Monthly Archives: January 2012

Barrel aging with a difference

Tonnellerie Millet is an artisan family run barrel maker not far from Saint Emilion that supplies many of the top wine properties in Bordeaux and further afield as far as California and Spain to name a few.

The owner Dominique is kind enough to open this doors to visitors to explain the passion that goes into producing barrels in close collaboration with wine makers giving the aromatic complexity they are looking for from their use of oak.

One address I did not spot in his warehouse of barrels awaiting shipment Mauritius. So imagine my surprise when, on a tour of the Chamarel Rhumerie high on the hills in the South West of Mauritius over looking the Indian Ocean, I found rum aging in Millet barrels.

Millet barrels in the Chamarel cellars

Opened in 2008 the eco friendly Chamarel Rhumerie (French Spelling) uses Millet barrels for aging its ‘Coeur de Chauffe’ Rum Agricole for 18months and for 3 years giving its ‘Gold Rum’. The first production of the 3 year old barrel aged Gold Rum will be released onto the market at the end of this month.

Similarly to wine barrel aging of rum adds vanilla and spicy flavours and the slow oxygenation and exchange of tannins adds body, the golden colour also comes from the barrel as opposed to some rums where the colour comes from the addition of caramel.

The beautiful Chamarel Valley

Romantic Bordeaux

Bordeaux is a pretty romantic place, see Get Wed with Wine , and Saint Valentine’s day would be the perfect time to find out. There are no end of wonderful restaurants and romantic hotels to choose from in the region, however you could celebrate with your loved one in the romantic setting of a Bordeaux Chateau. Two properties from opposite banks are opening their doors for an intimate evening on the 14th of February.

Jérôme Cadillat, the chef at Château Troplong Mondot, classified growth of Saint Emilion is offering a fireside dinner menu accompanied by champagne and amour de Mondot – a special bottling of the second wine of the property for the occasion. You can prolong the romantic atmosphere by staying over in one of their lovely guest rooms or cottage in the vines.

The Cottage in the vines of Chateau Troplong Mondot
On the left bank Chateau Haut Bailly, whose wonderful dining room is usually only available for private groups is opening up with tables of 2 dotted through the beautiful salons of the Chateau. Their innovative Chef, Tanguy Laviale, has created a 5 course menu accompanied by champagne and 3 different wines from this Classified growth of Pessac-Leognan.

The beautiful Chateau Haut Bailly

If you cannot make it over here, you could always order a bottle of the most romantic Bordeaux wine : Chateau Calon Segur. This 3rd growth of Saint Estephe will probably be flying of the shelves in the run up to the big night. The heart on the label makes it easily recognisable, created by the property’s owner the Marquis de Segur, who, despite owing Chateau Latour and Chateau Lafite at the time always said his heart lay with Calon Segur and drew a heart around the name just to prove it.

There’s more to island cuisine than curry

The food in Mauritius is fabulous, everyone will tell you that. Just like the culture, the cuisine is a wonderful and unique blend of indian, african, asian and european resulting in great creole dishes such as Rougaille, vindaye and roti. These plus the great sea food, tropical fruit, palm hearts, game and even locally grown tea and coffee (don’t get me started on the rum) make it a foodie paradise. However even the most adventurous gourmet is always happy to sample some excellent pasta and, guess what, Mauritius has that too.

Enrico Rodati is the executive chef of the Heritage Resorts on the unspoilt south coast of the island, as his names implies of italian original and this has obviously influenced his staff. Last night chef Carl Rheeroo invited us into the kitchens of Annabella’s at the Telfair resort to experience the chef’s table. He prepared a pasta fest, step by step, right before our eyes, using local ingredients with a very italian twist.

Chef Carl starts the preparations

Pumpkin and potato gnocchi with scallops in a turmeric sauce, raviolis stuffed with local vegetables, papardelle with the beautiful local Camarons (giants prawns) and vielle rouge mal tagiatti.

Preparing the ravioli.

Et voila !

All this in the buzzing atmosphere of the kitchens during the dinner service and accompanied by italian wines chosen by sommelier Olivier Gastal-Pinach and tasted in the quieter tasting room just off the kitchens.

Size matters at Chateau Soutard.

The average size of a wine property in Bordeaux is 14ha, this is a dramatic and relatively recent evolution. In the 60’s the average size was only 3ha and there were over 45 000 producers compared to ‘only’ 8 700 today. On the right bank however the properties have remained smaller, around 6ha in Saint Emilion and Pomerol on average. There are some notable exceptions to this rule, not least amongst the top properties. First classified growths such as Chateau Canon with 22ha, Chateau Troplong-Mondot at 33 ha, Chateau Cheval Blanc at 37 ha and the largest Chateau Figeac with 40ha under vines and a further generous 14ha in parkland, buck this trend. Classififed growth Chateau Soutard is amongst this group with 22ha under vines unchanged around the 18th century chateau for the last 100 years. The monumental Chateau is one of the largest buildings at the heart of a Saint Emilion property with 30 000 sq ft of roofing.

Under ownership of the de Ligneris family since the early since 1900’s the property was sold to La Mondiale insurance company in 2006. La Mondiale already knows a thing or two about St Emilion owning the neighbouring classified growth Château Larmande for the last 20 years, Grand Cru Château Grand Faurie La Rose and, the most recent addition to the team, Château Cadet-Piola. In total, the company owns almost 55 hectares of vines in the classic terroir of the limestone and clay plateau and extending throughout the clay, limestone and sandy slopes at the very heart of Saint-Émilion.
Claire Thomas-Chenard manages all four properties, assisited by cellar master Véronique Corporandy, and she has overseen the two year renovation of Chateau Soutard. The 2011 harvest was the second crop to enter the new cellars and they are spectacular – showing that some things are just worth waiting for. An elegant marriage of steel and oak in both the decor and the fermentation vats (50/50 stainless and oak small vats) the classic varietal blend of 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Franc enter into the cold storage rooms before being transferred to the vats, allowing not just temperature control of the must but an even flow management of the process. Even the remontage of the cellars is automatied allowing Claire to keep a close on all four cellars simultaneously during the busy harvest period.

It is not just in wine making where they are reaping the rewards of their investment. Chateau Soutard won the 2012 Best of Wine Tourism award for parks and gardens offering a unique way of discovering the property. As well as visiting the cellars and tasting the wine the gardens and vineyards allow visitors, map in hand to discover the different themes, from the natural approach to cultivation of the vines, to a childrens tour or a romantic moonlit visit. The boutique is open to the public, not just to sell wines, there is a large range of books and momentos including a children’s corner. If you would like to taste, pull up a chair on the terrace to taste their wines with some local cured ham or buy a bottle and borrow a picnic hamper to go and picnic in the grounds.
If you fancy more formal dining book ahead for a private lunch, dinner or cooking class and then cycle off lunch by pedalling through the four propeties and you can even stay the night at one of the guests rooms at Château Grand Faurie la Rose to sleep it all off.