Monthly Archives: June 2013

Star satellites

The satellites, as their name implies, circulate around a star – the star being Saint Emilion.

Although these appellations carry the name of their illustrious neighbour they are also in its shadow. A shadow that hides many treasures in these 4 appellations well worth a visit, not only for the wines but also for the beautiful rolling countryside and the hospitality of the region and it’s winemakers.

Just to the North East of Saint Emilion the 4 Satellites of Saint Georges, Montagne, Puisseguin and Lussac together are smaller than Saint Emilion but benefit from similar soils of clay limestone with some sand and gravel thrown in and consequently the merlot dominates their blends.

A typical slope at Chateau Chereau

Several key characteristics make this region worth another look.

Perhaps most important is the family ownership and small in size of the properties, an average of 8-9 hectares. Like the vast majority of Bordeaux properties, they have, more often than not been in the hands of the same family for many generations. Here is to be found a respect for the traditions and history of the region but interpreted by the latest generation of young, well educated wine makers whose openness to the new developments in vine growing, wine making and marketing makes for an exciting combination.

This family ownership and the responsibility of passing on their terroir generates an Eco responsibility for future generations with many properties managed in accordance with a sustainable, organic or biodynamic philosophy.

The family welcome at Chateau Guibot La Fourvieille

The wines remain accessible not only by price but by style. Merlot dominated, barrel aged, but not too much, the wines appeal to a market for early drinking with special cuvées showing ageing potential thanks judicious use of oak and the planting on the higher limestone outcrops. The beautiful rolling hillsides offer great sun exposure and excellent drainage. The church steps of Montagne are said to be on a level with the top of the bell tower of Saint Emilion and the importance of the height is clearly illustrated by the famous windmills on the Calon hill. Montagne also takes eco responsability to the next level with a project known as ‘Des vignes Mellifères’ where the vineyards plant a

Les Vignes Mellifères de Montagne

special selection of wild flower in between and around the vines to encourage the bees.

It is difficult to select specific chateaux to look out for amongst the many on offer but here are a few of my favourites.

Chateau Chereau is a one-stop shop for the right bank, the family own and run vineyards in Lussac, Montagne and Pomerol. The Egerie is their top cuvee from Lussac, 70 merlot, 30 cabernet. Benefitting from a cold soak before fermentation and barrel aged gives a wine perfectly balanced between fruit and ageing potential.

In centre of the village of Lussac is the Chateau that bears its name. On a recent visit I had the opportunity to taste a vertical of the wines made since the new owners took over in 2000. Showing clearly the aptitude that these wines show for ageing. The owner, Griet Laviale, has also beautifully renovated the Chateau creating 4 en-suite bedrooms for guests.

A Vintage line-up at Chateau de Lussac

If you prefer a self-catering base to discover the region travel over to neighbouring Puisseguin to Chateau Guillebot La Fourvieille to another family property where, as well as tasting the wines Brigitte Destouet Bourlon will welcome you to their Gite and organic vineyard with spectacular views over the valley.

If you are interested in organic wine seek out Chateau La Maison Blanche where Nicolas Despagne, one of the most innovative wine makers in the area, farms 32 hectares certified organic since 2006 part of which is biodynamic. His natural wines are neither filtered nor fined and benefit from carafing before serving to enjoy their complexity. Whilst in Montagne have lunch at Clos Mirande hidden away in a small valley overlooking the sloping vineyards  and try and find Chateau Roc du Calon hidden behind the windmills on the Calon hill – if you can’t find them, all is not lost, their delicious wine can be order from their web site

The windmills of Calon

Saint Georges Saint Emilion is the smallest of the appellations, less than 180 ha and only 23 producers. Dominated by the beautiful Chateau Saint Georges it’s worth venturing to some of the smaller producers such at Chateau Belair Saint Georges to really appreciated how the south facing slopes with their views over towards the village of Saint Emilion benefit from this microclimate.

The view towards Saint Emilion from the slopes of Saint Georges

I hope this whets your appetite for the wines and the region the fact that they remain less well known than their illustrious neighbour makes them terrific value for money but the word will get out…….you saw it here first !

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pomerol on the page

The UK may have been displaced by China in the traditional top spot on the export markets for Bordeaux wines but if the books written by British wine journalists are anything to go by the Brits love affair with the region and it’s wine continues.

After last year’s Bordeaux Legends by Jane Anson, the updated version of Bordeaux by Oz Clark and previous publications The Finest Wines of Bordeaux and The Heart of Bordeaux by James Lawther comes the first comprehensive book n English about the enigmatic Pomerol appellation. Launched last year it made it’s Bordeaux debut just in time for Vinexpo at the Bar à Vin of the CIVB last week.

Neal Martin, better known for his work with the Wine Advocate, has been writing about the wines of Bordeaux (and elsewhere) in his irreverent style for the last 10 years. His signature style is very much present in this, his first book, Pomerol, but it takes nothing away from the time and serious research he has put into the subject over the last 3 years. The book answers many questions around this small and mysterious appellation and why it has escaped the classification, which seems to be posing so many problems for neighbouring Saint Emilion.

Illustrated by photos of the properties and their owners and hand drawn maps of the vineyards by the wine makers themselves this is a fascinating insight to the past and present of one of Bordeaux’s smallest but better-known appellations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chateau Le Thil the latest Cathiard adventure

Those of you who have visited Bordeaux with me will know that Les Sources de Caudalie in the Pessac Leognan vineyards is one of my favourite Bordeaux watering holes. 14 years after it’s creation, almost to the day, the owners, Alice and Jerome Tourbier have just opened a wonderful ‘Lodge’ in the 18th century Château de Thil, a bike ride (1.5 kms) from Château Smith Haut Lafitte.

The Beautiful Chateau Le Thil

This is the latest chapter in the saga of the dynamic Cathiard family who arrived in Bordeaux to purchase Classified Growth Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte in 1990.

As well as bringing the Chateau back to it’s previous glory, crowned by a 100 Parker point score for the 2009 red, they were one of the pioneers in what is now the thriving oeno-tourism industry of the region. Not only did they open wide the doors of the Chateau to visitors but also created, with their daughters, the Sources de Caudalie resort and Spa.

The view over the park

Wine is at the heart of their philosophy, the Caudalie products were created by the eldest daughter Mathlide around the anti-ageing qualities of grape pip extracts and the hospitably naturally flowed with the Sources de Caudalie resort opening in 1999 with the theme of the French Paradox at it’s heart.

With 8 Spas throughout the world the Caudalie is now a reference in the beauty world and hot on the success of Les Sources de Caudalie in Bordeaux there followed the Etangs de Corot situated between Paris and Versailles.

Breakfast is served

The purchase and renovation of Chateau Le Thil is therefore a natural progression in their expansion offering a unique Chateau experience in the heart of the vineyards and the perfect base for a Bordeaux vineyard tour. 9 tastefully decorated rooms and three salons, including a private dinning room, all surrounded by stunning parkland will welcome individuals or groups.

I’ll see you there.