Monthly Archives: December 2016

Happy New Year!

This seems like just the right time to take a quick look at where my wine adventures have taken me in 2016 and at plans for 2017. I thought I’d let some photos do the talking, although looking back through the images of the year it has been a challenge to choose just a few to sum up the last 12 months – so here’s a go, by theme.

A year in drinks: as well as wine, there was quite a penchant for cocktails in 2016, my girlfriends responsible for this know who they are!

Comparing the old and the new identities of chateau Quintus in Saint Emilion

Comparing the old and the new identities of Château Quintus in Saint Emilion

Bordeaux Bubbles on the banks for the Dordogne at La Maison de l'Amiral

Bordeaux Bubbles on the banks of the Dordogne at La Maison de l’Amiral.

A Medoc Wine line up for staff at PLCB Fine Wines and good Spirits Harrisburg

A Médoc line up for staff at PLCB Fine Wines and Good Spirits, Harrisburg

Tasting the wonderful wines at Eisele in Napa

Tasting the wonderful wines at Eisele in Napa

An intimate tasting at Chateau Angelus

An intimate tasting at Chateau Angelus

Who said the Bordelais always take themselves too seriously? Not the Courselle sisters at Chateau Theuiley

Who said the Bordelais always take themselves too seriously? Not the Courselle sisters at Chateau Theuiley.

A beautiful example of how well Sauternes can age at Chateau Doisy Daëne.

A beautiful example of how well Sauternes can age at Chateau Doisy Daëne.

Frosé with Bordeaux Clairet - perfect summer drinking

Frosé with Bordeaux Clairet – perfect summer drinking

And for something completely different Lactilium Vodka from milk by the team at Chateau Gruaud Larose.

And for something completely different Lactilium Vodka made from milk, by the team at Chateau Gruaud Larose.

A year of food: wine goes with food goes with wine and I have been lucky enough to experience some wonderful meals in some wonderful settings. Some meals have been haute cuisine, others a simple vineyard lunch, even wine dinners in the tropics. All have served as research for my next book ‘The Drinking Woman’s Diet’,  which will be published in 2017, exploring how to stay healthy whilst drinking for a living.

Anniversary celebrations at Chateau Biac

Anniversary celebrations at Chateau Biac

Sunset Croquet at chateau Phelan segur

Sunset Croquet at Château Phelan Segur

Ready for dinner at Château Montrose

Ready for dinner at Château Montrose

A picnic basket ready for lunch on the terrace at Chateau Petit Village in Pomerol

A picnic basket ready for lunch on the terrace at Chateau Petit Village in Pomerol

A vineyard lunch at Chateau Guibeau

A vineyard lunch at Chateau Guibeau

Putting Bordeaux tutors to work on practical food and wine pairing during their accreditation.

Putting Bordeaux Tutors to work on practical food and wine pairing during their accreditation.

An after lunch glass of Chateau Sigalas Ribaud at the Belles Perdrix restaurant at Château Troplong Mondot that won it's 1st Michelin star in 2016.

An after lunch glass of Chateau Sigalas Ribaud at the Belles Perdrix restaurant at Château Troplong Mondot. They won their 1st Michelin star in 2016.

Lunch at the Chateau Haut Brion restaurant, Le Clarence in Paris

Enjoying lunch at the Chateau Haut Brion restaurant, Le Clarence, in Paris

Informal dining in a formal setting at Chateau Pichon Baron

Informal dining in a formal setting at Chateau Pichon Baron

from healthy

from healthy

A less healthy breakfast

to a less healthy breakfast

Settling for a happy medium

Settling for a happy medium

Healthy can be delicious at Viva Mayr

Healthy can be delicious – much needed detox at Viva Mayr in August.

Post cure retox!

Post cure retox!

A year of teaching: wonderful opportunities to share my experience and knowledge of Bordeaux to the East, the West and of course in Bordeaux, with more successful Accredited Bordeaux Tutor candidates. I continue to learn just as much from their knowledge of other wine regions as I share with them the latest from Bordeaux. It’s been fun doing video tastings too, especially the live tastings with the Cru Bourgeois to the US.

The beautiful view over Lake Geneva was a bit of a distraction at Glion Hotel School

The beautiful view over Lake Geneva was a bit of a distraction at Glion Hotel School

Explaining the particularities of Sweet Bordeaux at the Bordeaux Wine School

Explaining the Bordeaux wines at the Bordeaux Wine School

The future of Hong kong wine service with students at the Hotel and Tourism Institute of Hong Kong.

The future of Hong Kong wine service with students at the Hotel and Tourism Institute of Hong Kong.

The latest Bordeaux Tutor Accreditation at Chateau La Louviere

The latest 2016 Bordeaux Tutor Accreditation at Chateau La Louviere

Teaching sales team from Southern Wines and Spirits in California.

Teaching sales team from Southern Wines and Spirits in California.

Medoc masterclass with Swires Group service team at Upper House Hotel in Hong Kong.

Medoc Masterclass with Swires Group service team at Upper House Hotel in Hong Kong.

Wine, Women and clothes: Bordeaux bootcamp tasting at Susan Graf Ltd.

Wine, Women and clothes: Bordeaux Bootcamp tasting at Susan Graf Ltd.

A year of writing: for those of you who follow this Blog I’ve shared some of the news from Bordeaux and things I’ve learnt and enjoyed on my travels. For those who don’t please join us, or follow me on twitter, instagram or the Insider Tasting Facebook page.

I also contributed to other blogs, including the Great Wine Capitals blog, profiling the Bordeaux Best of Wine Tourism winners but it’s also an opportunity to discover other leaders in wine tourism across the globe – more of which below.

I updated my book Bordeaux Bootcamp, the Insider Tasting guide to getting to grips with  Bordeaux basics, with the latest facts and figures and I’m now working on the final draft of The Drinking Woman’s Diet, reuniting my two passions of Wine and Wellbeing explaining how the two are not mutually exclusive. It will be in print in 2017.

Bordeaux Bootcamp, Second edition is now available on Amazon.

Bordeaux Bootcamp, the second edition is now available on Amazon.

And finally a year of touring: welcoming guests to Bordeaux. With more and more properties opening their doors my guests can now stay in their very own Bordeaux chateau, where I introduce them to the wine makers, movers and shakers, experiencing the Bordeaux vineyard lifestyle for themselves.

Chateau Le Pape, one of the many chateaux in Bordeaux you can make your own.

Chateau Le Pape, one of the chateaux in Bordeaux you can make your own.

 

Modern cellars at Chateau Pedesclaux

Modern cellars at Chateau Pedesclaux

and at Beau Sejour Becot

and at Beau Sejour Becot

The historical cellars at Chateau de Cerons

historical cellars at Chateau de Cérons

A new take on an ancient wine making technique at Château La Maison Blanche

A new take on an ancient wine making technique at Château La Maison Blanche

Time for a tasting at Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte

Time for a tasting at Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte

Francois Despagne gets closer to the terroir at Chateau Grand Corbin Despagne

Francois Despagne gets closer to the terroir at Chateau Grand Corbin Despagne

Flowering of the 2016 vintage.

Flowering of the 2016 vintage.

Veraison

Veraison

The Sauvignon blanc at Chateau Olivier - some of the first grapes to be picked in 2016.

The Sauvignon blanc at Chateau Olivier – some of the first grapes to be picked in 2016.

Hand sorting the bunches of 2016 Merlot at Chateau Villemaurine in Saint Emilion

Hand sorting the bunches of 2016 Merlot at Chateau Villemaurine in Saint Emilion

Some hidden treasures : The vaulted well dating back to the Merovingian period at Chateau Coutet in Saint Emilion

Some hidden treasures : The vaulted Merovingian well at Chateau Coutet in Saint Emilion

 

Alexandre de Bethmann shares another secret - the ice house at Chateau Olivier.

Alexandre de Bethmann shares another secret – the ice house at Chateau Olivier.

An itimate Cru Bourgeois taking lunch for Bordeaux tutors at Château Peyrabon.

An itimate Cru Bourgeois tasting lunch for Bordeaux tutors at Château Peyrabon.

Next year? More of the same I hope but also some new destinations and different experiences. Already on the itinerary are: tours in the Rhone and Provence, a distillery tour in Scotland, seminars and master classes in Switzerland, the UK, Hong Kong and the annual coast-to-coast US Road-show with an appearance at the Women for Wine Sense conference in the Finger Lakes. Lots of opportunities to for you to join me with and new destinations you might like to add to your future wish list?

The new Cité du Vin in Bordeaux - for your 2017 to do list. Credit Arnaud Bertrande

The new Cité du Vin in Bordeaux – for your 2017 to do list.
Credit: Arnaud Bertrande

I look forward to welcoming those of you coming back to Bordeaux in 2017 and some of you for the first time, or to sharing Bordeaux with you in classrooms or conferences across the globe.

Future projects include corporate and wine and wellness retreats amongst the vines and I’m excited to be working on an International Wine Tourism project sharing some of the best from other leading wine producing countries, more of which to follow.

Wine and Wellness - it's all about the balance!

Wine and Wellness – it’s all about the balance!

Please contact me for more information or stay tuned to the blog, I’ll be sharing my progress.

Thank you to everyone who has joined me this year, if you haven’t please do so in 2017, it will be a busy year with many opportunities for us to meet up, I hope to see you.

Happy New Year!

A Bordeaux-Sonoma Bridge.

I first met Jennifer Higgins in 2008 during her 11-year stint as wine maker at Lancaster Estate on Chalk Hill, Sonoma. She was with a group spending a week at the Bordeaux Wine School. It was enlightening having a winemaker with us as we travelled around the Bordeaux Vineyards;she asked all the techy questions and we all profited from the answers.

Jennifer Higgins, Wine Maker at Lambert Bridge Winery

Jennifer Higgins, Wine Maker at Lambert Bridge Winery

Jen has a wealth of experience behind her; Sonoma born and raised, her experience has taken her though Napa and Italy before returning home, first to Lancaster Estate and now at Lambert Bridge. She has worked with such leading women wine makers as Zelma Long at Simi and Jill Davis at William Hill, and is heading to becoming a n icon herself.

Jennifer has been with Lambert Bridge since 2010 and head wine maker since 2015. Lambert Bridge is a family owned vineyard in Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma and their speciality are Bordeaux blends. How appropriate then that she and Shelby Kolpin, who looks after their wine club, decided to bring members of their wine club to Bordeaux to discover the vineyards of Bordeaux and their wines.

Team Lambert Bridge arrives at Château Le Thil

Team Lambert Bridge arrives at Château Le Thil

The atmosphere of the week was amazing, if the objective of Lambert Bridge was to create a club spirit – job done. To be honest I think the hospitality at Lambert Bridge has already achieved this. I was first there last year when Jen and her team took us through a tutored tasting of their wines.

Some of the hospitality at Lambert Bridge

Some of the hospitality at Lambert Bridge

Jen had already welcomed me warmly, along with a lot of other women in wine several years ago when she was at Lancaster so I wasn’t surprised by the intimate and friendly nature of the place, they have an open door policy. You can book a tasting of course but also just drop in. From what I can gather many club members hang out there on a pretty regular basis including picnicking and barbeques in the gardens. Others join their ‘chefs tables’ dinners where local chefs come and share their skills with intimate groups. For those who really can’t face the drive home across the eponymous trestle bridge, or who just want to make a weekend there is a cottage available to members. Their generosity doesn’t stop with club members and guests; they are heavily involved in charitable giving within the local community such as the Wine, Women and Shoes events.

But it is really about the wines, hand crafted, with more time spent by workers in the fields of the four estate vineyards and neighbouring partner vineyards than in the cellars. Harvest often involves multiple pickings even within a single plot looking for perfect ripeness and a research  towards elegance maintained through sustainable and precision plot by plot viticulture and an obsessive attention to detail.

A warm welcome and exacting production criteria – it’s a recipe for Jen Higgins to join the ranks of some of the iconic women wine makers she has worked with.

during the week in Bordeaux we covered a lot of ground; from left bank to right bank and from northern Medoc to southern Sauternes. We had a ball and, at the end of the week, I chatted to Jen about the things we shared together during the week.

W. How long is it since you last came to Bordeaux? 

J. My last visit to Bordeaux was in 2008 for a Master Class with the Ecole du Vin.  We had several Master Sommeliers and a couple of candidates for Master of Wine.  I was the only Winemaker- no pressure.

W. Did you see any changes since your last visit?

J. The city itself is much more open and beautiful.  Buildings and streets are cleaner and it seems so much more vibrant than it did in 2008.  We had a fantastic time exploring the city. This openness extended to the Chateauxas well in terms of wine production and techniques. It used to be that the guests only saw clean cellars and never any wine work or hoses.  Answers to production questions were geared more towards marketing than actual techniques.  Everything felt much more real this visit.

W. What was your biggest surprise in Bordeaux this time?

J. For me as a winemaker, walking through the best chateaux and thinking “We do that too.  Lambert Bridge hand-harvests and berry sorts our fruit, we use that press, we have those barrels”.  It was great fun (although very heavy) to bring over my wine to share with the owners and winemakers of Bordeaux.

W. You are known for your Bordeaux Blends. It’s a term used a lot in California. What exactly does a Bordeaux Blend mean to you?

J. I absolutely love working with Bordeaux red varietals and I love how the different grapes complement each other.  They are so closely related in aromas and structure, it is easy to build a complete wine from the different pieces.  Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot provide an overlapping framework, Malbec fills the front, Petit Verdot the back and Cabernet Franc reinforces the foundation.  It’s great to see them all play nicely together.

 

Tasting Bordeaux Blends at Chateau Pichon Baron in Pauillac

Tasting Bordeaux Blends at Chateau Pichon Baron in Pauillac

W. What did you take away from this trip, technically, wine making or out in the vineyards?  

J. It was great to see the combination of traditional and modern techniques being used in the wineries. I saw horses plowing fields in Graves, learned about density sorting techniques in St. Emillon and tannin management in Saint Julien.  I try to take away one good idea from every place I visit. My travel notebook is full!

W. What do you think Bordeaux could learn from how things are done in California? 

J. I’m not sure. There is a lot more flexibility about what to grow and how to grow and market wine in California than in France. In some ways it makes California winemaking more dynamic but I am envious of the traditions and history of French wine. The long history and experiences with certain grape varieties is something that we just don’t have here.

W. One of the visits was to a barrel maker. You use French barrels at Lambert Bridge, what is it you are looking for in the choice of French oak?

I’m always looking for sweetness from the wood.  I want the oak to cradle the fruit, not mask it.  French oak barrels seem to do the best job with our wines.

More fin and games at the Cooperage of Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte

More fun and games at the Cooperage of Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte

W. You mentioned  you would like to come back to Bordeaux and have more time to get intimate with the region and it’s wine makeing. What would you be most keen to look at or learn?

J. I would love to spend more time in the vineyards with the growers and cellars with production people.  There are a thousand decisions that go into every bottle of wine and to see the thought process behind some of the great Bordeaux wines would be a privilege.

I can’t wait to welcome her back. 

Jennifer Higgins through a Bordeaux tasting glass.

Jennifer Higgins through a Bordeaux tasting glass.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Booze Books for Christmas

There are so many good books about wine, spirits and tasting and Christmas seems as good a time as any to take a look. Here are four recommendations as gift ideas for like-minded wine geeks, beginners or even to add to your own Christmas stocking.

I mentioned Decanter Journalist, Jane Anson’s previous book Bordeaux Legends, in the run up to Christmas a couple of years ago. Well, she has done it again with this beautiful book. She has teamed up with photographer Andy Katz to profile the Bordeaux vineyards known as The Club of Nine.

The Club of Nine by Jane Anson and Andy Katz

The Club of Nine by Jane Anson and Andy Katz

His photos are spectacular. Even having lived near these properties for almost 30 years, I found the images as surprising as they are breath-taking. You can see more of his beautiful work on this web site.

The Club of Nine is the term used for and by what are considered, by most, to be the nine top properties of the region: The five Red first growths of the 1855 classification; Haut Brion, Margaux, Latour, Lafite Rothschild and Mouton Rothschild. (Although technically Mouton only became a 1st growth in 1973.) Then there are the original two First Growths A from Saint Emilion, Château Cheval Blanc and Château Ausone and the neighbouring Chateau Petrus from Pomerol. Although the Pomerol appellation has never ‘benefited’ from a classification, received wisdom and market prices concur that Petrus is the leading light of the appellation. Finally there is Chateau d’Yquem. Yquem was granted the highest accolade of Premier Grand Cru Classé Supérieur in 1855, outranking them all, such were the heady days of the 19th century for the sweet wines of Bordeaux.

This is more than a ‘nickname’ for a group of top terroir wineries, but also a forum where the technical directors of each property regularly meet to discuss and share, technical issues, research and the challenges their properties and the region face.

The question now raised is that, based on these selection criteria of classification, should we talk of a Club of 11? Both Chateau Angelus and Chateau Pavie were promoted up to Premier Grand Cru Classé A in the last, Saint Emilion Classification. But then again that was in 2012, so let’s not rush things!

There’s a lot of history surrounding the properties mentioned above and Bordeaux history is intimately linked with that of England, right back to Eleanor of Aquitaine, in the 12th century. Eleanor is one of the many British, influences mentioned in recently published Empire of Booze a humorous look at the history of booze and the role the British empire has, and continues to, play. Written by wine and spirits journalist, Henry Jeffreys and published through the website unbound, it’s a read that will take you backwards and forwards through time but also from London, to France, Portugal, Spain, Scotland and as far as Australia – a terrific read.

Empire of Booze by Henry Jefferies

Empire of Booze by Henry Jefferys

For some lighter reading, perhaps as a gift to those not quite so far down the wine geek road, Jancis Robinson‘s recently published The 24-Hour Wine Expert, is a cracking introduction to the wine world. Covering everything from tasting to serving from geography to varietals and much more. Just enough to get any beginner through the first steps of wine appreciation and perhaps start them on the road to wine ‘geekdom’ – you have been warned.

Become a 24-Hour Wine Expert with Jancis Robinson

Become a 24-Hour Wine Expert with Jancis Robinson

And for a completely different take, try Jo Malone My Story. It has nothing to do with wine, but interesting for tasters as it is all based around her acute sense of smell, such an important part of tasting. So much so that the very opening pages of the book are scented with her signature scent Pomelo – a Sauvignon Blanc with that perhaps?

A great sense of smell - Jo Malone's Story

A great sense of smell – Jo Malone’s Story 

The Art of the Rothschilds.

In 2013, I wrote about inauguration of the new Chateau Mouton Rothschild Museum of Wine in Art, which, alongside the spectacular collection of historical artefacts from the world of wine, exhibits all the original artwork behind the Château Mouton Rothschild labels chosen each year, since 1945, for the new vintage.

Now they have another one to add to the collection: Yorkshireman David Hockney has been commissioned for the illustration of the 2014 vintage.

The Hockney Label for Château Mouton Rothschild 2014

The Hockney Label for Château Mouton Rothschild 2014

Known for his pop art style and constantly reinventing himself, including painting via his i-pad, it is a fitting choice as he was not only a personal friend of Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, who died in 2014, but 2017 will see a retrospective of his work to be shown in London, Paris (the Centre Pompidou) and New York.

Chateau Mouton Rothschild now belongs to Baroness Philippine’s three children, Camille Sereys de Rothschild, Philippe Sereys de Rothschild and Julien de Beaumarchais de Rothschild. Their investment in art does not stop at continuing the tradition of their mother in the choice of iconic artists for the labels.

Part of the Museum of Wine in art exhibition

Part of the Museum of Wine in Art exhibition

In November 2015, they created a corporate foundation to honour the memory of their mother: The Philippine de Rothschild Corporate Foundation. Philippine was passionate about performing arts, being an actress herself at La Comédie Française before joining her father to run the family vineyards

So it’s fitting that the first action of the foundation was to create the Clerc Milon Dance Prize, distinguishing a promising young dancer from the Bordeaux National Opera Ballet Company.

Alongside Chateau Mouton Rothschild the family also owns two other classified growths of Pauillac: Chateau Clerc Milon, acquired by Baron Philippe in 1970, and Chateau d’Armailhac owned since 1933.

Naming the award after Chateau Clerc Milon is appropriate as the property is linked to the world of dance: in 1983 the label of the Chateau was redesigned and illustrated by a pair of dancers. These dancers, made of gold, enamel and pearls are the work of a 17th-century German goldsmith and are part of the collection displayed in the Museum of Art in Wine at Château Mouton Rothschild. The second wine of the property is called La Pastourelle, after the dance they appear to be performing.

The Château Clerc Milon Label

The Château Clerc Milon Label

The award ceremony, the Foundation’s first event, took place this July in front of the ultra modern new Chateau Clerc Milon winery. The unusual wood-cladded cellar was built in 2011, and, as well has having the latest wine technology available, it has an amazing terrace overlooking the vines of both Mouton and neighbouring Lafite Rothschild.

The view across the vines from the terrace of Clerc Milon.

The view across the vines from the terrace of Clerc Milon.

But this was no ordinary awards ceremony. The prize was awarded based on the jury’s presence at the three ballet performances in this season’s programme at the Bordeaux National Opera: La Reine Morte, Giselle and The Messiah.

Before the award was announced, guests were privileged to see the company perform excerpts of each ballet, in what was a breath-taking and very moving performance, all the more so given the choice of venue amongst the vines of Clerc Milon and later on the terrace overlooking a spectacular sunset.

 

And the winner? As well as favouring a Brit for the last vintage label of Mouton Rothschild, they chose a Brit as one of the winners. I say one, the 2016 prize was awarded to two young artists, as the jury couldn’t decide. Ashley Whittle, the British dancer who trained at the Royal Ballet School before joining the Bordeaux National Opera Corps de Ballet in 2010 was joint winner alongside the French dancer Claire Teisseyre, recently named soloist. As well as a grant of €5,000 from the Foundation and the 2016 Clerc Milon Dance Prize trophy they were given Château Clerc Milon wine from the year of their birth.

Celine Teisseyre and Ashly Whittle, winners of the Clerc Milon Trophy

Celine Teisseyre and Ashly Whittle, winners of the Clerc Milon Trophy

Art is intimately woven is into the fabric of this vineyard. The stated objective of the Foundation is to be inspired by the eclecticism and freedom of the person whose name it bears, rewarding and supporting the work of many talented individuals, nurturing the inventiveness and skill, which underlie the magic of artistic creation.

So art is not only on the labels of the wines, but also on the stage, in the architecture of the new cellars and perhaps most importantly, in the bottle.