Tag Archives: Château Troplong Mondot

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!

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.

 

 

 

 

 

To Bio or not to bio?

And it is a question. Organic vine growing is increasing all over France and in Bordeaux in particular; Aquitaine is the third largest region of organic vines right behind Languedoc and Provence. In 2012 organic production in the region increased by 3% compared to 2011 with 735 organic wine producers cultivating 9752 ha and with another 4276 ha in conversion (a three year period). Most of these are in Bordeaux, and of these most are on the right bank.

But not everyone is convinced that this organic trend is a good thing. One of the issues raised is copper residue. Producing organic wines is particularly difficult in Bordeaux due to the humid oceanic climate and the fungal diseases (mildew and odium) that thrive in these conditions. Copper sulphate and lime (known as Bouilli Bordelais or Bordeaux mixture) is the traditional method for treating these diseases and is permitted in organic agriculture. It’s great for roses too.

Although the amounts of copper permitted for use in organic agriculture are less than in traditional agriculture, (4kg/ha/year of metal copper compared to 6kg averaged over five years for traditional agriculture), some argue that, as other options for treating are limited in organic production, it encourages use of more rather than less copper. The rain also washes this mixture off the vines, so re-application rates are high in a rainy year. More sophisticated synthetic treatments absorbed by the vine can continue to combat the problem despite the rain but are not permitted under an organic regime.

However several organic growers have mentioned to me that after several seasons using organic and especially biodynamic methods, they see the plant defending itself better against these diseases as the vines develop their own natural resistance the result being the need for less treatment.

Intensive use of copper has toxic effects on soils especially in light sandy soils. Formerly, doses of 30kg/ha/year were not uncommon, so this new regulation is a huge improvement. Organic producers of course agree that it would be better to stop using this heavy metal completely and research is under way to use other organic fungicides like sulphur or potassium bicarbonate, plant extracts and clay.

One of the issues in a region like Bordeaux, along with the humid oceanic climate is of course mono-culture (vines represent 50% of the agricultural area of the Gironde). The concentration of vines in the region leads to the rapid spread of diseases such mildew, odium, phyloxera and new problems such as Esca. Now the Asian Drosophila are also raising concerns amongst growers. Prevention is always better than cure and part of the ecological and organic movement is to increase biodiversity to combat this, which is a type of poly-culture in itself. You can see this in Bordeaux for example with the planting of wild flowers, in land lying fallow in between planting as well as elsewhere in the vineyards and the creation of hedgerows.

The importance of Biodiversity in the vineyard.

The importance of Biodiversity in the vineyard.

The notion of biodiversity is also about preserving the genetic diversity of the vines. Although only 6 red and a few more white grape varieties are currently permitted in the production of the AOC wines of Bordeaux, it was not always thus. Over the years, the range of varieties and of clones of vines planted has reduced. Through massal selection of vines from existing plots for grafting onto rootstocks for new plantings, many properties can maintain their unique vine profile, hence increasing both their complexity and their specificity. This technique pioneered by properties such as Château Haut Brion and is now more and more common for properties working closely with the specialised local vine nurseries. Some properties such as Smith Haut Lafitte have their own nurseries; theirs is safe from any genetic contamination on the “La Lande” island on the Garonne River. Château Guiraud created a vine conservatory in 2001, housing a collection of hundreds of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc vines from different vineyards that are used for research on massal selection. From this stock they produce 40,000 vines each year used by themselves and other Bordeaux vineyards.

Vine clones ready for planting

Vine clones ready for planting

There has been an organic wine label in Europe since August 2012 with a corresponding logo. This Europe-wide label includes regulations for cellar management and winemaking as well as grape growing. Previously in existence wines had to be labelled as wine from organic grapes rather than organic wines – a subtle difference but an important one for purists. This new label obviously only allows the use of organic grapes but also limits the use of wine making additives (including S02) and sets the permitted organic wine practices.

The new European organic wine logo

The new European organic wine logo

Producers also have the option to use the AB (Agriculture Biologique) logo, which covers all organic agricultural production. This is not to be confused with natural wines for which, as yet, there is no legal European definition but which implies one produced using organic (or biodynamic) principles with a minimum of technological intervention.

Chateau de Seuil in the Graves uses both the AB and the new Organic Wine logos on their label

Chateau de Seuil in Graves uses both the AB and the new Organic Wine logos on their label

However, not all organic wines producers use the logo. It is not obligatory. Some producers choose to be organic as a part of their philosophy but prefer not to mention it on the label. Too much information on the label? Managing expectations? Or perhaps they just feel that their brand and what it represents speaks for itself.

Many producers feel that the certification either does not go far enough or perhaps too far, in the damp climate of Bordeaux where the threat of mildew and odium are never far away, a slip up or a need for treatment in a tricky vintage (2013 springs to mind), means you are back to the drawing board for another three years.

Organic is not just for classified growths, on the contrary it is very much a grass roots movement (no pun intended) as the majority of properties certified as organic are not classified. There are a few notable exceptions, which brings welcome attention to the trend such as Chateau Pontet Canet in Pauillac was certified organic in 2010 and Chateau Guiraud in Sauternes in 2011. Chateau Fonroque in Saint Emilion has been certified biodynamic since 2005 and neighbouring Chateau Fonplégade is organically since 2013, the owners also have a organically certified vineyard in Napa to name a few.

And it is not just organic; sustainable agriculture and biodynamics are also part of the Bordeaux eco-mix and there are certifications for both.

Sustainable agriculture is a vague term open to many interpretations but is a notion that has a powerful impact on consumers. There is a Terra Vitis certification in France that committed growers can adhere to. Pheromone traps and sexual confusion in the vineyard, ploughing, modelling of diseases and close measurement of climate that allow a much reduced and more targeted use of agrichemicals are all techniques associated with sustainable agricultural methods.

Pheremone wires on vines at Chateau Sigalas Raubaud in Sauternes

Pheremone wires on vines at Chateau Sigalas Raubaud in Sauternes

Biodynamic viticulture takes organic culture a step further, often characterised by the process of burying cow horns full of manure or using the cycles of the moon there’s unsurprisingly a lot more to it than that. Practitioners consider the vineyard as a complete organism in itself and only use biodynamic treatments on the vines, mainly home made herbal concoctions, self-sufficiency being a key part of both organic and biodynamic principles. Biodynamic certification is subject to European regulations by the independent organisation Demeter and also Biodyvin the international union of biodynamic wine makers, the wine sector leads the biodynamic sector in France; in 2012 more than half of the 450 certified biodynamic French farms were vineyards.

Constant experimentation is a signature of Bordeaux wine making, both in the vines and in the cellars, and nowhere more so than in the sustainable/organic/biodynamic sector. Few properties would launch into a new method of culture or wine making without experimenting first.  For example 3ha of the 78ha that make up Chateau Pichon Comtesse de Lalande are currently farmed organically and 3ha are biodynamic. Chateau Margaux is also experimenting and Chateau Latour has also been switching to biodynamic methods as can be illustrated by the horses often seen ploughing the vineyards.

Chateau Smith-Haut Lafitte has instigated it’s own Bio Precision approach, aiming to match the innovative viticulture and vinification techniques respect of the environment, promoting bio diversity through hedge plantation, use of natural grass, production of organic compost, horse ploughing, etc. They carry this through into the new ‘stealth’ wine cellar mentioned in a previous post. So there is clearly no conflict between organic and high tech.

Experimentation is the cellars too. Château Pontet Canet has been certified organic since 2010. They started in 2004 with 30ha and were so convinced they went 100% as of 2005, although with weather conditions in 2007 they were obliged to spray so it back to the drawing board until 2010. They then experimented in the cellars introducing a few concrete eggs or ‘amphorae’ in 2010. As of 2012 they now use 35% amphora for aging the wines alongside 50% oak barrels and the remaining 15% in one-year old oak. These amphorae bring the notion of terroir right into the cellar; the concrete is mixed with gravel stones for the Cabernet and with limestone for the Merlot along with the yellow clay from the vineyard.

The amphorae in the cellars of Chateau Pontet Canet

The amphorae in the cellars of Chateau Pontet Canet

As I mentioned above the right bank has the greatest concentration of organic properties and it is an area that has been a hot bed of innovation in wine making technology as well as agricultural methods since the late 1980’s.

It reminds me of how when the ‘garage wine’ movement first started in the right bank with a lot of more established producers showing disdain for the ideas but now later harvest dates, cold soaks and selection tables are common place throughout Bordeaux – we are seeing a similar thing with organic agricultural techniques, more and more producers are reducing chemical loads, ploughing, using lighter tractors, growing green crops between plantings and using pheromones in their vines to control the vine moths through sexual confusion. This last practice is also open to some criticism as again not everyone is convinced that having large concentrations of insect pheromones in the air is necessarily a good thing.

Some properties may not be certified or searching certification but the theories and methods introduced by the certification are taking a hold and the results can be clearly seen as you drive around the vineyards. Non certified properties use many of the sustainable, organic and biodynamic principles such as Chateau Clinet in Pomerol, where owner wine marker Ronan Laborde talks of gentle farming methods and uses the biodynamic practice of tying the vines rather than trimming. This works perfectly on the vines that, as of 2004, they raised by 10-15 cm to obtain a larger leaf area to favour the ripening of the grapes. A programme that took 2 years to complete.

'Living' soil at Chateau Clinet

‘Living’ soil at Chateau Clinet

It’s now common to see more ploughing going on between vines to control weeds but also to aerate and bring the soil back to life. This is done more and more by horses. Chateau may either have their own horses such as at Chateau Latour, Chateau Pontet Canet or Chateau Troplong Mondot or by using specialist companies that provide the horse drawn ploughing services. Chateau Cheval Blanc uses such a service and yes, when I was there, it was a white horse pulling the plough.

Ploughing at Chateau Pontet Canet

Ploughing at Chateau Pontet Canet

Francois Despagne, owner of Chateau Grand Corbin Despagne, classified growth of Saint Emilion, is one of the most passionate viticulturalists I know in Bordeaux and is certified sustainable by Terravitis and had several experimental plots on the vineyard under organic before converting and becoming organic and is now experimenting with bio dynamics. His brother, Nicolas, owner of Chateau la Maison Blanche up the road in Montagne Saint Emilion, is a passionate advocate of biodynamics.

Bending the vines rather than strumming them - a practice once limited to biodynamics is now seen more often in Bordeaux vineyards

Bending the vines rather than strumming them – a practice once limited to biodynamics is now seen more often in Bordeaux vineyards

Certification is an expensive and complicated process and not all growers have the money or the manpower necessary to implement it, even if they agree with the philosophy. The CIVB (Conseil des Vins de Bordeaux – The Bordeaux wine council) has devised a way to help such properties. The System de Management Environmental (SME) is a process whereby the cost of a consultant and the certification process is shared between the CIVB and a group of wine makers or chateaux. The members also appreciate this collective initiative as an opportunity to exchange notes and share problems they encounter along the way. Currently 141 wine producers have reached the ISO 14001 environmental certification through this system and another 300 are currently engaged in the process, including wine merchants and cooperatives as well at chateaux, altogether totalling 12 500 ha of Bordeaux vines.

There are other interprofessional schemes; Bordeaux was the first vineyard to have a collective Carbon footprint project for the « Bordeaux Wine Climate plan 2020 » launched in 2010 with the objective of 20% less green house effect, 20% energy savings, 20% renewable energy, 20% water savings by 2020 in line with the European objective of cutting its emissions to 20 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020, The Bordeaux objective is -40 000 t.eq C by this date. It was 203 000 t.eq C in 2010. On-line Carbon foot print calculator is freely available for the Bordeaux wine community so they can measure and adapt their carbon footprint accordingly.

So where does this leave us? In 2012 over 40 400 ha of farmland were certified organic in France with another 24 351 in conversion (a 3 year programme). This is about 8% of French vines but also 6% of French organic agriculture – so wines are well ahead of the trend and the prognosis for 2013 was over 51 000ha.

Being ecologically responsible might give wine makers a nice warm feeling, but what is the motivation? With the majority of vineyards in Bordeaux being family owned, ecology is taken very seriously as chateau owners often consider themselves caretakers rather than owners, with a responsibility to hand down a healthy vineyard to future generations. Is there a price premium? In certain markets there is but it also gives access to new markets and helps differentiate products in what is a very competitive market, especially in mid-range priced wines. Does the organic or biodynamic product taste better? Well the jury still seems to be out although research shows there seems to be a higher concentration of some tannins as well as having an effect on alcohol levels. However, to produce both organic and biodynamic wines, requires attention to detail and this is clearly one way to ensure great quality.

But what about the market? Wine only accounts for 10% of sales of organic food in France but it’s on the increase; 15% a year from a turnover of 413 M € in 2012, a third of which is sold directly from estates – so better margins for producers. Market data provided by Agence Bio in 2011 gave the revenue from organic wines as 360 million Euros at 4 per cent of all wine sold in the country. This was a higher share of organic than for the total food market, where organic food sales constitute just 2.3 per cent.

The recent publication of 3rd edition of Le Guide des Vins en Biodynamie, by Bordeaux publisher Editions Feret, is perhaps a good indication of increased interest.

What does the future hold? European organic wine certification remains a work in progress with an update expected in August 2015. The various private certification standards are seen as a base for further evolution of pan-European standards looking at themes such as: biodiversity in grape production, soil fertility and soil life, alternative approaches to pests and diseases, sustainability of grape production, wine processing and storage, quality and source of organic wine ingredients, of yeasts quality both including wild yeasts and spontaneous fermentation, limitations on additives including a possible total of sulphites, further limitations on processing techniques, limitations on tools and equipment, etc, etc.

In 2011 8% of French vineyards were organic (61 000 ha) compared to about 6% of the EU as a whole (interestingly enough the UK showed the highest percentage at over 16% – but I know it’s a tiny surface area compared to France) it is notable that the organic vineyards have exhibited far higher growth rates than the overall organic farmland.

In a global context, Europe is by far the largest player when it comes to organic vineyards: Europe’s 260,000 hectares of organic vineyards constitute 89 per cent of the total area under organic vines worldwide and represent 3.7 per cent of all vineyards. Major producers outside Europe are the United States (almost 12,000 hectares in 2008) and Chile (4,600 hectares).

As mentioned above, just like all wine makers organic wine makers love to experiment and the organic wine movement seems to be particularly good at participatory R & D, in both the field and wine cellars. Subjects such as lowering copper input are being looked at in this way and they are also working with other agricultural products where copper use is an issue see http://www.co-free.eu

Everyone benefits; wine is a relatively prosperous agricultural sector –not everywhere (that includes parts of Bordeaux) and it is also a competitive and dynamic sector and research into issues of organic wine benefit other agricultural products too. I think this is where the future lies, along with more closely aligned legislation with export markets so different organic producers from around the world can sell as organic in their various export markets.

The 2015 review of the organic wine certification is around the corner – it needs that time lapse to have a couple of vintages under our belts especially in Bordeaux when wines are often bottled between 24 and 30 months after harvest – exciting times ahead for gentil farmers.

 

More tourism from women in wine.

There was an interesting little historic view of the role of women in wine on the Bordeaux website recently.  It’s a topic I love to champion, as you’ll know if you follow this blog. And whilst on the subject, last week ‘Les Medocaines’ launched their new 2014 wine tourism products. These wine makers from the Medoc have been opening their doors to wine enthusiasts for a hands-on introduction to wines of the region since 2005.

Medocaines

Martine Cazeneuve of Chateau Paloumey and Armelle Cruze of Chateau Le Taillan join forces as Les Medocaines.

This year they are opening on Sundays to allow you to make the most of your weekends in Bordeaux. Start with breakfast at Chateau Paloumey  and a  walk through the vineyards to learn about the agriculture cycle of the vines. Then on to Chateau du Taillan to learn about wine making in the cellar followed by a picnic in the beautiful grounds of the chateau.

Picking at Paloumey

Picking at Paloumey

 

If you can’t get there in the summer, don’t despair as in the autumn they are running their traditional harvest workshops where you can set to with the secateurs and in the winter running their a blending workshop to see how the wines are made. Details from the Bordeaux Tourist Office.

Just as I started writing this, I learned the sad news that Christine Valette Pariente has left us after a long and brave battle with illness. She was at the head and the heart of Chateau Troplong Mondot, seeing her hard work rewarded with the elevation of the property to a First Classified Growth in 2006. Her sense of hospitality was reflected in the creation of les Belles Perdrix rooms and restaurant at the chateau.  My condolences and wishes go to her family at this difficult time.

 

Château la Croizille – The old and the new in Saint Emilion.

The De Schepper family are not new to Bordeaux. They were already established in the liqueur and wine business in Belgium when they purchased their first Bordeaux property, Château la Tour Balaldoz, in Saint Emilion in 1950. This was followed by the purchase of Château Haut Breton Larigaudière, a Cru Bourgeois in Margaux, in 1964. The family history has followed that of Bordeaux, as they first exported wines from their 2 properties in barrel for bottling in Belgium before starting to bottle at the chateaux in 1972.

The entrance to the old limestone quarry at Chateau Tour Baladoz

Their wine portfolio now includes a total of 5 Bordeaux properties and a negociant house De Mour. The most recent acquisition was Château La Croizille in 1996.

Château Croizille can trace its origins to the 1800’s and the purchase was a perfect opportunity for the family as it neighbours Château de La Tour Baladoz. So much so that a visit now includes both of the properties, a fascinating compare and contrast exercise between the very traditional Chateau la Tour Baladoz and the extremely modern Chateau La Croizille.

The view of La Croizille vines from the new tasting room

Since it’s purchase in 1996 work has been concentrated in the vineyard, 5 hectares in a sheltered valley or ‘Combe’ which reaches up to the top of the hill 82 m above sea level planted 70% Merlot  25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5 % Cabernet Franc.

The typical Clay-Limestone soil of Saint Emilion.

Late 2012 saw the opening of the spectacular new wine cellar. A project that was subject to some controversy, being built within the UNESCO Heritage site.  2012 was the first vintage made in this gravity fed cellar. Small stainless steel vats and 100% new oak barrels stacked on oxoline frames to facilitate the manipulation for the first years ageing are neatly tucked under the second year cellar and tasting room. The tasting room is suspended above the vineyard with a 180° view across the valley showing perfectly not only how beautiful the rolling hills are in this part of the appellation but also how well they suit vine cultivation with excellent drainage and sun exposure. The design of the new chai is inspired by the clay and limestone terroir so typical of this part of the appellation due East of Chateau Tertre Roteboeuf and Chateau Troplong Mondot.

The first year, new oak barrels on oxoline

 

As of last October, visitors are welcome to see this view along with the new cellars at Croizille and the more traditional cellars at Baladoz. Perfectly placed between 2 favourite lunch stops, Chateau Troplong Mondot and L’Atelier de Candale, it couldn’t be easier to include in a Saint Emilion itinerary and the latest member of the family to join the team, Hélène de Schepper, will be delighted to welcome visitors to the property.

A tasting room with a view

Here you can see a remarkable contrast between the old and the new in cellar design as well as the wine of course. The packaging, a modern label with the family’s signature, hand wrapped in orange paper, is an indication of their desire to emulate their prestigious neighbours – I wish them luck.

 

Romance with wine

We all know a little wine can help oil the wheels of romance – so if you need a few tips or ideas for next week – try these.

Planning a Romantic weekend? I’ve mentioned Bordeaux as a destination enough times for you to get the message but here are a few special events lined up for the big day.  The Grand Hotel has special menus in both restaurants and a getaway offer including a welcome cocktail and use of the Nuxe spa.

Chateau Troplong Mondot,  the beautiful First growth of Saint Emilion perched high above the village is offering a special 4 course Valentines menu on the 14th –I suggest you book early to try and spend the night in one of their beautiful rooms either in the guest suites or cottage in the vines.

An Invitation from Troplong Mondot

Further east at Le Chateau des Vigiers, the beautiful golf and country club amongst the vineyards and orchards of Bergerac, is offering two different Saint Valentine’s packages, each of which include a welcome bottle of champagne and access to the spa. Should you be a little behind with your planning you have up until June to celebrate.

A romantic room at Le chateau des Vigiers

Les Sources de Caudalie is a romantic location at the best of times but for the Saint Valentine’s they are offering packages including lunch and diner at both of their 2 restaurants but don’t forget to book into the Spa too. Just in time for the Saint Valentines their land mark suite L’Isle aux Oiseaux has been revamped by the Parisian designer Maxime Simoëns. This could be the perfect time to inaugurate it

The Isle aux Oiseaux suite

In London and you can’t travel to Bordeaux on the 14th? Roux at Parliament Square   is offering a special Five Romantic Cities menu without leaving London. Taking you from Venetian Risotto to Viennese Sache Torte via London Fish and Chips, Parisian Chateaubriand and New York  Waldorf salad all accompanied by an equally exotic wine selection. Do you believe the best way to your loved one’s heart is via their stomach, nip over to Leith’s for the day and prepare a 3 course Valentines menu for two and take it home to serve to your loved one along with the complimentary bottle of Prosecco.

Of course it has to be bubbly for Valentines Day and preferable, pink but if the budget doesn’t run to champagne you can try a few alternatives from around the globe

From Bordeaux, of course, try Château de Sours sparkling rosé in the packaging designed using the artwork of the late John Hoyland from owner Martin Krajewski’s personal collection.

Reserve de Sours in the Hoyland packaging.

Or go further afield to Australia if you want something a little more light hearted, and lighter on alcohol coming in at only 4.5% alcohol, try Wirra Wirra’s Mrs Wigley Sparkling Moscato,

Mrs Wigley’s sparkling rosé

You could also try your luck at winning some bubbly Decanter Magazine are running a competition with Champagne Gosset to win one of a Champagne gift set and have it delivered in time for Valentine’s Day. Each set contains a 75cl bottle of Champagne Gosset Grand Rosé NV, a pair of engraved champagne flutes and a special Gosset champagne stopper, best of luck ??!

Even better if you are feeling really lucky join in Nyetimber’s Facebook competition to win a romantic dinner for two prepared by 2 star Michelin chef Tom Kerridge at the Hand and Flowers accompanied by a bottle of Nyetimber Rosé 2008 – what else ?

 

 

 

 

 

Romantic Bordeaux

Bordeaux is a pretty romantic place, see Get Wed with Wine , and Saint Valentine’s day would be the perfect time to find out. There are no end of wonderful restaurants and romantic hotels to choose from in the region, however you could celebrate with your loved one in the romantic setting of a Bordeaux Chateau. Two properties from opposite banks are opening their doors for an intimate evening on the 14th of February.

Jérôme Cadillat, the chef at Château Troplong Mondot, classified growth of Saint Emilion is offering a fireside dinner menu accompanied by champagne and amour de Mondot – a special bottling of the second wine of the property for the occasion. You can prolong the romantic atmosphere by staying over in one of their lovely guest rooms or cottage in the vines.

The Cottage in the vines of Chateau Troplong Mondot
On the left bank Chateau Haut Bailly, whose wonderful dining room is usually only available for private groups is opening up with tables of 2 dotted through the beautiful salons of the Chateau. Their innovative Chef, Tanguy Laviale, has created a 5 course menu accompanied by champagne and 3 different wines from this Classified growth of Pessac-Leognan.

The beautiful Chateau Haut Bailly

If you cannot make it over here, you could always order a bottle of the most romantic Bordeaux wine : Chateau Calon Segur. This 3rd growth of Saint Estephe will probably be flying of the shelves in the run up to the big night. The heart on the label makes it easily recognisable, created by the property’s owner the Marquis de Segur, who, despite owing Chateau Latour and Chateau Lafite at the time always said his heart lay with Calon Segur and drew a heart around the name just to prove it.

Size matters at Chateau Soutard.

The average size of a wine property in Bordeaux is 14ha, this is a dramatic and relatively recent evolution. In the 60’s the average size was only 3ha and there were over 45 000 producers compared to ‘only’ 8 700 today. On the right bank however the properties have remained smaller, around 6ha in Saint Emilion and Pomerol on average. There are some notable exceptions to this rule, not least amongst the top properties. First classified growths such as Chateau Canon with 22ha, Chateau Troplong-Mondot at 33 ha, Chateau Cheval Blanc at 37 ha and the largest Chateau Figeac with 40ha under vines and a further generous 14ha in parkland, buck this trend. Classififed growth Chateau Soutard is amongst this group with 22ha under vines unchanged around the 18th century chateau for the last 100 years. The monumental Chateau is one of the largest buildings at the heart of a Saint Emilion property with 30 000 sq ft of roofing.

Under ownership of the de Ligneris family since the early since 1900’s the property was sold to La Mondiale insurance company in 2006. La Mondiale already knows a thing or two about St Emilion owning the neighbouring classified growth Château Larmande for the last 20 years, Grand Cru Château Grand Faurie La Rose and, the most recent addition to the team, Château Cadet-Piola. In total, the company owns almost 55 hectares of vines in the classic terroir of the limestone and clay plateau and extending throughout the clay, limestone and sandy slopes at the very heart of Saint-Émilion.
Claire Thomas-Chenard manages all four properties, assisited by cellar master Véronique Corporandy, and she has overseen the two year renovation of Chateau Soutard. The 2011 harvest was the second crop to enter the new cellars and they are spectacular – showing that some things are just worth waiting for. An elegant marriage of steel and oak in both the decor and the fermentation vats (50/50 stainless and oak small vats) the classic varietal blend of 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Franc enter into the cold storage rooms before being transferred to the vats, allowing not just temperature control of the must but an even flow management of the process. Even the remontage of the cellars is automatied allowing Claire to keep a close on all four cellars simultaneously during the busy harvest period.

It is not just in wine making where they are reaping the rewards of their investment. Chateau Soutard won the 2012 Best of Wine Tourism award for parks and gardens offering a unique way of discovering the property. As well as visiting the cellars and tasting the wine the gardens and vineyards allow visitors, map in hand to discover the different themes, from the natural approach to cultivation of the vines, to a childrens tour or a romantic moonlit visit. The boutique is open to the public, not just to sell wines, there is a large range of books and momentos including a children’s corner. If you would like to taste, pull up a chair on the terrace to taste their wines with some local cured ham or buy a bottle and borrow a picnic hamper to go and picnic in the grounds.
If you fancy more formal dining book ahead for a private lunch, dinner or cooking class and then cycle off lunch by pedalling through the four propeties and you can even stay the night at one of the guests rooms at Château Grand Faurie la Rose to sleep it all off.

Come join the harvest

The Bordeaux harvest is under way, the dry whites are in and the reds are starting with the more precocious merlot. It is possible to join in the fun of the harvest in Bordeaux, even if you’re not feeling up to all the backbreaking work. For several years ‘Les Medocaines’ a group of 4 women wine makers have organised harvest days at their properties; Château Paloumey and du Taillan in the Haut Medoc, Château La Tour de Bessan in Margaux and Château Loudenne in Médoc .
Just sign up at the Bordeaux tourist office for one of their scheduled days and you will be whisked away to pick and sort in the morning and, after joining the harvesters for lunch, it’s off to learning how to make and blend the wine in the afternoon.

Grape selection at Château Paloumey

If you are happier observing from a safe distance but still want the atmosphere, from the 10-12 September Château Gruaud Larose, classified growth of Saint Julien, is also offering the possibility to join in the fun with their Harvest workshop days. These include a tasting of the different grape varieties during a visit of the property, a harvest lunch alongside the pickers and a tasting of the fermenting must in the afternoon. Along with the lunch at wine, that’s a start to finish tasting experience.
Or you can just turn up for a harvest lunch along side the real workers. Chateau Troplong Mondot, first growth of Saint Emilion, offers a wonderful harvest menu in the dining room next to the cellars along with 4 different wines from the property, as does Château Phelan Segur in Saint Estephe. Squeezed between top classified growths Cos d’Estournel and Montrose this family vineyard has one of the post spectacular locations overlooking the Gironde Estuary.

If you can’t decide and want someone to organise all the details for you, Decanter Tours is offering personalised Harvest tours to suit your mood. Book now before it’s all over.

A glass with your wine?

There are rumours that the legislation for taking liquids on board planes will be lifted soon which will be a relief to the châteaux receiving visitors and their guests alike.
The legislation has made a big difference to cellar-door purchases by foreigner visitors not wanting a risk a breakage in their suitcase on the way home. However for many of the top growths in Bordeaux there is often no wine to purchase at the cellar after visits anyway, as everything is pre sold on primeur. Some properties keeps a little back for visitors but it’s a challenge during the bun fight at primeur time for them to hold on to bottles.
All is not lost however as if you can’t take back a bottle you can also take another little memento. Move over corkscrews and sommelier aprons Bordeaux has a better class of souvenir – crystal decanters and glasses.
Chateau Troplong Mondot has just created tasting glasses and the Chanel properties,Château Rauzan Segla and Château Canon, who know a thing or two about luxury, have crystal glasses and decanters with a discreet logo on the base and stopper. Château Latour also has a beautiful decanter and glasses but as they only welcome trade at the Château you’ll be lucky to get your hands on one.

Château Lagrange has a more modern decanter and glass set with the signature château visual from their label, and Château Kirwan, one of the pioneers of wine tourism, also sells signature classes with a bold K. Château Giscours even offers a free glass as a gift with the visit and tasting.

Recognise the château?

You can buy the wines when you get home but the decanters and glasses are the exclusive proof that you were there. The question remains; can you serve your Pichon in a La Tour decanter or your Cheval Blanc in a Canon glass? It might lead astray your guests at a blind tasting though!