Tag Archives: Chateau Marquis d’Alesme

Wine and dine your way through the Bordeaux vines.

In 2016 I posted about the Chateaux in Bordeaux opening restaurants to better showcase their wines. Given their success, and the increased sophistication of wine tourism in Bordeaux, more properties have since joined the party so here are a few updates of not-to-miss dining opportunities on your next Bordeaux wine tour.

Château Troplong Mondot opened the Les Belles Perdrix restaurant in 2012 when the chateau started offering casual dining for guests staying in their guest rooms. Chef David Charrier was awarded his first Michelin star in 2016. Under new ownership and management since 2017, the cellars and the restaurant are undergoing a complete renovation and will reopen the stunning terrace with some of the best views in the region, in 2021. In the meantime, you can sample Charrier’s cuisine if you book a tour of the vineyards. The sommelière, Celine, will take you on a tour through the vines in their Landrover to finish with a tasting of five wines accompanied by delicious ‘amuses bouches’ created by the chef.

Troplong defender

Rather than create a restaurant at the property,  Chateau Angelus, purchased  Le Logis de La Cadène in 2013, one of Saint Emilion’s oldest restaurants in the heart of the medieval town.  They won a Michelin star in 2017 thanks to the skill of chef Alexandre Baumard. It too, has a wonderful shady terrace for sunny days but a word of warning – wear sensible shoes, as it’s half way down a very steep slope!   You can also sample their cuisine on the go, this June they opened Les Paniers du Logis, a fast food outlet with a difference. All the meals are home-made; from local products and served in reusable glass bocaux (big jam jars), including delicious desserts, pates jams and of course bottles of wine.

Paniers du logis

Sauternes has now joined the party. This year saw the opening of the Lalique Hotel in Chateau Lafaurie Peyraguey. Under the new ownership of Sylvio Denz, the hotel opened in June this year – a 400th birthday present to the estate.

Jérôme Schilling, the former executive chef of Villa René Lalique, (two Michelin stars) runs the restaurant. Given the quality of both the cuisine and the service a Michelin star must surely be on its way. The rooms are beautiful too, so don’t worry about driving home; have that last glass of Sauternes!

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The foodie revolution in Sauternes started at the beginning of the year  with the opening of La Chapelle, a restaurant in the beautiful old chapel of Chateau Guiraud. As well as Château Guiraud by the glass, they have a really good selection of half bottles of Sauternes and Barsac on the wine list, a great way to taste your way across the appellation.

Malrome

Just across the Garonne is the Entre deux Mers, sadly overlooked by wine tourists, but the restaurant at Chateau Malromé might just be the thing to get them there. Chateau Malromé is famous for the previous owners; the family of Toulouse Lautrec. The impressive 16th century chateau has been completely renovated by the Huynh family and continues to welcome visitors to discover the home of the artist as well as the wines. The contemporary restaurant Adele by Darroze in partnership with neighboring Langon institution Maison Claude Darroze.  Opened in the chateau earlier this year it has a beautiful terrace off the main courtyard (we do like alfresco dining in Bordeaux!). Managed by Jean-Charles Darroze with Chef Sébastien Piniello the modern setting is perfect for a cuisine that reflects both local and Asian influences of the two families.

From here you can head back towards Bordeaux through the Cadillac region. This area, known for it’s sweet white wines, has vineyards that roll down steep slopes on the right bank of the Garonne River. At the top of one of these slopes look out for La Cabane dans les Vignes; a lovely wooden chalet dominating the most spectacular view of the Garonne valley amongst the organic vines of Chateau Bessan. Sibelle and Mathieu Verdier built this cabane so guests could taste their wines and enjoy the sunset – you can too now. Book ahead on Friday and Saturday evenings to taste their wines alongside tasting plates and enjoy the breath-taking views.

Cabane

Then there is the Medoc. I have previously mentioned Michelin starred Cordeillan Bages and the more relaxed brasserie Café Lavinal in the villages of Bages but if you want a light lunch in a unique setting you should call in to Chateau Marquis d’Alesme in Margaux. This classified growth, right at the heart of the village of Margaux, was purchased by the Perrodo family in 2006 who already owned Chateau Labegorce. Or at least they purchased the vines, the original chateau remaining in the hands of the previous owners. Starting from scratch to build a functional but beautiful winery, again inspired by their dual Chinese and French heritage, they decided to share their passion not just through the cellars and wine but also through a relaxed restaurant. Tucked away in the Hameau of la Folie d’Alesme, light plates of local specialities accompany a by-the-glass and by-the-bottle selection of the property’s wines including a not-to-be-missed chocolate and wine pairing.

Chocolate ar Marquis d'alesme

If you are passing through Bordeaux and can’t make it to the vines (shame on you) the vines can come to you. Chateau Lestrille, a family vineyard in the Entre Deux Mers region, has its own wine bar in the heart of old Bordeaux. The dynamic owner, Estelle Rummage, opened the chateau to tourism years ago and now she has opened the wine bar Un Château en Ville’ to serve and sell her wines to the city dwellers and visitors. She produces a complete range from white and red to rose and also bag in box – there’s plenty to choose from, accompanied by tasting plates from oyster to cold cuts, toasties and cheese plates.

Chtx en ville

If you prefer grand cuisine there is La Grand Maison; the hotel and restaurant that really is a chateau in the city belonging to wine magnate Bernard Magrez. The excellent cuisine of this two Michelin star restaurant is created by Jean-Denis Le Bras under the watchful eye of Pierre Gagnaire.

London friends, if you can’t make it to Bordeaux, Bordeaux can come to you. Clarette opened in the spring of 2017, in a beautiful half timbered Marylebone townhouse, Clarette is the project of a young generation of wine lovers with deep Bordeaux roots: Alexandra Petit, of the Château Margaux family and restaurateur Natsuko Perromat du Marais (the Perromat family are from the Graves) are in partnership with Thibault Pontallier, son of the much missed director of Château Margaux, Paul Pontallier. Go for its relaxed, fun atmosphere and stay for the excellent by-the-glass wine list.

Clarette outside

Clarette by night

Another Bordeaux first growth in London is Château Latour. The smart private club; Ten Trinity Square has a Château Latour Discovery Room and dining room allowing punters to taste a unique collection of Chateau Latour by the glass as well as by the bottle, all accompanied by the cuisine of Anne-Sophie Pic who also has her La Dame de Pic  restaurant in the Four Seasons Hotel in the building.

Thanks to a recent tweet from fellow Bordeaux insider Jane Anson I have just learned there’s another one to add to the list: Boyds Grill and Wine Bar linked with Château Boyd Cantenac in Margaux. More research needs to be done – who’s with me?

 

 

 

 

 

Wine and Design – a new look at Bordeaux.

Occasionally I’m asked if I get bored with what I do for a living, after all, I have been sharing Bordeaux for over 20 years through wine tours and teaching. Well no, with over 8000 Chateaux to choose from and a new vintage every year, monotony is not on the cards. Sometimes, something brings a completely new perspective on Bordeaux, even after all these years. The Wine and Design tour did just that. Viewing familiar properties through another person’s eyes is fascinating.

It’s not news that Bordeaux has spectacular wine cellars; I have mentioned some in previous blogs, (Mouton, Pedesclaux, Marquis d’Alesme, Cheval Blanc) but on this Wine and Design Tour, thanks to Interior designer Abigail Hall, design and architecture took centre stage, with the wine almost an added bonus. Be reassured it wasn’t a dry tour!
Abigail’s passion for design and architecture is not a surprise; it’s what she does for a living. Designing happiness is her strapline and judging by her sunny disposition, she must be pretty good at it.

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Abigail Hall takes a close look at the design of Bordeaux doors.

The objective of the tour was to illustrate how, since the 17th century, architecture of both the city and chateaux has been used as a showcase for the wealth and the wines of the region. Bordeaux and its vineyards have been around since Roman times. Although only the Palais Gallien amphitheatre, from the third century, still remains in the city, la rue Sainte Catherine, supposedly the longest pedestrian shopping street in Europe, follows the path of an old Roman road from North to South. There are still some Roman remains in the vines though, mostly in Saint Emilion.

Medieval architectural, built during the wave of prosperity following the marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine to Henry Plantagenet and the resulting English thirst for ‘Claret’, is more abundant. The Cathédrale Saint-André, where Eleanor married her first husband Louis VII in 1137, and two medieval gates built under the English ‘occupation’ managed to escape the 17th century redevelopment of the city. In the Graves wine region there are some fabulous examples of medieval architecture. Graves is considered the cradle of fine wine making and many noble families had hunting lodges here in the Middle ages. Château Olivier is probably one of the most outstanding examples that is still a working vineyard.

Serious wealth arrived in the 17th century; Bordeaux was France’s largest port, and exhibited this prosperity for all to see by building the beautiful waterfront of Bordeaux. Bordeaux remains one of Europe’s largest 18th century architectural centres, and a UNESCO World Heritage site. At its heart, the beautiful place de la Bourse, built in 1755 by Ange-Jacques Gabriel, is reflected in Le Miroir d’Eau, the largest reflecting pool in the world, built in 2006. A marriage of old and new that we would see repeated in the chateaux and wineries.

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La Place de La Bourse

Wine bought wealth but wealth also bought wine and ‘new money’ created architectural gems throughout the region used as showcases for the families, their wealth, their power and their wines.
Designing showcases is one thing but wine cellars must be also functional places of work. Wine making really remains very traditional in Bordeaux, these new cellars may be made of ultra modern glass and steel but the basic functions of selecting, preserving, fermenting and ageing remain largely the same. There is even a trend towards more traditional methods such as gravity feed, eschewing pumps.

As soils are more precisely sampled and understood, smaller and more precise plots within vineyards are leading to precision viticulture. Smaller plots mean more and smaller vats in cellars, allowing this more precise expression of ‘terroir’ to be carried from field to cellar, to barrel and to bottle.
The challenge is for these cellars to showcase the wine as they open up to visits and wine tourism but also to marry this design to functionality. To keep up to date with the latest technology, without losing their historical soul.

Chateau Beychevelle in Saint Julien, known as the Versailles of the Medoc, is a perfect example. It is built in the classic Chartreuse style of Bordeaux architecture: a single story building with an ‘enfilade’ of rooms that go from the front to the back of the building, with towers at each end. Rebuilt in 1757 along the banks of the Gironde estuary, its gardens run down to the water.  When it was built, it was a representation of wealth and status of the Marquis de Brassier, over-looking the estuary which brought in the wealth and carried away the wines.

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The Spectacular interior decoration of the Salons at Chateau Beychevelle

Under the current owners, Grands Millésimes de France, part of the Castel and Suntory groups, the beautiful Chateau has undergone considered restoration to the bedrooms and bathrooms to make them as deluxe as the chateau is grand. The central salons have a programme of restoration with some fully restored and others still presenting the restoration work done in the twentieth century. Guests can now dine and sleep in this 17th century decor. It is the perfect base for the ‘Wine and Design’ Tour.

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The Wine and Design team overlooking the gardens of Château Beychevelle running down to the Garonne Estuary.

Once you leave the Chateau you are immediately transported into the 21st century: the brand new cellars innovative in both design and technology. Allowing design, technical wine making and a low carbon footprint to come together in the glass and metal winery – a stunning juxtaposition of old and ultra modern.

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The spectacular new cellars of Château Beychevelle

Another striking Medoc example of the old and the new is Chateau Pedesclaux, a little further north in Pauillac. Here the two are much more intimately woven. Glass is the perfect medium for a showcase and at Pedesclaux it is the Château that is encased. Instead of building a classic extension the owners, Jacky and Françoise Lorenzetti, built a glass case around the chateau incorporating the dovecote into the new tasting room. The neighbouring cellar is also modern: stainless steel, temperature control and gravity-fed technology over four stories, discretely half-hidden into the side of the gravel outcrop the chateau sits upon.

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The glass tasting room of Château Pedesclaux including the dovecote and spectacular Murano chandeliers

Sometimes you can’t always work with the old, the Perrodo family were presented with such a challenge They are now well established in the Medoc, already owners of Chateau Labegorce, they purchased Château Marquis d’Alesme in 2006. Or at least the vines of this prestigious classified growth, next to chateau Margaux, the original chateau remains in the hands of the previous owners.

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There are dragons in Margaux – attention to detail at Château Marquis d’Alesme

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The oriental theme continues inside – the moon door entrance to the barrel cellars.

They had to start effectively from scratch to build a winery. And what a winery: functional but also beautiful, it is inspired by their dual Chinese and French heritage: a Zen cellar to make, age and share the wine from the estate.

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The new Château Marquis d’Alesme – a zen attitude in the heart of Margaux

They share their passion not just through the cellars and wine but also through the sensory gardens and small restaurant. Wine and design bring together two different cultures through a shared passion.

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The elegant design at château Marquis d’Alesme insides the sensory gardens

Closer to Bordeaux, in fact almost downtown, Chateau les Carmes Haut Brion is another, if very different, example of starting from scratch. The previous owner is still living in the original chateau so the new owner, Pichet, commissioned Philippe Stark to create a very original new cellar for this 33 ha vineyard (6 ha around the cellars and 27 ha near Martillac for Le C des Carmes). The cellar resembles a ship sailing on water with the wine making cellar on top and the barrel underneath and a terrace and tasting room above it all.

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The spectacular Stark cellars at Château les Carmes Haut Brion

 

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And the contemporary dining room above the cellars at Château Les Carmes Haut Brion

We were not only interested in the cellars, Abigail is an interior designer after all, so what happens in the chateau is as important, if not more important to her. After all these ‘homes’ are often used to welcome clients and prestigious guests to share the wines made from the surrounding vines. Abigail walked us through The Musée des Arts Décoratifs et du Design in a neoclassical townhouse built in 1779. It is dedicated to the classic Bordeaux interior design of the period; Abigail identified for us, the key styles of the period that we would find again in the wines properties.

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Enter into 18th century Bordeaux at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs et du Design

Chateau de Cerons is one such treasure; hidden away in Cerons, the smallest of the Bordeaux appellations, known for it’s elegant sweet white wines. Since 2012, Caroline and Xavier Peyromat are bringing this family property back to life. A listed historical monument, built in the early 17th century in the classic Bordeaux chartreuse style (mentioned above), it is a bijou of 18th century architecture.

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Chateau de Cerons

The original interiors have remained intact over the years and we found the same plaster reliefs on the walls and fireplaces here that we saw in the museum in Bordeaux. But this is no museum.

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The original decorative details in Château de Cerons

The chateau is at the heart of a vineyard producing a range of red and dry white Graves as well as the sweet Cerons and is also the family home. A family that generously shared their unique piece of history, opening their doors to us we discovered the chateau, vines and cellars as well as having a picnic in the park accompanied with wines from the property of course.

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a picnic in the grounds of Château de Cerons

So bored of touring Bordeaux? Never. There is always something new to see and something new to learn.

Is Wine Tourism changing the face of Bordeaux?

Amongst the many misconceptions about Bordeaux is the notion that the doors to the cellars are closed to visitors. As you’ll know, if you follow this blog, this is no longer so. According to the Bordeaux Tourist office, 5,8 million tourists visited the city of Bordeaux over the past 12 months, a record, and of course most of them venture out to the vineyards.

Wineries are constantly updating and renovating their cellars to adapt to the latest wine making technology, but it’s not just winemaking that motivates the new designs. With wine tourism growing in the region, adapting to visitors is now a priority and the visitors experience and the image of the property is up there with the technical winemaking when it comes to design decisions.

The new glass Château Pedesclaux

The new glass Château Pedesclaux

 Architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte has brought the 18th century Château Pedesclaux very much into the 21st century. Completed in 2014, the impressive ultra-modern glass cellar has 58 double-compartment conical tanks gravity-fed stainless steel vats that correspond to the new plot-by-plot organisation of the vineyards and refrigerated rooms allow not just prepping for cold soak but allowing time to manage the influx of grapes. So far so technical, but the modern take is not just in the wine cellar. The traditional château is surrounded by a glass ‘box’ extending to each side, allowing room for a tasting room encompassing the old pigeon tower on one side and offices with a view over the estuary on the other.

The old Pigeonnier inside the new gallery-tasting room.

The old Pigeonnier inside the new gallery-tasting room.

Further South in the heart of the village of Margaux, Chateau Marquis d’Alesme, is being redesigned with the visitor experience at the heart of the project. This is a feminine story as well as an international one. The owner, Nathalie, from the Franco-Chinese Perrodo family has trusted Marjolaine de Connick with the wine making. The architectural project has been handed to Fabien Pedelaborde working alongside local craftsman using excellent materials to create an Asian fusion cellar. The visitor experience will start in new buildings that include a bistro serving not just wine but coffee.

 Work in progress on the new Château Marquis d'Alesme reception buildings.

Work in progress on the new Château Marquis d’Alesme reception buildings.

The Asian zen feeling of the cellars continues through the project of a series of 6 sensory gardens including a children’s maze which will open in May 2016.

Some of the 'zen' cloud detailing from the new cellar.

Some of the ‘zen’ cloud detailing from the new cellar.

 But it’s not just about visiting cellars and tasting wine, visitors also need a place to stay.  Château Haut Bailly has been a pioneer of wine tourism for many years. As well as the classic wine tourism they also cater to the corporate visitor with a fully equipped audio visual conference room. In 2012 they acquired neighbouring Chateau Le Pape.

Chateau Le Pape

Chateau Le Pape

As well as producing a red Pesac-Leognan wine, the Château lent itself perfectly to the creation of a guesthouse. Three years of renovation included adding on a second tower, giving a beautiful symmetry to the classical chartreuse, surrounded by lovely gardens overlooked by the terrace and pool. The luxurious rooms start at €250. The central location and proximity to Bordeaux make this a great base from which to discover all the other open doors in Bordeaux.