Monthly Archives: July 2012

Whisky across the water

Leaving the South West of France in the middle of summer to head north to Scotland – I must be mad. Not this summer the weather was almost better up North than in Bordeaux. But of course the weather is not the prime motivator for visiting Scotland – amongst many other attractions was the whisky of course !

Malt whisky is very popular in France being the second largest export market worth £500 million. The links with Bordeaux are not so tenuous echoes of the ‘Auld Alliance’ and the wine export links to Leith, near Edinburgh spring to mind. Groups such as LVMH are present in both regions, with Chateau d’Yquem and Cheval Blanc in Bordeaux and Glemorangie and Ardbeg in Scotland. If you get the chance to taste the Glenmorangie Nectar d’Or it will show you just how fabulous the ‘bland’ mix of these 2 worlds can be – but I digress

One of the reasons I was in Scotland was to learn more about enjoying a wee dram but also to find resources for some clients who want to accompany me on my quest to learn more about whisky.

Mission accomplished
I was lucky enough to stay at the private members golf club Loch Lomond, a wonderful base.

The view across Loch Lomond

My first introduction was a tasting on the first evening with the French sommelier from the club Stephane Damezin – I know a French sommelier teaching a Bordeaux wine educator about Scotch whisky is an interesting combination but I learnt a lot – and there is a lot to learn.

Part of the whisky tasting

There is more to Scotland than Whisky, the golf (of course) the spectacular countryside, the wonderful hospitality and the food. Those of you that know a little of my history will know that I have a particular soft spot for Scottish Beef having helped to created the ‘Scotch Beef club’ in here France many years ago. I was not disappointed to go back and taste wonderful beef and lamb on this trip, and of course the salmon and seafood. For many years it seemed as if the best of Scottish food left the country and headed south to France and Spain, no longer it would seem. There is a big movement buy local chefs to take the best of Scottish produce and interpret it for a local and visiting international clientele. to an international clientele and also offering visitors the possibility to learn how to prepare local specialities at their cooking schools such as Michael Muir and Rachel McQuaid’s Cook or Martin Wishart, Michelin starred chef from Edinburgh and Loch Lomand.
Loch Lomond is an easy run from Glasgow, not just the international airport but the city, which is, I discovered not just a great shopping centre but a very vibrant food scene, so a great place to start off an adventure.

I’m planning such an adventure next year with Caroline Dewar an internationally known whisky expert, writer and teacher who has worked with many of the leading Scottish distillers. Caroline organises private distillery tours throughout Scotland to allow enthusiastic amateurs like myself to discover the wonderfully complex world of whisky.

I’m thinking a week or so of touring Scotland to taste the whisky, a cooking class, a little shopping, a few historic castles (to visit and stay in) and brisk walks or rounds of golf to blow away the morning after cobwebs. Stay tuned for more details and let me know if you want to join in.

Isn’t it worth putting up with a little rain for such glorious scenery?

3 new addresses to check out this season in Saint Emilion

Saint Emilion has always been very innovative in wine making and it would seem in wine tourism too.

You now no longer have to be part of an exclusive tour group anymore to enjoy dining in a Saint Emilion Chateau. After the success of their guest rooms and lovely cottage Chateau Troplong Mondot have now opened their cellar dining room to guests along with their spectacular terrace offering 360° views over the vines of the Saint Emilion slopes. They are open for lunch and dinner, offering a daily menu of fresh produce from the garden and local markets accompanied by a range of wines from this top Classified growth. Do ring in advance to avoid disappointment and ensure a quick cellar visit before lunch.

Further down the slopes in Saint Laurent des Combes the exquisite mini Chateau Candale, Saint Emilion Grand Cru, has also opened a restaurant. Another beautiful terrace and funky décor are a back-drop to a very tasty and inovative menu.

You made need somewhere to stay over after all this wining and dining. A stone’s through from Saint Emilion centre Le Pavillon Villemaurine is an up-market B & B more reminiscent of a private club than your classic guest house. Beautiful big rooms, all air-conditioned and discretely decorated (except for the boar’s head!) with all the latest mod cons including walk in showers. This small but beautifully formed residence is a perfect home from home.

The Pavillon Villemaurine surrounded by the vines of Saint Emilion

 

A Taste of oak

Want a change from château lunches and Michelin stars when you are in the Medoc? Why not dine at a cooperage. The role of barrel ageing is so important and the barrel cellars are an impressive stop on any winery visit. The oos and aahs as the vanilla aroma of new oak hits you on entering a barrel cellar are only reinforced when wine makers share the fact that 225l (300 bottle) barrels can cost upwards of 700 Euros each.

However if you take the time to visit a cooperage you can see why – the skill and time, not to mention the 200-year-old oak that goes into a barrel justifies the price. What to know more? The Tonnellerie Nadalié in Ludon-Medoc has welcomed visitors to discover the art of barrel for a while. Now however they will also welcome you to dine having just opened their new restaurant on site. ‘Le 1902’ named after the date cooperage was opened overlooks the ‘shop floor’ where you can see the barrels being made.

Thierry Evenisse at the opening of 1902

Thierry Evenisse is the new chef having travelled from Paris and the Auvergne via the Caribbean to the Medoc. His excellent food is complimented by a selection of wines made by ‘Les Alienors’ (amongst others) a group of women wine makers, including Christine Nadalie, 5th generation of the family. The family property, Château Beau Rivage, Bordeaux Superieur and Clos La Boheme, Cru Bourgeois are vinified from organic grapes grown just down the road along the banks of the Garonne.

Wine, food and barrels – a one-stop Medoc experience.

Wine tours can be healthy too

One of the comments at the end of wine tours is that all we seem to do is eat and drink – no problem there thought I, that’s what your are here for but now Bordeaux blonde has found a solution.
A group of wine and yoga enthusiasts came together last week in the hills above the Dordogne river a stone’s throw from Saint Emilion.

Maison Cayrol is a beautiful small gite in Pujols where Asthanga yoga teacher Alexander Latour introduced us to the benefits of this powerful style of yoga.

 

Upward dog in the gardens of Maison Cayrol

And these women were taking no prisoners, tasting wine from the the region, including ‘sponsor’ Chateau de Seuil, and visiting farmers markets putting food and wine matching into action and then working it all out on the mat.

Alexander explains the poses

Given their enthusiasm next year Alexander will be back, taking wine and yoga a step further by holding classes in different wineries throughout the Bordeaux. There are more yogis in Bordeaux Chateaux than you would think.