we got to sample them once we were on the boat. A few winemakers were also along for the ride (and they just happened to bring along some white Bordeaux) along with the rosés. White Bordeaux is probably just as misunderstood as Bordeaux rosés. If people know about it, they think of the sweet white wines of the region but dry whites are also made from the sauvignon blanc and semillon grapes that are predominately grown in the region, along with a bit of muscadelle and ugni blanc. The Bordelais seem to be focusing on sauvignon blanc and I do like the wines, they have body and weight to them with lemon and grapefruit aromas and flavours. The rosés made an appearance and were very welcome as we were boating along. A cavalcade of seafood joined the roseés and we had literally buckets of langoustines, crabs, oysters, snails, all on ice and just waiting to be cracked open. We had to shuck the oysters ourselves but it’s...

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Bordeaux’s Fete Le Vin 2012

Jul 26, 12 Bordeaux’s Fete Le Vin 2012

Posted by in Food and Wine, France, Travel

So it seems we might actually be getting a summer in London, albeit, 2 months tardy! Happily, I was invited  by the CIVB to Bordeaux in late June for the Fete le Vin, a bi-annual event held on the quays of Bordeaux City which features affordable Bordeaux for everyday, where they are having a proper summer. The Fete le Vin runs for almost a week but there is plenty to do in and around the city. The first day we went on a city walk,which was great fun. The city is quite ancient and the Medieval section of town, which is very close to the river holds many fascinating nooks, crannies and alleyways with a plethora of cafes, restaurants and bars. I could have spent the day hopping from one cafe to another! The historic part of the city itself was declared an UNESCO site in the 1990’s and the limestone buildings have recently been completely cleaned so the city is nice and bright! The city is one of Europe’s biggest 18th century architectural urban areas. You can almost imagine  horse drawn carriages through the streets until one of the super modern electric trams goes gliding by. The wines of Bordeaux are often perceived as being out of reach of most people but in reality, the Petrus’ and Cheval Blancs make up only a tiny percentage of the production of the region. The majority of the wines are made for consumption within a few years. The Fete likes to also emphasize that wine should be paired with food and this year they hooked up with Hong Kong to showcase how Chinese cuisine and French wines can go together. I loved wandering along the quay and stopping at the various stands with my glass in hand,sampling the multitude of wines and styles. The event featured just about all the wines of the region other then the top crus. Red, white, sweet, sparkling they were all represented along with various delicacies of the region and plenty...

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Chateau Margaux gets experimental

Mar 09, 12 Chateau Margaux gets experimental

Posted by in Biodynamic wine, France

If you are one of the 5 First Growths of Bordeaux (Ch. Margaux, Ch. Lafite Rothschild, Ch. Latour, Ch. Haut-Brion and lastly, Ch. Mouton Rothschild), you might think you could rest on your laurels, not give a fig for any new fangled advancements and just continue to produce wine the way it’s always been done. I mean, the first classification was done in 1855 and only one chateau has been added since then (Mouton Rothschild), and that was back in the 1970’s. You could do that but if you’re Chateau Margaux you won’t or rather, you don’t. That’s not to say the others are not also innovating but Ch. Margaux is the first to go public with their experimental findings.  Paul Pontallier, Managing Director and winemaker of Ch. Margaux was in town recently to give us a sneak peek into the inner workings of Ch. Margaux and how they are striving to maintain their reputation as one of the best wines of Bordeaux. He wants the world to know that Margaux is a forward thinking chateau and that they are looking to the wine business of the future, and the younger generation that will not only carry on the traditions but also build upon and improve what has gone before them. According to Paul, there is a plenty of experimentation and research going on in Bordeaux. He stressed however, that they themselves are not making anything new but rather in an organized way, they started these experiments because he does envisage change at some point in the future and his goal is to make the best possible wine and remain the best possible wine now and for future generations. So what are they up to? Pulling back the curtain of the great and mighty Oz (as in Wizard, not Clarke) we find, biodynamic wine! Let me explain first that the wines we tasted are not the ones that go into the first growth but are distinct plots that they are using on the estate...

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English sparkling wine coming soon(ish) from the Isle of Sark

Jan 06, 12 English sparkling wine coming soon(ish) from the Isle of Sark

Posted by in England, Sparkling Wine, Travel

To be the first outside of the winemakers to try an experimental wine made by a well known Bordelais vigneron (with said winemaker standing right next to me) can be a bit nerve wracking. What if I hate it? What if it’s rubbish? What if I’m wrong and everyone else loves it? Well, none of those things happened when I found myself tasting the very first bottle of savagnin, fresh from the barrel. Savagnin is not a grape that I’m familiar with even if it does feature in the vin jaune wines of the Jura region. So, I was delighted and surprised to discover it was the first ever vintage of Sark wine. Yes, Sark as in the “Isle of,” one of the Channel Islands, closer the France then England but British nonetheless. The Sark savagnin was an experimental wine and in reality would only be used in small quantities for the final sparkling wine blend but it was intriguing to try the results of the first harvest of Sark. I was tasting with the Bordelais flying winemaker  and consultant, Alain Reynaud, who has been with the project from the very beginning. The vines were planted barely 18 months ago but a lot of care and planning went into the project before one vine was planted. Alain and soil consultant, David Pernet made many trips to the island to assess the terroir and find the best possible spots. The very first thing Alain did when he visited was to start digging through the first plot of land he was shown with his bare hands to see if the soil was suitable. They spent 6 months analyzing the soil before finally picking what they believe to be the best locations. Luckily, the island is primarily made up of granite and schist with a thin layer of topsoil – perfect to make those vines work hard. I don’t know what time of year Alain visited but I was there a few weeks ago (early Dec) and...

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L’espirit de Bordeaux – affordable,quality French wine, what more could you ask for?

Jan 03, 12 L’espirit de Bordeaux – affordable,quality French wine, what more could you ask for?

Posted by in Food and Wine, France

Affordable, quality French wine from Bordeaux? Does it exist anymore? Back in the day, say before investment wine-ing came into fashion and back when the Chinese were still Communist, Bordeaux was a wine that one could buy at reasonable prices. Fast forward to the 2010’s and it may seem like you have to be a gazillionaire to get your hands on quality wines, never mind affordable prices. The Yvon Mau group has decided enough is enough and wants to bring Bordeaux in from the cold, show drinkers that you don’t need to spend an arm and a leg to drink well. And that’s where L’Espirt de Bordeaux comes in. Philippe Lequeche, managing director of Yvon Mau has vowed to “never surrender” the UK market. He thinks Bordeaux may have lost their way by focusing on the lux end of the market but the real bread and butter of Bordeaux has been and should be the mid-tier wines of the region. Focusing on the £10-£30 bracket, Philippe believes that there are plenty of wines that can and do represent value for money from Bordeaux. How do you guarantee quality when there are so many, let’s face it, inferior producers in Bordeaux? Philippe responded that Yvon Mau is taking it’s time in choosing to work with what they feel are producers who agree with their vision of quality wines at a fair price. The company is taking the time to cultivate relationships with producers they feel have high quality wines and are looking for owners with personality whose wines reflect that. They currently have 8 producers on their books but are looking to expand to around 15. When asked if they would expand beyond that, Phillipe  responded that once  you get too big, it’s difficult to maintain the quality and relationships that they are building with producers. We had the opportunity to try the 2009 and 2010 wines from 7 of their producers and the wines are of very good quality and value for money. Producers...

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