Monthly Archives: August 2009

Saint Emilion via Bergerac

After years of being a tiny regional airport Bergerac has finally invested in a new check –in and departure Hall even if you still have to push your bags down the ramp yourself upon arrival – all part of the rustic charm!

11 regional airports in the UK are now served directly from Bergerac as well as Amsterdam and Charleroi (near Brussels).
Only 50 minutes from Saint Emilion it is an alternative from Merignac airport in Bordeaux if you want to tour the right bank.

I picked up my clients this morning and stopped for lunch on the terrace of Le Château des Vigiers overlooking the wonderful golf course there.


The Club House terrace at Château des Vigiers

Discover Bourg sur Gironde

The Cotes area has for a long time been a closely guarded secret, not just the wines that offer spectacular value for money in Bordeaux with their Merlot driven, easy drinking style but also for the beauty of the region.
The port town of Bourg on the banks of the Gironde, just north of where the Dordogne and Garonne meet, is about 30 minutes form Bordeaux. It is the perfect place to start your discovery of the Corniche road : a hidden treasure of water-front cottages and spectacular views across to the Medoc.
Have lunch at ‘La Plaisance’ a bistro overlooking the Port of Bourg. Carrying 70 listings of uniquely Côtes de Bourg and Blaye wines it is open every day of the week and offers a range of regional 3 course market menus from €12 to €40, wine by the glass (and to buy to take away) and friendly service.
It’s minutes away from the Maison des Côtes du Bourg where you can taste your way through the appellation.
For those of you interested in Prehistoric sites; 5 minutes up the road is the tiny ‘Grotte de Pair non pair’ containing the oldest wall carvings in the world dating back 30 000 years BC. Make sure you book a visit as, to protect them from CO², only a limited number of visitors are allowed in per year.


The Bistro ‘Le Plaisance ‘overlooking the port of Bourg sur Gironde

Crush pad has now arrived in Bordeaux.

The 2009 Bordeaux vintage is looking fantastic after what has been, so far, a spectacular summer season. Should you want to make the most of this potential and create your own Bordeaux wine – you now can! Select Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from various lots throughout the vineyards of Bordeaux and with the help of local winemakers and consultants make your own Bordeaux 2009 blend.
Based in Saint Emilion at Château Teyssier, the property of Jonathan Malthus, the innovative vigneron creator of cult wine ‘Le Dome’(amongst others). Crush pad, previously based in San Francisco, now allows you make wine from plots in the left bank (Margaux), the right bank (Saint Emilion and Fronsac) and the Côtes de Castillon with the help of Bordeaux consultants Stephane Derenoncourt and Eric Boissenot as well as Jonathan.
You can be as hands on as you choose. Either travelling to Bordeaux to visit Teyssier or receiving a Crushpad fuse box allowing you to experiment with the classic Bordeaux skill of blending from the confort of your home.
As the wine will be made at Château Teyssier, if you choose uniquely St.Emilion grapes it can be labeled with the St.Emilion A.O.C; other plots will be either Bordeaux or Bordeaux Supérieur. The approximate cost should be $10,000 a barrel (300 bottles) including shipping.


Château Teyssier, the Bordeaux Crush Pad site

Roadside dining around Bordeaux

The D2 (the ‘route des Châteaux’) is possibly the most famous road in the Bordeaux region,driving up the D2 is like driving through a wine list. Passing one grand example of architecture after another, the road sweeps through the famous appellations of Médoc, Margaux, Saint Julien, Pauillac and Saint Estèphe. And most of these have great roadside restaurants.

Travelling from south to north leaving Bordeaux:
Le Lion d’Or is as typical a local bistro as you can get. The ‘Patron’ is a fervent defender of local cuisine and a dedicated ‘chasseur,’ so game features plentifully on the menu in season. Throughout the rest of the year, local specialties include confit of duck, local asparagus and artichokes. Surprisingly, the wine list is petite. This is because the dining locals are winemakers with their own wine lockers that line the dining room. You can admire fabulous wines guarded by lock and key, which only the owners hold! To compensate, bring your own bottle but only if it is ‘rouge’. Should you want a glass of white or rosé, order it from the house list.

Heading north, continue to Saint Julien and stop at the eponymous restaurant. In the summer the terrace is delightful and in the evening the chef will stoke the grill with vine clippings to prepare the steaks and duck breasts. They also have the best dessert buffet in the region.

Just before arriving in Pauillac, take a break in Bages and on the left is the 2-star Michelin hotel and Restaurant Cordeillan Bages , plus a vineyard. The innovative chef Thierry Marx creates modern interpretations of local products and the experience is a mix of dining and entertainment. He is a staunch defender of the local culinary traditions and has been instrumental in preserving the local milk-fed lamb ‘l’agneau de Pauillac.’

For a more modern take, go back to Bordeaux on the only other main road in the Médoc, the D1. Still on the left bank but south of Bordeaux city in the Pessac Léognan appellation, pause amongst the classified growths in the village of Martillac at Le Pistou , a relaxed local bistro just opposite the church.

Carry on further south to the village of Sauternes where you can dine on the terrace of Le Saprien overlooking the vines and enjoy a menu carefully designed to match with the luscious sweet white wines of this appellation.


The view from the terrace of ‘Le Saprien’
over the vines of Château Guiraud

On the right bank over towards Saint Emilion, take the ND936 from Bordeaux towards Bergerac and turn left towards Saint Germain de Puch where you can have lunch or dinner at l’Atmosphère , which offers everything from pizza to high-end local specialties such as artichoke and foie gras salad.

Once in Saint Emilion there is only one street to drive through. Half way up Rue Guadet, stop on the left at Chai Pascal for a light lunch with an interesting selection of wines by the glass.

Further up the same street on the right is Essentielle , owned by Jean-Luc Thunevin. This wine bar offers some of the most hard to find wines of the region by the glass accompanied by artisan cheeses and ‘charcuterie’.

Château Biac

Sitting high above the vines in the Côtes de Bordeaux, this view from the terrace of Château Biac perfectly illustrates the rolling slopes that dominate this appellation. Tony and Youmna Asseily produced their first vintage in 2007. Their Cadillac although still young, is a perfect example of the quality that can be made on these traditional of sweet white terroirs. I’m going to return to taste the red which is not yet in bottle and to discover the new cellars and the guest cottages.

Portes Ouvertes (Open Door Weekends)

Here’s still more proof that the closed door image of Bordeaux is a myth : on these weekends the châteaux of different Bordeaux appellations literally open their doors and welcome visitors wishing to tour their properties and taste their wines.

7, 8 & 11 November Portes Ouvertes de Sauternes et Barsac: Sweet wine from the Graves area in Bordeaux made from Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle grapes.
28-19 November Portes Ouvertes de Loupiac, “Loupiac & Foie Gras”: Somewhat similar but less expensive than Sauternes, Loupiac wines are also a classic match to foie gras.
5-6 December Portes Ouvertes de Pessac-Léognan: Contains all of the Grands Crus Classés listed in the classifications of 1953 and 1959.

Cooking with wine

Gaëlle Benoiste Pilloire ‘L’Officier de Bouche’ came to put us to work with a wonderful summer menu : Melon, ginger and lime soup, Farmhouse Chicken en papillotte with herbs and mascarpone on new potatoes and courgettes, Brie stuffed with summer truffles and the fabulous Lavender pannecotta with strawberries in thyme infused wine.

And the wines ? : G de Guiraud 2007, the new barrel aged La Source rosé (2008 is the first vintage) and with the cheese and dessert Château de Viaud Lalande de Pomerol 2001.
Each cooking class is a source of inspiration and new recipes but also pearls of wisdom; such as when reducing wine try to flambé it, this helps reduce the acidity as well as the alcohol content. But please make sure the extractor fan is not on and nothing inflammable is nearby !

Sorry no photos of the desert, we ate them all before anyone could get a shot
buthere’s how to flambé your wine.

A perfect summer evening in Saint Emilion

Since the 1st May Philippe Etchebest, 2 star Michelin chef, has introduced a new dining formula at Hostellerie de Plaisance in Saint Emilion. He now offers uniquely a tasting menu to his guests in the evening. At a fixed price of €120 per head (before wine) this menu changes everyday depending on what has taken his fancy in the local Libourne market that morning.
Last night the weather was spectacular – as it has been all summer and we were able to sample the menu on the fabulous terrace overlooking the Medieval city of Saint Emilion
Featuring local specialties such as Caviar d’Aquitaine, followed by lightly grilled tuna with a celery and fennel jelly, Sea Bass, milk fed veal with cepes. After an amazing cheese trolley 3 desserts based on 3 fruits : citrus, raspberries and strawberries.
But the ‘pearls marine’ starter stole the show – a Christmas tree of langoustines, caviar and sea urchins in an amazing presentation :

The Chassagne Montrachet Boudriottes 2006 from Ramonet was terrific with the fish dishes and then down to the South of France with a Domaine de la Grange des Pères 1995 vin de pays de l’Hérault – it felt as if we were on holiday – a perfect summers evening !