Tag Archives: Chateau Lynch-Bages

Bordeaux à table!

Often described as a food wine, Bordeaux wine needs good food to show to its best advantage, food and wine matching has become quite the art. Lucky then that the food and restaurant scene in Bordeaux is thriving with new chefs and well established ones opening new restaurants or taking over established names.

But what of the chateaux themselves? Surely they should be show-casing their wines with food? Many chateaux are happy to organise meals for groups with a little advance notice, some like Chateau Phelan Segur will even welcome you into their kitchens for a cooking class first. But should you wish to dine independently amongst the vines it is also possible.

It’s not new, three very well established Bordeaux examples are Château Lynch Bages in Pauillac, with Chateau Cordeillan Bages, Château Smith Haut Lafitte in the Graves with Les Sources de Caudalie, and Hostellerie de Plaisance in Saint Emilion, owned by Chateau Pavie, all of which take wine hospitality to internationally renowned levels with Michelin stars in their respective hotel restaurants.

Chateau Cordeillan Bages in Pauilllac

Chateau Cordeillan Bages in Pauilllac

Saint Emilion on the right bank is a particularly popular destination so it’s no surprise that wineries here welcome guests offering food alongside their wines. Château Troplong Mondot opened Les Belles Perdrix in 2013. Starting off as casual dining for guests staying in the chateau guest rooms, it was awarded a its first Michelin star this year and the views from the terrace are some of the best in the region.

The Terrace of les Belles Perdrix at chateau Troplong Mondot in Saint Emilion

The Terrace of les Belles Perdrix at chateau Troplong Mondot in Saint Emilion

Chateau Angelus, on the other side of the medieval city, decided to go another path. Rather than opening a restaurant at the chateau, they bought the restaurant Le Logis de La Cadene in the heart of the town in 2013, which thanks to the skill of chef Alexandre Baumard, has rapidly gained a excellent reputation.

Delicious and elegant fare at Logis de la Cadene in Saint Emilion

Delicious and elegant fare at Logis de la Cadene in Saint Emilion

So much for fine dining, but for a relaxed lunch with that glass of wine, call in to Château La Dominique on the boundary between Saint Emilion and Pomerol. The chateau joined forces with the Bordeaux Restaurant ‘La Brasserie Bordelaise’ to offer informal fare on the roof of their new Jean Nouvel designed cellar, where the glass red pebbles resembling the open top of a fermenting vat of wine compete for your attention with the views over the famous names of Pomerol. On the foothills of the famous limestone slopes of Saint Emilion, the tiny fairy tale Château de Candale was recently renovated to include a restaurant with a delightful terrace looking across the Dordogne valley.

But if you can’t make it to Bordeaux (although you really should) Bordeaux can come to you.

Previously mentioned, Château Phelan Segur, is owned by the Gardiner family. They are famous for their food and wine hospitality at the beautiful Les Crayeres Hotel and restaurant in Champagne. Having added the Taillevent restaurant in Paris to their portfolio they recreated a bistro version, Les 110 de Taillevent, in both London and in Paris, named after the range of 110 wines offered by the glass, that I have raved about in a previous post.

But the jewel in the crown has to be the restaurant ‘Le Clarence’ opened in Paris at the end of last year by Château Haut Brion.

Le Salon of Le Clarence : all the elegance of Chateau Haut Brion in the heart of Paris.

Le Salon of Le Clarence : all the elegance of Chateau Haut Brion in the heart of Paris.

Chateau Haut Brion is one of the oldest and most respected vineyards in Bordeaux, not surprising then, that when they turned their minds to hospitality they would get it right. Their objective was to re-create in Paris the same chateau atmosphere that visitors enjoy in Bordeaux. Having been fortunate enough to dine at both Château Haut Brion and Chateau La Mission Haut Brion, I can vouch that their signature warm and elegant hospitality is perfectly mirrored in their new venture in Paris.

The library dinning room of Le Clarence

The library dinning room of Le Clarence

The ‘Hotel Dillon’ is not a hotel but a ‘town house (‘hotel particulier’ in French), named after the Dillon family who acquired the property in 1935. It is just off the Champs Elysées on avenue Franklin Roosevelt. The 19th century building houses the headquarters of the wine company but also beautiful reception rooms, a bar, the elegant dining room of ‘Le Clarence’ and an underground cellar. The cellar alone is worth a visit, with a vaulted brick ceiling and suitably stocked with not just wines from the family vineyards but other Bordeaux and from further afield.

The cellar, as spectacular as the bottles it contains.

The cellar, as spectacular as the bottles it contains.

The décor is sublime – you are indeed transported to a chateau atmosphere with carefully curated furnishings and art. The food is on a par with the surroundings, seasonal with a twist to traditional dishes. It is the perfect place to show the wines of their vineyards to their best advantage. Once you have tasted this Bordeaux hospitality in Paris, you will inevitably be drawn to come and sample the real thing.

 

 

 

 

 

Behind every great wine…. there’s another one.

For those in the know, the second wines of top Bordeaux estates have long been considered some of the best value drinking in town.

Rather than a ‘dustbin’ for everything that isn’t good enough to make the grade of the first wine, these wines carry the château name, are part of the brand, and are treated as such. Not only do they profit from the know-how of the same wine-making team but they may be made from parcels and lots kept specifically for these wines, perhaps from younger vines or different terroir, often giving a lighter expression, benefiting from a lighter oak treatment giving easier and earlier drinking wines – more approachable both in style and in price! Their quality continues to grow as many properties are introducing third wines, Le Pauillac de Chateau Latour since 1990, and the Petit Lion de Marquis de Las Cases since 2007, to name but a couple.

Whilst these wines are now on most wine enthusiasts’ radar, it’s worth taking a peek behind these chateau labels, as many of the top properties have other strings to their bows.

In the official figures for 2015, released by the CIVB earliest this year, the number of growers, all Gironde wines combined, was 6,822 (fallen by half in the last 20 years). The total number of wine properties is probably nearer 10 000 however as many of the ‘Growers’ are the fortunate owners of several properties.

Although the other wineries owned by top growths may not be classified, these lesser-known properties will also benefit from the know-how of the top winery teams, the deep(er) pockets of their owners and the marketing push as they are presented alongside their big brothers at tastings. Other advantages include access to newer barrels with a guaranteed provenance, as barrel turnover will be faster in top growths that use a higher percentage of new oak.

Chateau Le Crock

Chateau Le Crock

I was reminded of this when I visited Chateau Le Crock recently. Chateau Le Crock is a magnificent chateau perched high on a gravel outcrop of Saint Estèphe, in between prestigious neighbours Chateau Montrose and Cos d’Estournel. It is a Cru Bourgeois, part of the new classification as well as the original one. The owners, the Cuvelier family, are also owners of Chateau Leoville Poyferre, second growth of Saint Julien, as well as Chateau Moulin Riche. Moulin Riche used to be considered a second wine of the property but now is a stand-alone label, the second wine is Le Pavillon de Leoville Poyferre.

Tasting Moulin Riche and Leoville Poyferre

Tasting Moulin Riche and Leoville Poyferre

The neighbouring Leovilles also have other properties; Chateau Leoville Barton is also home to Chateau Langoa Barton, (although originally it was the other way round, as the cellars of Langoa welcomed the wines of Leoville back in the 1800s). The Barton family have more recently invested in Moulis, at Chateau Mauvesin Barton, as I mentioned in a previous post. Chateau Leoville Las Cases also has hidden treasures, the Delon family own Chateau Potensac in the north of the Medoc appellation.

The line up of Barton family bottles

The line up of Barton family bottles

This is not a uniquely Saint Julien affair, just next door in Pauillac several top properties have hidden jewels; Chateau Pichon Baron, a second growth of Pauillac, owns Chateau Pibran a neighbouring Pauillac property and, across the road, when Roederer purchased Pichon Comtesse they also bought the lovely Chateau de Pez in Saint Estephe. The Cazes family, as well as owning Lynch Bages, own Chateau les Ormes de Pez in Saint Estephe and the lovely and very affordable Château Villa Bel Air further afield in Graves.

Another Médoc family the Quiés are spread over several left bank appellations. Famous for their 2nd growth in Margaux Rauzan Gassies, they own 5th growth Croizet Bages in Pauillac and Bel Orme in Haut Medoc, another Cru Bourgeois.

It’s not a uniquely left bank phenomenon either. Some brave souls dared to cross over to the dark side. Leoville Las Cazes owns Chateau Nenin in Pomerol, Château Lafite has Chateau L’Evangile in Pomerol and Chateau Rieussec in Sauternes as do Pichon Baron owners Axa Millesimes again with properties in both Sauternes: Chateau Suduiraut and in Pomerol: Chateau Petit Villages.

Right bank properties also have jokers up their sleeves, investing in lesser-known estates and surrounding appellations such as the Saint Emilion Satellites or the Côtes appellations.

The von Nieppergs, owners of Chateau Canon la Gaffeliere in Saint Emilion, also own Clos de l’Oratoire and Chateau Peyraud in the same appellation and have invested both in the Côtes de Castillon buying Chateau d’Aiguilhe where a modern wine cellar makes this one of the leading lights of the appellation. Angelus owners, the de Bouards, have used their Lalande de Pomerol property, La Fleur de Bouard as a testing ground for a lot of experimental wine making that they have since harnessed at Angelus, so the advantages work both ways. They have more freedom to experiment in smaller properties rather than in their flagship vineyards where is it perhaps more risky to test out new techniques.

The innovative cellars Chateau La Fleur de Bouard

The innovative cellars Chateau La Fleur de Bouard

Francois Despagne, owner wine-maker of the classified growth Chateau Grand Corbin Despagne in Saint Emilion is also using his expertise making Chateau le Chemin in Pomerol and Chateau Ampelia in the Côtes de Castillon. Look out for Chateau la Maison Blanche, owned and made by his brother Nicolas just across the boundary of Saint Emilion in Montagne Saint Emilion; some of the purest expression of terroir in organic and biodynamic production.

Somes of the wines from the Francois Despagne stable

Somes of the wines from the Francois Despagne stable

These are just a few of many examples well worth looking out for, other owners that are spread across several appellations include the Cathiards of Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte who have recently invested in Pomerol and Sauternes and Bernard Magrez who has a finger in many Bordeaux appellations.

I’ll stop now before this sounds too much like a shopping list, as these are just a few of many examples well worth looking out for and I haven’t even mentioned investments made in other French wine regions or abroad – another blog post perhaps?

These investments in lesser known estates and appellations by leading wineries brings not just money but know-how and experience, raising the bar of excellence and increasing their reach to the wine enthusiast. If you thought second wines were worth looking for, take it to the next level; it’s worth getting off the beaten track a little and looking behind those top labels to see what other treasures they are hiding.

 

 

 

 

 

Inspiration for your 2014 visit to Bordeaux.

 If you are planning a visit to Bordeaux this year, here are a few ideas I’ll be suggesting to visitors.  

Stay somewhere (very) different. I’m constantly suggesting lovely places to stay in and around Bordeaux on this blog but this year why not stay somewhere (very) different? I previously have posted about staying in tree houses and vats but if that is not cutting edge enough for you, try staying at Chateau La Romaningue in a bubble or even in a gypsy caravan.

Learn to cuisine like a chateau chef. More and more Chateaux are happy to open not just their cellar doors but also their kitchens where you can learn the secrets of Bordelais cuisine and food and wine matches at the source.  Chateau Phelan Segur in Saint Estèphe, Chateau Gruaud Larose in Saint Julien  and Chateau La Pointe in Pomerol all offer cooking classes and workshops followed by lunch to sample your success with a glass or two of the chateau wine. Lunch or dinner at Chateau La Lagune in their sumptuous kitchen is an opportunity to see Chef Catherine Negre at work. Check out some of the recipes here to whet your appetite or start practicing at home.

A table in the kitchens of Chateau La Lagune.

A table in the kitchens of Chateau La Lagune.

Shop ‘til you drop. More and more Chateaux have great shops, selling  not just wine and vinous paraphernalia but other cool gifts. In the Entre deux Mers, call in at Chateau Lestrille in Saint Germain du Puch to see owner Estelle Roumage’s eclectic selection of gifts and French specialities.

Shop at Chateau Lestrille

Shop at Chateau Lestrille

Just down the road in Grezillac at Chateau Ferret Lambert, Valerie Lambert has created a wonderful space showing various collectables and renovated French country furniture and bric à brac.

Look for treasures at Chateau Feret Lambert

Look for treasures at Chateau Feret Lambert

You if like you can even stay for lunch, dinner or even overnight in one of her guest rooms. Chateau Biac is opening its new tasting room this year on a unique oriental theme as befits the Lebanese owner Youmna Asseily.

Get off the beaten track. Have you noticed that a lot of the above recommendations are in the Entre deux Mers? That leads me to my next suggestion. Yes the classified growths of the Medoc, Saint Emilion and Graves will always be on visitors wish lists but try and find the time to visit the lesser known appellations of Bordeaux: the Saint Emilion Satellites, the Côtes and the Entre deux Mers. Here you will find the smaller family owned properties where the owners and wine makers will be on hand, often with bed and breakfast and table d’hôtes to add to the welcome.

A cellar lunch at Domaine de Claouset in the Entre deux Mers

A cellar lunch at Domaine de Claouset in the Entre deux Mers

Be a culture vulture. Bordeaux has some great museums and art galleries. If contemporary art is your thing, do not to miss the amazing Institut Culturel Bernard Magrez  created by the Chateau owner in the centre of Bordeaux. Many chateaux use the summer months to not just show their wines to visitors but also to show-case up and coming artists. Chateau Kirwan, Chateau Palmer, Chateau d’Arsac, Chateau Paloumey, La Tour Bessan and Lynch Bages are some of the properties that welcome artists to their cellars each year.

An art installation in the cellars of Chateau Kirwan

An art installation in the cellars of Chateau Kirwan

Learn how Bordeaux works. There’s more to Bordeaux than just the Chateaux,. To understand how the wine gets to Market, visit a negociant. Cordier, and Millesima both offer great visits to discover how the ‘Place de Bordeaux’ works and on the banks of the Dordogne, a visit to Le Chai au Quai can show you a hands on wine making experience.

Le Chai au Quai on the banks of the Dordogne

Le Chai au Quai on the banks of the Dordogne

See you there soon.

 

The primeurs are upon us.

With the primeur tastings once again upon us, the focus will of course be on the Classified growths of Bordeaux with the usual mix of praise for the quality (2010 is once again looking like a great vintage) and criticism for the prices and of course painting all of Bordeaux with the same brush forgetting that, as fabulous as these growths are, and as important as their role is for the notoriety of Bordeaux they represent less than 2% of total Bordeaux wine production, in volume.

One of the criticisms made in class this week, and often repeated, of the Bordeaux classification is the fact that the classified growths of the Medoc in 1855 have the right to buy up surrounding land and that this is immediately transformed from basic appellation to classified growth status. This question was raised once again in a class this week.

Effectively in 1855 it was the properties of the Medoc appellations that were classified rather than the terroir. It was a market classification based uniquely on a price hierarchy established by the Bordeaux brokers over a period of 150 years. It was never destined to be a definitive document. This means therefore that the properties keep their classification despite any change in landholdings they may make. Obviously this is often open to criticism, especially in the competitive and much more informed market wines sell in today. However the 1855 classification should be considered as an historical document based on the market evaluation at the time. Now as then, the market is a more accurate reflection of current quality performance – a result of both terroir, wine making skill. Not forgetting marketing – then, as now, it was often the larger landholders, often with great trade connections that established notoriety for their brands in the 18th and 19th century that was reflected in the price of the growths.

However the properties cannot do whatever they like with their landholdings. Firstly the land included in any Grand Cru Classé must come from the same appellation.
The real test of these classifications is brought into question every year during the tastings of the primeurs. The properties do not act in a vacuum but are subject to market pressure following the tastings. This can clearly be seen with some examples of properties that perform well above, and occasionally below, their 1855 status and are judged by the trade, their market price is a reflection of this: For example the ‘Super seconds’ properties deemed as performing above their status. Château Palmer, classified as a 3rd growth in 1855 is systematically sold at a price point right behind the 1st growths, Château Lynch Bages is a 5th growth with a price point of 2nd growths. Another example is Château Lascombes, a 2nd growth of Margaux that underperformed for many years, but sold their wines at a very affordable price point, since they have been taken over in 2001 the market agrees that the wines have dramatically increased in quality and are now at a similar quality level as other second growths, as is reflected by the increased price on the market.

Also interesting to note is that the properties that have increased in size have also increased their production of second and even third wines, Latour is an excellent example of this; Château Latour 1er Grand cru Classé is only produced form the Enclos, the traditional property whereas the Les Forts de Latour and the ‘Pauillac’ of Latour come from land outside the original holding, more recently purchased by the estate. This however this blend of land holdings for the different wines is not an obligation but entirely on the initiative of the producer to self regulate, based on the plot selection of each vintage.

The 1855 classification is also not the only classification in Bordeaux, don’t forget, Saint Emilion and Graves, it remains however one of the best marketing operations in the history of wine making as these properties remain to this day some of the best known wines in the world, but as with most things in the wine world, memorising the classification is not enough to really understand the quality hierarchy of Bordeaux. If so wine educators like me would be out of a job.

A line up ready for tasting

Can I hear an echo ?

Pronouncing difficult wine names can be a drawback to amateurs wanting to order a wine but being afraid to make a fool of themselves – especially in a foreign market.
Château names that are the easiest to say and the easiest to remember certainly have a competitive advantage. Château Lynch Bages has always enjoyed this – often affectionately known as ‘Lunch Bags’in Anglo-Saxon markets!
Not so for their second wine with the tongue twister name Haut Bages Averous – there is also little in the name to suggest any link to its famous big brother.
This is all changing with the soon to be released 2008 vintage when the second wine will henceforth be known as Echo de Lynch Bages. Altogether an easier mouthful.

Discover Bordeaux this summer

It is no longer a secret that Bordeaux is now become a top weekend break destination thanks to the renovating of the city under the impetus of Major Alain Juppé. What is less well known is that the surrounding area has also profited from this wind of change.

The wines of Bordeaux have never been so accessible either by price, style or through the cellar door. Just check out the 100 Everyday Bordeaux wines on the site www.bordeaux.com

What was previous considered as a closed door policy by the properties of Bordeaux is no longer the case : yes most places would prefer if you called to book a visit but it is a small price to pay to open the doors to some of these estates – both great and small.

Bordeaux is by far the largest French wine region, 5 five the size of Burgundy and Beaujolais and as such offers a range of styles of wine, properties and landscapes to suit everyone’s tastes and wallet. There are over almost 10 000 producers to get to know.

Discover the diversity
Bordeaux divides itself into 6 styles of wine each one reflecting the geographical characteristics of the regions.

The Medoc (North of Bordeaux)
The most famous area of Bordeaux is probably the Medoc this stretch of land, a peninsular between the Atlantic coast and the Gironde estuary owes its fame to a classification of the wines dating back to 1855.

It takes about 90 minutes on a straight line to reach the top but the places to explore on the way will definitely slow you down. Driving up the D2 ‘La Route des Châteaux’ is like driving through a restaurant wine list the famous names and beautiful buildings dotted amongst lesser known producers.

‘Villages de Bages’ near Pauillac
Pauillac is a sleepy water front town on the estuary and one of the famous classic wine ‘appellations’ in the north-west of the region. Just before the town stop off at the Village of Bages (www.villagedebages.com) to see what the Cazes family (Chateau Lynch-Bages) are doing here. They have established a Hotel and Michelin star restaurant, Cordeillan-Bages, in this pretty village, as well as Café Lavinal and the Bazaar Bages boutique full of wine paraphernalia. Chateau Lynch Bages is open to visitors to see the old and the new approach to wine making and taste their powerful wines. The Cazes family owns their own travel company running fabulous wine tours and themed holidays which make use of all their products and properties including Château Les Ormes de Pez (www.ormesdepez.com) which is a very up market B&B or can be rented as a whole home. Contact Mary Dardenne for enquiries and bookings: mary.dardenne@bordeauxsaveurs.com

Even further North at Saint Yzans de Medoc right on the Estuary is the picturesque ‘Pink Château’ Château Loudenne, whose lovely guest rooms overlook the water. Loudenne offers a romantic weekend for 2 including a cellar visit, lunch or dinner and bed and breakfast for €280 http://www.lafragette.com contact c.berullier@lafragette.com

Many of the Château in the Medoc are delighted to welcome the public to see how the vines are grown, wines are made and aged and of course to taste the result of all the hard work.
There are three new tasting rooms open to the public:

Château Lagrange , www.chateau-lagrange.com
Contact: charlotte.denjean@chateau-lagrange.com

Château Kirwan , www.chateau-kirwan.com
Contact : nathalie.schyler@chateau-kirwan.com

• Château Rauzan Gassies, www.domaines-quie.com
Contact : rauzangassies@domaines-quie.com

More ideas tomorrow………….