Monthly Archives: May 2011

High glamour in a bottle

Jean-Paul Gautier is no stranger to designing bottles; his perfume bottles are collectors items. But it’s not just about perfume or his signature striped T- shirts that were last summer’s fashion statement. He knows sex sells and not just perfume either. He has just put his talents to work for the Champagne house Piper Heidsieck to create a very sexy limited edition bottle draped in a alluring fishnet stocking.

The launch was celebrated in Hollywood style as befits an event in the midst of the Cannes film festival. Anne-Charlotte Amory, CEO of Piper Heidsieck and Jean-Paul Gautier received 150 guests in the Forville market in Cannes transformed for the evening.
Sadly only available in the exclusive Nikki Beach in Cannes and La Maison Blanche in Paris, you’ll just have to fly over here to share the glamour

New cellars at Château de Sours

Chateau de Sours is putting the finishing touches to the dramatic renovation of their new wine making facility. The 250 year old cellars have been brought into the 21st century.

The particularity of the new cellars is that the 250 oak barrels are cooled with air from the limestone caves situated directly underneath the cellars.

These caves, remarkably similar to the ones under neighbouring Saint Emilion, show the quality of the terroir in this corner of the Entre Deux Mers, ideally suited to these Merlot dominant wines. The cellars are also used for the riddling and aging of the Chateau de Sours Sparkling Rose (méthode traditionnelle).

The renovations will be finished just in time for Vinexpo when owner Martin Krajewski will once again be extending his legendary hospitality (and wine cellar) to his clients, journalists and other friends.

The current production of 60 000 cases will increase up to 75 000 following the new plantings, bringing the current 85ha up to a total of 100ha, hence the need for an efficient new cellar.

This is quite a change in size (the property was only 40 ha when Martin took over in 2004).

It’s not just the new cellars and the size of the estate that has changed under the new management but also the product range. In addition to the 300 000 bottles of the famous Chateau de Sours rose the property now produces 200 000 bottles of Chateau red, 50 000 white and 100 000 of sparkling rose -the latest addition to the range.

If you can get your hands of some of the limited edition La Source wines, made from older parcels, available in red, white or the surprising barrel-aged rose, you’ll be one of the lucky few!

The entrance to the new production facility

Fabulous flowering

The vines may be 2 or 3 weeks ahead of flowering and winemakers looking at an early harvest, but the vines are not the only flowers just loving this hot dry spring. This year, the roses in the vineyards are some of the most beautiful I have seen.

Roses in the courtyard of Château Langoa Barton

Visiting the gardens of Château Langoa Barton in Saint Julien, I learnt that the property has over 2000 rose bushes – a most spectacular display. I don’t know if it’s the Irish connection but Château Kirwan also has a wonderful rose garden with an alleyway of roses in full bloom and Château Loudenne (another Anglo-Saxon association) also has a world-class rose collection.

Roses at Château Loudenne

There is more to see than just vines in the Bordeaux vineyards. Roses are scattered throughout the vineyards as a legacy to their use as a warning sign for mildew, not a problem we have had so far this year with this dry weather. The rose and the vine are related and owing to their sensitivity to mildew and odium the roses were the indicator as to when the vineyards should start to spray the vines with the traditional ‘Bouilli Bordelais’ (Bordeaux mixture), a lime and copper sulphate solution. It wasn’t unusual in damp springs to see the blue tinge on the vines that had been sprayed.
Legend has it that this solution was found after vines that had been sprayed with copper sulphate solution on the edges of Château Ducru Beaucaillou’s vineyards in Saint Julien to prevent predators (human ones!) from stealing the grapes. These vines were then seen not to suffer from the disease.
These days however winemakers use the less romantic but much more effective measurement of precipitation, humidity, wind and temperature by mini weather stations situated throughout the vineyards. All linked to computers, along with a detailed understanding of what constitutes the risk of the development of these diseases this does a much better job of indicating when and just how much to treat the vines, making for a more efficient and hence lower use of chemicals in the vineyards as the properties in Bordeaux move towards sustainable agriculture.

To prove it’s not just a Left Bank thing – here’s another beautiful display
at Château Angelus in Saint Emilion

Luckily for visitors however, many vineyards have kept the traditional roses on the end of the vines where they were originally placed to encourage the oxen, that pulled the ploughs, not to turn too quickly and damage the ends of the rows.The oxen were not great flower lovers – they didn’t like the thorns!

Know your station

I love traveling by train in France, and, in my opinion, if you are traveling to the city centre rather than the airport, the TGV is the best way to travel between Bordeaux and Paris. Libourne is even easier if you are visiting the right bank. A warning though keep the luggage light as the time allowed for alighting and unloading can be tight.

The only problem with using the train in Bordeaux has, up until now, been the station. Bad enough that it is situated in the crummiest part of town, the station itself also left a lot to be desired.

After having spent a fortune on the very efficient tramway the town is turning its attention to the mainline station.

The work should be completed by later this year and the new counters are temptingly under wraps to welcome almost 12 million passengers that pass through each year. There will be new waiting rooms and new services all in preparation when Bordeaux will soon be only a 2 hour trip from Paris. To learn more and organise your way through the station check out the web site Gares en movement which also gives you live train times and platform numbers.

The bakery chain Paul have already installed an eat in (as well as take out) in the front of the station and have managed to keep the elegant original decor that dates back to 1898. Not quite worth missing your train for but it certainly makes the wait easier

Elegant snacking at Paul in Bordeaux St Jean Station.

More than wine in Saint Julien

The Saint Julien is a favorite restaurant in the Medoc, see my previous post even more so with this fabulous weather when the chef, Claude Broussard’s talents are at play on the enormous barbecue. The new layout means you can sit up the bar and watch your langoustines or steak being grilled to perfection right in front of you. New also is Madame Broussard’s Julius flower shop. In face more than just a beautiful flower shop it is full of fun gifts and tablewares in including the famous house soap!

Mme Broussard in her new store Julius

Bon Voyage Laithwaites

Just over 40 years ago Tony Laithwaite started the company today known as Laithwaites Wine. Now offering over 2500 different wines sourced from 22 different countries to over a million active clients, Laithwaites is the worlds largest independent wine merchant with a turnover of over £340 M. In the last 3 years the expansion into foreign markets now represent 20% of their turnover.

In 2007 Tony reinforced his longstanding links with the region opening ‘Le Chai au Quai’ on the banks for the Dordogne river in Castillon as not just a wine making base in France but also a wine boutique, and tasting room open to the public. It is in this very cellar that as a student Tony discovered the wines of Castillon and ever since the région has held a place close to his heart reinforced with the purchase of Château La Clarière-Laithwaite in 1983. And now this magnificently newly renovated cellar.

This long association was celebrated Friday evening by 150 guests on the banks of the Dordogne in the late afternoon sunshine. We were there for the launch of ‘Le Voyage’ 2009 a special cuvé vinifed at the chai and sent off on an epic voyage on board the good ship ‘Irene’ from Blaye to London. A trip that retraces the historic links between Bordeaux and London and which Tony Laithwaite has already carried out twice. The wine, accompanied by its creator Mark Hoddy (The Chai œnologue) will end it‘s 12 day journey at their flag Ship London store ‘The Arch’ where the celebrations will continue with an auction of gifts from many prestigious properties will be held in aide of MacMillan cancer care.

Comptoir Cuisine and Fauchon

Bordeaux is the first town in France to have franchise of the famous Fauchon fine food emporium opened at the end of last year in partnership with Bordeaux caterers Elodie and Olivier Boyer. On the glamorous site opposite the Grand Theatre and in the same building as the Grand Hotel Regent 160 m2 of cakes and breads, ‘snacking chic’ and gifts including fine foods and teas will are on offer to the Bordelais.
The elegant wine cellar communicates directly with The Grand Hotel and every Thursday evening they hold tapas and wine tastings on different themes but be sure to book ahead.
Next door is their Comptoir Cuisine restaurant, a fun and dynamic place to enjoy the spring sunshine on the terrace or the ‘buzz’ inside. It is now THE place for a light lunch or informal dinner, with an all in lunch starting at 17 euros .

It is the first of an expansion plan through provincial France – once again you saw it first in Bordeaux


A Saint Emilion light show

Justine Onclin is no newcomer to Bordeaux, the owner of Chateau Brannas Grand Poujeaux in Moulis since 2002 and Bordeaux Merchant house Sovex, he also runs the wine interests of the Ballandre family, including Classified growth in Margaux; Château Prieuré Lichine. Those of you who are familiar with the dynamic wine tourism strategy of Le Prieuré will know he is he is no stranger to opening Château doors to enthusiastic amateurs.
Since 2005 he has combined these two passions and crossed over to the right bank of the Dordogne purchasing Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé Château Villemaurine. With its amazing location, on the edge of the medieval city, not just great for the limestone and clay terroir but also for its strategic position at the top of the village (conveniently opposite the car park). The property cleverly marries the old (amazing underground quarries) and the new (latest vinification techniques) in a cellar over looking the vines and the village. The huge investments in the agricultural and wine making practises have started to show returns as of the 2007 vintage. Whereas the investment in the quarries has created a winery visit quite unlike any other, created by Eric le Collen, famous for the Battle of Castillon son et lumiere held every summer just down the road.
After a few days of Château visits it has been known for even the most ardent enthusiast to suffer barrel fatigue, here however weary visitors can expect to be surprised. The quarries have been fashioned into a ‘son et lumiere’ story-telling experience, not just of the history of the property but of Saint Emilion and even Bordeaux itself.
After travelling in time through the 7ha of underground galleries it is almost a surprise to surface to a tasting of the 2 wines from the property; Château Villemaurine, of course, but also the second wine Les Angelots de Villemaurine.
Even better the property is open Saturdays and Sundays, but book ahead!

The colourful quarries of Villemaurine

Colours of wine and shades of beauty

You will know by now that ‘Women in Wine’ is one of my favourite themes – and there are more and more women making wine that really appeals to a wider audience. One of the dynamic groups of women wine makers in Bordeaux, and one of the first to launch joint wine tourism products, is ‘Les Medocaines’, a group of 4 wine makers and owners from the Medoc : Armelle Falcy-Cruze from Château Le Taillan, Martine Caseneuve from Château Paloumey, Marie-Laure Lurton from La Tour Besson and Florence Lafragette from Château Loudenne.

They organise regular joint events including days participating in the harvest, food and wine tastings, blending workshops, etc. As they work closely with the Bordeaux tourist office you can just hop on a bus and go explore their Medoc properties without giving a thought to driving home afterwards.
Two of them, Martine and Armelle, have now taken the feminine theme a step further with Palmoumey and Le Taillan organising wine and beauty workshops with local makeup artist Annie Lay. While sipping a glass of rosé guests will enjoy a make up class and then off to the cellars to discover the beauty of wine making with tasting from different terroirs of the properties and finally the beauty of serving wine with a special tasting about decanting and presenting wines.

Men are allowed but will be ushered off to the cellars for a blending workshop whilst the ladies sip their rosé.

Let’s hope Annie shares the secrets for disguising the damage the morning after !