Monthly Archives: June 2012

It’s all going egg shaped

The quality of Bordeaux white wines in the last 20 years has improved beyond measure, one of the people responsible for this is Denis Dubourdieu and his team of researchers at the faculty of oenology in Bordeaux whose praises I have sung on previous blog posts and in classes where tastings have many times proved my point.

Their research has confirmed the importance of terroir, agricultural practises but also the role of the wine maker in protecting the grapes and juice from both excess temperature and oxygen.

The influence of the barrel in enhancing complexity and ageing potential has also been a major subject of research especially the role of ‘battonage’ or lees stirring in the barrel, more traditionally thought of as a Burgundian white wine making technique for white wines that keep their freshness and their complexity with age;

Domaine de Chevalier  in the heart of the Pessac Leognan appellation in Graves is a typical example of a property who has put all this research to good use making fabulous whites.

Sadly only 5 out of their 40 ha are under white wines (not that the red is to be sneezed at either!) Cellar Master Remy Edange is a passionate man and this passion shows through so clearly in the wines he makes. Totally in tune with the natural environment and allowing the terroir of the property to be fully expressed through sensitive agricultural practise he continues this hands on approach in the wine cellar.

The small white production is handcrafted, batch-by-batch in oak barrels with a tight grain and stirred throughout the vinification and ageing. This year, for the 2011 vintage, he has taken this technical experimentation a step further being the first to use an egg shaped wooden vat created by Taransaud.

Concrete Ovid vats for vinifcation are nothing new, I spotted some being tested out on the 2011 vintage at Chateau Pontet Canet during a recent vintage but as far as Oak is concerned he thinks this is a first.

The Ovid shape enhances the wines convention during fermentation and causes a natural mixing of the lees by a permanent movement along the walls. There is apparently a ‘divine ratio’ of 1.618 manifested in the relationship between the 3 hoops used in the construction of the vat which is reinforced by placing it on a pentagonal base, I have no idea what this means but it sounds terrific!

Remy Edange and his new egg shaped vat

According to Edange the Ovum is also labour saving, the movement of lees in the wine is sustained much longer in this shape than the classic barrel requiring less frequent stirring.

The results will be ready for tasting next year. I tasted the 2011 from the classic barrel this week and it was already a spectacular wine.

A family affair

Investing across several different appellations some Bordeaux properties benefit from economies of scale in promotional budgets, but the same can apply to family owned vineyards, especially when they work together with their neighbours and here’s a perfect example.
Two families from the Medoc, both owners of second growths from the prestigious 1855 classification, one from Margaux and one from Saint Julien, have joined together to help you get a grip on what their wines are really all about.
Working with wine tour specialist Decanter Tours they have created a day trip offering a unique opportunity to enjoy a private visit with a member of the family and taste a range of their wines.
Anne-Francoise Quié welcomes you to Chateau Rauzan Gassies in Margaux with a hands on blending experience of the 2002 vintage using the Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot that go to make up the blend of their wine. To complete your technical expertise Anne Cuvelier welcomes you to Chateau Leoville Poyferre in Saint Julien to teach you the skills needed to judge the wine of the current vintage straight from the barrel.
There is more, between them, these two families own properties in not just Margaux and Saint Julien but also Pauillac (Chateau Croizet Bages) and Saint Estephe (Chateau le Crock) four of the left bank’s most prestigious appellations, all which await you during a lunch of local specialities at Chateau Leoville Poyferre. All in the company of a local wine specialist – what are you waiting for?

Anne Cuvelier and Anne-Francoise Quié share the family passion for wines

There’s more to Bordeaux than….

wine and history and culture….…. there’s also food.
Traditionally visitors to Bordeaux end up quacking after a few days with the Foie gras and Sauternes, Magret and Medoc or Confit de canard and Saint Emilion matches that are often served in local chateaux and bistros alike – and who can complain it’s all delicious but there is more to the local gastronomy than duck.
Think the famous ‘Agneau de Pauillac’, you can guess which wine is served with that, and the ‘Asperges de Blaye’ always delightful in spring with the dry white Sauvignon blanc based blends.
There is one product that seemed lacking and that is a local cheese. Renown Bordeaux cheesemonger Jean d’Alos has now come up with an new idea based an old tradition to remedy this. In the past, local shepherds would make a spring cheese from milking their goats kept in the Graves vineyards before herding them back to towards the Pyrenees for the summer. In the 15th century cellar under the town centre shop the cheesemongers from Jean d’Alos have renewed this tradition. Ageing hard goats milk cheeses named Tomme d’Aquitaine for at least 4 months and washing them twice a week with Sauternes to give them a unique fruity flavor.

The 15th century aging cellar under the town centre Jean d’Alos cheeseshop

And how about some fish, yes the Atlantic ocean is not far, giving a wonderful supply of shellfish, in particular oysters. However the famous Gironde estuary that influences the microclimate of the Medoc is also traditionally home to the Sturgeon. The wild Sturgeon was sadly over fished long ago but is now being introduced and a local company Sturia is now France’s leading caviar producer with sturgeon being farmed at 9 different sites producing 12 tonnes of caviar each year. The often forgotten flesh of the Sturgeon is also delicious and local Michelin star chef Philippe Etchebest from the beautiful l’Hostellerie de Plaisance in Saint Emilion is a big fan, often using it, as well as the caviar, in his recipes. He has now gone a step further creating a small range of products based on the sturgeon.

Tasting the Sturgeon pâté on the terrace of the Hostellerie de Plaisance.

There are 2 pâtés (my favourite is the slightly spicy one) and a marinated sturgeon with an Asian flavoured marinade and you don’t have to come to Saint Emilion to try them (although I do recommend it). Both are available on the web site and can be shipped, now all you have to do is decide which of Bordeaux 60 appellations matches best – bon appétit!