Tag Archives: Chateau Pape Clement

Celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day with Bordeaux.

The Garonne river flowing through the city of Bordeaux may not be dyed green on the 17th March but Bordeaux does have strong historical and contemporary links to the Emerald Isle.

It is yet another example of the openness of Bordeaux to foreign influence thanks to the importance of the port, the largest in France in the 17th century. This was the beginning of a huge Irish influence the remains of which can still be clearly seen today. Many Irish ‘Jacobites’ fled their native land, escaping religious persecution after the Battle of Kinsale, when the Catholic King James II lost to the Protestant King William of Orange.

The term ‘Wild Geese’ was coined to define the flight of these emigrant families in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. Many ended up in Bordeaux, as they already had strong ties with the region, being enthusiastic importers of ‘Claret’. Others ended up in the Loire and Cognac, where names such as Hennessy became part of the local landscape. These new arrivals quickly became important players in the wine business, exporting wine and importing Irish meat and dairy.

Their presence on the Quai des Chartrons, the merchant area on the banks of the Garonne, was even mentioned by Thomas Jefferson in 1770 when he listed names that are still there today such as Barton, Johnston, and Lawton.

Ireland became established as a leading Market for Bordeaux. Records from 1739 show that England imported 1,000 tons of claret, Scotland 2,500 and Ireland a massive 4,000. Ted Murphy, author of The Kingdom of Wine: a Celebration of Ireland’s Winegeese, quotes ‘‘claret was the Guinness of its day.”

The Wine Geese

The Wine Geese

Their influence continues in the Château names that still ring with an Irish accent include 
Château Clarke, Château Phelan-Segur, Château Boyd Cantenac, Château MacCarthy (now the second wine of Haut-Marbuzet), Château Dillon, Château Langoa and Léoville-Barton (still today owned by the Barton family), Château Kirwan, Château Lynch Bages, etc.

Frank Phélan, Chateau Phélan Segur's second wine, is named after the estate's Irish founder.

Frank Phélan, Chateau Phélan Segur’s second wine, is named after the estate’s Irish founder.

Other Châteaux may not sound very Irish but have strong Irish connections in their past include such leading lights as Château Margaux, Château Yquem, Chateau Pichon-Longueville-Lalande, Château Pape-Clément and Château Haut-Brion.

Chateau Langoa Barton

Chateau Langoa Barton

So you have plenty of choice of Bordeaux with which to raise a glass to Saint Patrick on the 17th.

Slainte.

 

An urban vineyard

Pessac Léognan is at once one of the oldest and one of the youngest of the Bordeaux appellations.

One of the youngest as it was officially created in 1987 and yet the oldest as it encompasses what was known as ‘Les Graves de Bordeaux’ the ‘cradle ‘ of fine Bordeaux wine making as we know it today.  Vine cultivation here dates back to about the 1st century and, unsurprisingly, it has seen a series of booms and busts during its history. Looking at the architecture of some of the properties (Chateau Olivier for example) you can see they enjoyed huge prosperity in the Middle Ages thanks to the marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine to Henry Plantagenet (soon to be Henry II) of England who brought the region under the English crown in her dowry.

Chateau Olivier dates from the middle ages

Chateau Olivier dates from the middle ages

Pessac-Léognan is to the North of the Graves and the two appellations together (as they were pre 1987) cover almost 4 000ha running 60 kilometres from Bordeaux in the North to south of Langon surrounding the Sauternes and Barsac appellations. 240 wine makers produce about 20 million bottles in Graves and about 9 million in Pessac Léognan. The classification of Graves in the 1950’s predates creation of the Pessac Léognan appellation, which is now where all 16 classified Chateau are situated.  These represent in white and red about 20% of the volume of production of the appellation.

Well established since the middle ages the Graves made their claim to fame in the 17th century notably thanks to the dynamism of Arnaud de Pontac, (The third of that name) and owner of Chateau Haut Brion. The only red 1st growth of 1855 not to be from the Medoc, although 12 Sauternes 1 Barsacs were also classed 1er. In what was probably the first act of direct wine marketing, he sent his son to London after the great fire in 1666 to open the first French wine bar (well tavern) ‘the Pontac’s Head’. Who said that Bordeaux was behind the marketing curve?

Chateau Haut Brion and its park, hidden in the suburbs of Bordeaux

Chateau Haut Brion and its park, hidden in the suburbs of Bordeaux

London was the market leader for Bordeaux wines then (and remained so until the Chinese over took them in 2010). By selling their wines directly to clients in the city Haut Brion established the popularity of The New French Claret with this wealthy and influential clientele.

It was a new style of wine; using longer on-skin fermentation in larger barrels, topping up to prevent oxidation and protection from fungal and micro bacterial contamination by the use of sulphur, a practise introduced by the Dutch (the Bordelais still use a ‘Dutch match’ of sulphur in the barrels today between rackings to ‘disinfect’ them). This created a style of wine that has more in common with what we know as Bordeaux today rather than the ‘Clairet’ previously sold out of Bordeaux. This lighter wine would go off rapidly in the summer heat despite its high acidity. These wines were so popular with Northern Europe that in the 14th century this light Clairet (or rosé) dominated representing about 80% of the production in the region.

Racking the barrels of wine during aging

Racking the barrels of wine during aging

This period of boom lead to the ‘Vins de Graves’ dominating the English market for quality wines until the end of the 18th century. Being so close to, and in some cases in, the city of Bordeaux, these vines were on hand for the great and the good of Bordeaux. The vines were planted on outcrops of gravelly soils that were unsuitable for any other agriculture but gave strength to the wine. They reached the very walls of the city up until the 19th century. A law that prevented wine being imported from further up river until all the local stocks had been sold also helped their success. This success, unsurprisingly, lead to increased planting away from the city walls further south as far as Langon.

However in more recent times the locality has proved a challenge; the proximity of the city and its urban sprawl has seen competition for the vineyards. In the crisis after WW1 and again in the 50’s and the 70’s, crises related to both global economic factors (post war depression, exodus from the land) as well as local conditions (frosts of 1956) meant that urban pressure from the city resulted in many properties being sold for redevelopment rather than remaining under vines.

Happily some survived and have become urban vineyards, it is surprising now to see the green oasis of vines amongst the suburbs of the city that are Chateau Haut Brion, La Mission Haut Brion, Pape Clement and Haut Brana in Pessac – along side the university buildings and Chateau Luchey Halde and Pique Caillou in Merignac (better known to international visitors for the Bordeaux airport). See the map here.

The history of one of these properties, Chateau Luchey Halde, reflects that of the region, just like the appellation it is one of the oldest and the newest at the same time.  Although the history of vines at the property dates back to roman times the property was completely replanted by the current owners, ENITA de Bordeaux (a government agricultural agency) in 1999. It was saved from the urban sprawl having been a military training ground close to the airport for 80 years.  Being reinstated as a vineyard, it is now also an agricultural school and as such benefits from the latest research and technology in vine growing and wine making on it’s 22 ha of the 29ha that are under vine.

This urban pressure, along with a desire to re-establish an idea of ancient Northern Graves terroir was one of the reasons for the creation of the Pessac Léognan appellation. Despite it being a bit of a mouthful, named after 2 of the 9 communes or villages in the appellation, it seems to be working. Since it’s creation on 9th September 1987 over 1 000 ha of vines have been replanted in Pessac Léognan. Also encouraging was the launch earlier this year of the ‘Schéma de cohérence territoriale (Scot) which officially ‘designated’ almost 50 000 hectares in 93 ‘communes’ in and around the city, including 25 000 ha of vines, as protected from urban development, both commercial and residential. When you consider that the total vineyard of the 62 Bordeaux appellations covers just over 113 000ha – it’s reassuring.

The current terroir of Pessac Leognan

The current terroir of Pessac Leognan

But it’s not all bad, the proximately to Bordeaux is also helpful, creating a warmer microclimate encouraging early ripening; these vines are usually the first to be harvested.

It’s also an advantage for visitors – no need to worry about drinking and driving if you want to visit and taste, several chateaux are within walking distance of Bordeaux’s new tramway. This could be useful on the weekend 6/7 December, the Pessac Léognan open days. However I encourage you to venture out further than the city limits if you can.  Use the Route des Vins de Graves that includes all the Graves appellations and covers not just the Chateau but also other activities including accommodation in the region.

Chateau Haut Bailly

Chateau Haut Bailly

Where you will be able to taste the delicious West Coast Burgers

Where you will be able to taste the delicious West Coast Burgers

I would also recommend a visit to Chateau Haut Bailly in Léognan during the weekend. As well as a cellar visit and wine tasting you can sample the excellent burgers from the West Coast food truck and enjoy live jazz music on Saturday afternoon. Burgers and Bordeaux – bon appetite!

 

Wine Time.

Tradition has it Bordeaux wines are best serve with food, but that does not mean it has to be a formal dinner or lunch. To prove the point Chateaux in Bordeaux are now thinking outside the box and offering visitors the chance to taste their wines in a more relaxed atmosphere.

I mentioned in a previous post that Les Medocaines will offer you breakfast before tasting on a Sunday morning and for the summer Chateau Pape Clement, a classified growth in the Graves, is offering a series of themed brunches. Pape Clement is known for its wine tourism, with its Chateau bedrooms available for guests, as well as tasting rooms and cellars.  It is effectively an urban vineyard, a small green oasis in the middle of the Bordeaux suburbs, so perfectly placed to invite city dwellers over. The next brunch will take place on the 15th June with a fruit theme serving a selection of fruit juices and jams produced by Alain Milliat each one chosen to highlight the fruit aromas associated with the Château wines such as peaches, strawberries, blackcurrants, and much more. The 29th June will be a completely different Japanese theme with a Sushi selection and in July, on the 6th and 27th, the theme will be ‘pink’ so come dressed in pink to sample some rosé or on the 10th August for a seafood buffet.

Brunch at Chateau Pape Clement

Brunch at Chateau Pape Clement

If your prefer your wine in the afternoon, call in to Château Carbonneau in Pessac Sur Dordogne. Here, not far from Saint Emilion, Wilfrid Franc de Ferrière and his New Zealand wife Jacquie have created ‘The Glass house’, a ‘Salon du Thé’ named after the spectacular green house built onto the side of their 19th century chateau.

The Glass House

The Glass House

The chateau has been in Wilfred’s family since the 1930s and it is one of only a few vineyards in Bordeaux that still practise mixed agriculture with their 20 strong herd of Blonde d’Aquitaine cattle as a compliment to the 20 hectares of  ‘Saint Foy de Bordeaux vines producing red, white and rosé wines.

Tea Time

Tea Time

If driving home along the winding lanes after your tasting seems a too risky, book ahead to stay in one of the 5 guest rooms in the Chateau. You can then join fellow guests for dinner prepared by Jacquie in the Chateau dining room and the next morning take breakfast on the South facing terrace or in the conservatory – and you can start all over again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get wed with wine

Just back from England I can confirm that the country is indeed awash with wedding fever. However if you want to get away from the royals why not come to Bordeaux. We might not have castles but we have châteaux instead. Some of which will be happy to open their doors to receive newly weds and their guests, not just in elegant reception rooms but many properties now have guest rooms too

The wine bill will also be considerably more affordable ‘sur place’ than in the UK and it is so much more romantic sipping the wines overlooking the vines where they were grown.

To the north of Bordeaux city in the Médoc. Between the estuary and the ocean it is famed for its vineyards and the stunning châteaux, which are perfect examples of the extravagant architecture of the 18th and 19th Century. In the village of Saint Yzan de Médoc on the banks of the Gironde Estuary is Château Loudenne , the ‘Pink Château’ owned by the Lafragette family. As well as the lavish receptions rooms there is a terrace with an amazing view across the water. It also has many guest rooms and can be accessed by boat as well as the road.
However, if it is luxury and gastronomy you are after, head south to Château Cordeillan Bages, which boasts a Relais & Châteaux hotel belonging to the Cazes family of Château Lynch Bages fame. It comes complete with a Michelin 2-star restaurant where young chef Jean-Luc Rocha has recently taken over and is making his name known (see Bordeaux blonde http://bordeauxblonde.wordpress.com/201 … lan-bages/)
If you prefer something more low key, the same winemaking family also owns Château Les Ormes de Pez, which is run as a guest house and you can take over the entire house with its pool for your event.
Château du Taillan has spectacular old cellars and can accommodate over 100 guests within good proximity to the city and the airport. The venue is not far from modern rooms and a spa at the Hotel du Golf (www.hotelgolfdumedoc.com).
Further south towards Bordeaux city in the village of Margaux, the recently renovated Château Marojallia has a terrace overlooking the vines and can accommodate a large group, with extra rooms at the neighbouring hotel.
Similarly Château Giscours has rooms with the option to stay at its sister property, Château du Tertre, which has an open air pool.

The Orangerie dining room at Château du Tertre

Still on the Left Bank, but south of the city, you can explore the Graves and Sauternes areas.
Classified growths Château Pape Clement and Smith Haut Lafitte both offer sumptuous accommodation. Les Sources de Caudalie in the grounds of Smith Haut Lafitte is a fabulous hotel and wine spa with two restaurants including the Michelin starred Grand Vigne. Not only is it a wonderful way for a bride to be pampered in preparation for her big day, but Smith Haut Lafitte has a reception room that can cater for several hundred guests for a sit down wedding breakfast. Caudalie builds packages on request.
Château Pape Clement in Talence, which is the oldest wine estate in Bordeaux, has a restored glasshouse in the garden designed by Gustave Eiffel (whose significant work includes the Eiffel Tower and Statue of Liberty). For a smaller group they offer wine tourism packages including Rolls Royce rides or helicopter flights should the bride or groom wish to arrive in style.
For the French, Sauternes is a celebratory wine served at weddings, christenings and confirmations. Classified growth Château d’Arche has been transformed into a hotel with views overlooking the vines of Château Yquem.
The Côtes region is not far off the motorway north of Bordeaux with hillside vineyards surrounded by beautiful countryside. Visit Château Pitray, a glorious family property built in 1868 with a working vineyard and set in a park. The family will be delighted to show you around the cellars and taste their wines, which are available in the UK though Majestic.
At Château Biac, Youmna and Toni Asseily will welcome you to one of the three self catering cottages on the hillside vineyard with stunning views over the Garonne River where they make both red and sweet white Cadillac wines.


The wonderful view from Chateau Biac
Saint Emilion is probably the most famous wine village in the Bordeaux region and has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1999 and is ideal as a romantic setting.
The Hostellerie de Plaisance Relais et Château, where Philippe Etchebest‟s cuisine has been awarded two Michelin stars, is in the centre and overlooks the whole village.
There also a few rooms at Château Pavie Decesse, owned by the Perse family, who own other Châteaux making top Saint Emilion wines.
At Château Franc Mayne, a working winery, is a small hotel whose rooms each have opulent and different décor. A natural swimming pool runs down the limestone slopes under which enormous centuries-old quarries are now used for barrel ageing the wines. The terrace overlooks the slopes down towards Pomerol.

The appellations known as the Saint Emilion Satellites are on the other side of the small Barbanne River from Saint Emilion. Puisseguin, Saint Georges, Lussac and Montagne Saint Emilion are on a series of undulating limestone hills that enjoy lovely views with hospitable properties open for tastings and accommodation.
Château de Môle won the 2010 Best of Wine Tourism award. It has idyllic bridal suits with ‘spa rooms’ in this renovated working Château in Puisseguin Saint Emilion. Of the five rooms, three have their own private sauna and jacuzzi in the en suite bathrooms. You can visit the cellars under the Château to learn more about their winemaking.
Château la Dauphine is right on the river-bank of the Dordogne and has a room specifically created to cater for weddings. The proprietors know all the local specialists to help with your day. The lawns with views down to the water are perfect for wedding pictures.

Inspired ? Well even if you not not planning to tie the knot you can always come for the romance without the ceremony !

On the bus.

Join Bordeaux students.. on the bus. The Bordeaux bus is a special discovery offer for students; for only € 15 hop on the bus, visit and taste at 2 Bordeaux Chateaux. Next dates are 20th March to the Haut Medoc visiting Château d’Agassac and Château du Taillan and on the 10th April Pessac Leognan visiting Château Haut Bailly and Château Pape Clement. No cheating, student cards will be asked for !

Last days of the harvest

In the Graves and Sauternes on Wednesday this week we caught the last day of the harvest. In Sauternes at Château Suduiraut they had finished picking on Tuesday with the last ‘tri’. Just in time as it poured with rain in the afternoon.
At Château Pape Clement we arrived as the final red grapes were being selected and de-stemmed by hand.

Looking out over the rainy vineyard of Château Suduiraut