Tag Archives: Cordeillan Bages

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!

Château-Lafaurie-Peyraguey-©Deepix-4-1920x1018

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?

 

 

 

 

 

Strength in numbers.

Changes are afoot in the Northern Medoc with projects that link wine and tourism: high profile examples of trends in the Bordeaux vineyard.

Over the last 20 years the number of Bordeaux producers has halved to around 6800, during which time the average size of vineyards almost doubled to 16,6 ha. The most dramatic change has been the decrease in very small vineyards; properties with less than 2ha now represent just 1% of the surface area compared to 18% 20 years ago. It makes sense; it’s difficult to make a living from a tiny plot (unless you’re Le Pin). Hobby or part time producers are selling up to larger neighbouring vineyards. The new owners may or may not keep the identity of the original properties but the benefits of investment in the latest technology and marketing support from better-known labels helps build the success of the lesser-known names.

Château Haut Batailley

On the last day of March, the Cazes family confirmed their purchase of Château Haut-Batailley, a vineyard that flanks their flagship Château Lynch Bages in Pauillac. This adds to their Bordeaux portfolio of Château Cordeillan Bages also in Pauillac: a small vineyard and impressive Relais Chateau Hotel and Restaurant (reopening with a new chef, Julien Lefevre, mid-April), Chateau Villa Bel-Air in the Graves and Château Les Ormes de Pez in St Estèphe.

Haut Batailley, like Lynch Bages a 5th growth in the 1855 classification, has been run by Francois-Xavier Borie, who brought neighbouring 5th growth Grand Puy Lacoste to its current glory. The vineyard will keep its identity and has potential of almost 20ha of unplanted land. The press release covering the purchase discreetly mentioned that ‘The transaction was made possible with the help of Banque Rothschild’ – nothing like keeping it local; branches of the Rothschild family own neighbouring first growths Château Lafite and Château Mouton Rothschild as well as Clerc Millon, Armailhac, and Duhart Milon.

There’s a busy time ahead for the Lynch Bages team – the bulldozers have just demolished their wine cellar with American architect Chien Chung Pei in charge of the rebuild. His father is famous as the architect of the glass pyramid  in the Louvre, so light and transparency will be two strong influences in a functional as well as an aesthetic building. The technical renovation will mirror what has been undertaken in the vineyard,with smaller vats directly reflecting the identification of individual plots. The new cellar should be open for the 2019 harvest as well as to visitors.

Château Cordeillan Bages

The Cazes family are one of the wine tourism pioneers of Bordeaux alongside the Hotel Cordeillan Bages, Jean Michel Cazes created the ‘destination’ Village of Bages with a restaurant, wine boutique, gourmet shops and the unique Viniv personalised wine making company. This new site will include premises for Viniv, which, according to director Stephen Bolger, ‘will allow our vintage clients to enjoy an even more privileged experience in their winery.’

In the meantime visitors are still welcome and can taste the wines from Lynch Bages up the road at Château les Ormes de Pez as well as in the dining room of Cordeillan Bages and Cafe la Vinal.
They are not the only movers and groovers in the Northern Medoc; in neighbouring Saint Estèphe, Château Cos d’Estournel has just purchased their neighbour Château Pomys. Like the Cazes family, Michel Reybier, owner of Cos d’Estournel, is a scion of high-end hospitality: the Michel Reybier Hospitality chain includes the upmarket La Reserve hotels. He undertook a spectacular renovation of the château when he purchased it in 2000. The cellar was the most modern and innovative in the region.

The iconic facade of Cos d’Estournel

He also renovated the chartreuse, previously a wine museum and tasting room into the spectacular ‘La Chartreuse d’Estournel ‘ a private 8-bedroom house in the heart of the vineyard with 2 swimming pools and beautiful reception rooms.

It is perhaps unsurprising then that he has purchased the neighbouring Chateau Pomys, situated on one of the highest points of St-Estèphe. Alongside making wine from its 12ha of vines, the château has been operating as a rather ordinary hotel. It was the home of Louis Gaspard d’Estournel who created the Cos d’Estournel estate in the late 18th and early 19th century so it’s also a move to reunite the old neighbours. There has been no mention of the future of the estate so it will be interesting to see if the Northern Médoc will be home to another top end hotel offering.

Away from the 1855 classification, campsite operator Eden Villages announced its purchase of the majority stake in Château Laffitte Carcasset in Saint-Estèphe at the beginning of the year. This large vineyard surrounds a charming 18th Chartreuse house at the very heart of the appellation.

Château Lafitte Carcasset

Eden Villages belongs to Pierre Rousseau, president of the Rapido group, a European leader in motor and mobile homes. Following his passion for fine wine, he spent several years searching for the perfect property in Bordeaux with the help of Alexander Hall of Vineyard Intelligence. His investment in Château Laffitte Carcasset will continue with an emphasis on the quality of the wine and also wine tourism. Given Rousseau’s passion for art and architecture, I don’t think the neighbours need to worry too much about this hospitality being in the shape of a caravan park.

 

 

DIY Wine.

The standing joke in Bordeaux (and I suspect elsewhere) is that to make a small fortune in wine you have to start with a large fortune. This is told to many an enthusiastic visitor so enamoured with their Bordeaux experience they consider taking the plunge in to wine making and vineyard ownership.
Financial concerns aside (more of which later), if you want to know whether you have what it takes to make great Bordeaux, help is at hand. The Bordeaux Wine School includes a blending class in its curriculum and many properties, such as Château Paloumey, Chateau La Tour Bessan and Château Siaurac, to name but a few, will organise blending workshops where you can get a handle on this, one of the most important elements of creating a Bordeaux wine. Some properties will also let you join in the fun (or hard work) at harvest time, both in the vines and on the sorting table. You may even take home a bottle of your carefully crafted blend to show to friends and family.

However for a full-on wine making experience, you will have to make your way to Viniv in Pauillac. Viniv’s state of the art ‘garage’ winery is in the village of Bages, the picturesque hamlet renovated into the only left bank wine ‘destination’ by Jean-Michel Cazes.

The Viniv cellars in Bages

The Viniv cellars in Bages

Viniv will allow you to craft your own wine, from grapes to bottle. You can choose to be as ‘hands on’ as you want in the creation of your wine. But the fun is in the participation and there is a minimum intervention needed, even if it is only consulting with the team to establish the style of wine you want to produce.

First job; select your terroir. Viniv cultivates vines on plots of land from all over Bordeaux so offers a diverse range of wines for you to work with. Bordeaux currently covers 113 400 ha and is divided up into 60 different appellations. Blending grape varieties is one of Bordeaux’s signatures, here however you will be blending appellations. The idea is by offering a selection of the classic Bordeaux grape varieties from across the board of Bordeaux terroir you will have some of the best components of a Bordeaux blend to play with.

A chateau blends wines from their vineyard – here you can choose from further afield; you can blend Cabernet Sauvignon from the left bank, where it grows best on the warmer Gravel soils there, with Merlot from Saint Emilion where it flourishes on the cooler clay and limestone soils. The best of both worlds (or banks).

To qualify for an appellation the grapes for the wine must all come from land within the defined appellation area, as would a chateau blend. Therefore by choosing to blend from these different regions, legally your wine will be labelled Bordeaux, as is almost 50% of the Bordeaux production.  This explains why the wine you will be bottling will not have Pauillac on the label, despite the fact that this is where the wine is made. It’s all about the place where it’s grown – terroir.

So that’s your terroir chosen; now for the wine making. Help is on hand with a team including top Bordeaux wine consultant Eric Boissenot. As discreet as his wines are famous, he is behind 4 of the 5 1st growths of the 1855 classification. Viniv is also perfectly placed for collaboration with Jean-Michel’s technical team at neighbouring Château Lynch Bages.

Together they can advise on the fun stuff; when to pick (you can do that too if you like), how long to macerate the skins on the juice, how many times to pump over, when to run off, the blend, the oak, how new, how long to barrel age, etc. etc.

Is this your wine in the Viniv barrels?

Is this your wine in the Viniv barrels?

You will come to understand first hand just how many tiny decisions along the way help create the personality of a wine and come to understand why, with almost 8000 vineyards, Bordeaux is such a source of diversity in wine style. Yes it’s about the place but it’s also about the wine maker – in this case you!

If all this sounds like too much information, you can take a step back, outline your wine profile and let the team do the work. However you will find that, as technical as it sounds, it really is quite addictive and you will be drawn in. If you think drinking wine is passionate stuff wait until you start making it. You can spy on your wines via webcam if you can’t make it over and receive regular updates from the team on what is going on even if you are not getting your hands dirty! You really should come to the ‘Mash’ up, this will be your ‘en primeur’ when you taste your baby wine from the barrel and those of your fellow wine maker apprentices, who come together from all over the world and all walks of live to share their passion for wine.

And if all this sounds exhausting, the cellars just happen to be a stone’s throw from Chateau Cordeillan Bages, the Michelin starred Relais and Chateau hotel and restaurant – not perhaps the usual accommodation for grape pickers.

The minimum order is of course one 225l Bordeaux barrel, your barrel, that’s 300 bottles. If it sounds like a lot of wine, get some friends in to help but be warned you may need a mediator for the blending – it is surprising just how personal a blend can be.

And then there is the fun bit – the bottling, creating your own label and finally the drinking. As you finally open your first bottle of your very own wine you may well discover you do indeed have talent and your inner wine maker may need a larger canvas to play with. This is where we come back to that small fortune and start looking at the finances.

A line up of some of the viniv labels

A line up of some of the viniv labels

Help is at hand for this too. Alexander Hall who lives with his wife and young family in the Entre-Deux-Mers runs Vineyard Intelligence. His speciality is the search and analysis of current vineyard investment possibilities in the region.

As well as being a licensed real estate professional, he is lawyer by training and a wine expert. With a law degree from Oxford University and investment banking experience with Deutsche Bank and Union Bank of Switzerland, he changed direction and went to work for leading winemakers in both the northern and southern hemispheres; in New Zealand on his family’s estate in Marlborough, with Ivan Sutherland at Dog Point Vineyard and with Ben Glover and his team at Wither Hills. In Bordeaux he has worked with Château Bauduc, Clos Puy Arnaud, a leading biodynamic estate in the Côtes de Castillon, and Château Beau-Séjour Bécot, Premier Grand Cru Classé estate in Saint-Emilion. He is also a tutor at the Ecole du Vin de Bordeaux and puts all this expertise into advising individuals on the search and acquisition of vineyard estates. Finding a vineyard is one thing, where Alex comes into his own is outlining the complex elements involved in buying and running it, including a technical audit of the properties. This way you will know in precise detail how your large fortune may become a smaller one but also the fun you’ll have on the way.

All this could be yours........

All this could be yours……..

 

 

A little bit of Britain in the heart of St Emilion

Staying in a working vineyard is always a treat and in Bordeaux you are spoilt for choice. Between luxury hotels on, or associated with, vineyards (think Les Sources de Caudalie, Hostellerie de Plaisance and Cordeillan Bages) and more low key but often just as luxurious B & B’s think Chateau de Mole and Chateau Grand Faurie Larose (more of which soon to follow in another post). You can even privatise a Chateau for your guests and live like a chatelaine at Chateau La Lagune or live like a local in a self catering gite such as Chateau Biac

Somewhere in between the 2 is one of my favourites. Chateau Franc Mayne is a classified growth of St Emilion, owned and run by Griet Laviale. On the eastern slopes of the limestone outcrop at the heart of the appellation the Chateau overlooks the vineyards not just of saint Emilion but also Pomerol with views of the Tertre de Fronsac in the distance. The chateau is the perfect location for a boutique hotel, only 5 minutes from the village by bicycle (which they provide).

Griet has used the site beautifully with the 9 bedrooms in the main chateau, where her artistic flair and familiarity with high-end hotels has been put to good use. The sumptuous living room with its honesty bar and oenomatic wine selection leads to the onto the terrace and natural swimming pool overlooking that view. The pool reflects the eco concerns of the owners, as do the agricultural practices of the estate and the complete recycling of all water used in the winery as well as the hotel.

Close by are the redesigned winery cellars with the latest oak and stainless vats and the 9th century quarries used for ageing.

The View across the vines to Fronsac

Never one to stand still Griet is just putting the finishing touches to 2 new guest rooms in the 18th century post house situated on the very top of the property along side the old roman road leading from Libourne to the heart of Saint Emilion. This road was used by the pilgrims on their way to Saint Jacques de Compostella in the middle ages and it is now dedicated to more modern hedonistic pilgrims in pursuit of fine food & wine.

The two rooms in the post house are a perfect getaway for a family or friends, slightly away from the main house. For obvious reasons the Oxbridge room, with its private terrace, speaks to me. Both rooms have what must be the biggest showers in Saint Emilion, if not Bordeaux, where you can sing under the shower with a view over the vines.

The Oxbridge room

You are not limited to supping Saint Emilion while you are in residence, Griet owns 2 other properties in the region; the spectacular Chateau de Lussac in the heart of the satellite appellation Lussac Saint Emilion and Château Vieux Maillet in Pomerol and are available for tasting, and drinking, at the property.

Keep on eye on the Relais Franc Mayne as they are currently redesigning the tour in the underground quarries and, in keeping with their eco philosophy, they will be building a tree house in the famous Cedars (the name of their second wine) for the next season.

Stars of Bordeaux

The 2010 Michelin guide is out and the stars are shining in Bordeaux.
4 new stars; 1 for Gabriel, the new restaurant overlooking the Garonne and the Mirroir d’eau in the beautiful 18th century place de la Bourse where the talent of Francois Adamski has been rewarded with his first star so soon after opening.

A first star also to Pascal Nibaudeau at the Grand Hotel de Bordeaux for the Le Pressoir d’Argent restaurant and a much deserved first star for Nicolas Masse at Les Sources de Caudalie gastronomic restaurant: La grande Vigne. Last but not least, another star for the Pessac Leognan region, for Christophe Girardot La Table de Montesquieu at La Brède.

All this along with the other 2 star restaurants in Bordeaux: Le Chapon Fin and Le Pavillon des Boulevards, the 1 star Amat au Prince Noir and our 2 star michelins in the vineyard; Philippe Ecthebest at the Hostellerie de Plaisance in Saint Emilion and Thierry Marx at Cordeillan Bages in Pauillac

Bordeaux never tasted so good!

Roadside dining around Bordeaux

The D2 (the ‘route des Châteaux’) is possibly the most famous road in the Bordeaux region,driving up the D2 is like driving through a wine list. Passing one grand example of architecture after another, the road sweeps through the famous appellations of Médoc, Margaux, Saint Julien, Pauillac and Saint Estèphe. And most of these have great roadside restaurants.

Travelling from south to north leaving Bordeaux:
Le Lion d’Or is as typical a local bistro as you can get. The ‘Patron’ is a fervent defender of local cuisine and a dedicated ‘chasseur,’ so game features plentifully on the menu in season. Throughout the rest of the year, local specialties include confit of duck, local asparagus and artichokes. Surprisingly, the wine list is petite. This is because the dining locals are winemakers with their own wine lockers that line the dining room. You can admire fabulous wines guarded by lock and key, which only the owners hold! To compensate, bring your own bottle but only if it is ‘rouge’. Should you want a glass of white or rosé, order it from the house list.

Heading north, continue to Saint Julien and stop at the eponymous restaurant. In the summer the terrace is delightful and in the evening the chef will stoke the grill with vine clippings to prepare the steaks and duck breasts. They also have the best dessert buffet in the region.

Just before arriving in Pauillac, take a break in Bages and on the left is the 2-star Michelin hotel and Restaurant Cordeillan Bages , plus a vineyard. The innovative chef Thierry Marx creates modern interpretations of local products and the experience is a mix of dining and entertainment. He is a staunch defender of the local culinary traditions and has been instrumental in preserving the local milk-fed lamb ‘l’agneau de Pauillac.’

For a more modern take, go back to Bordeaux on the only other main road in the Médoc, the D1. Still on the left bank but south of Bordeaux city in the Pessac Léognan appellation, pause amongst the classified growths in the village of Martillac at Le Pistou , a relaxed local bistro just opposite the church.

Carry on further south to the village of Sauternes where you can dine on the terrace of Le Saprien overlooking the vines and enjoy a menu carefully designed to match with the luscious sweet white wines of this appellation.

 

The view from the terrace of ‘Le Saprien’
over the vines of Château Guiraud

On the right bank over towards Saint Emilion, take the ND936 from Bordeaux towards Bergerac and turn left towards Saint Germain de Puch where you can have lunch or dinner at l’Atmosphère , which offers everything from pizza to high-end local specialties such as artichoke and foie gras salad.

Once in Saint Emilion there is only one street to drive through. Half way up Rue Guadet, stop on the left at Chai Pascal for a light lunch with an interesting selection of wines by the glass.

Further up the same street on the right is Essentielle , owned by Jean-Luc Thunevin. This wine bar offers some of the most hard to find wines of the region by the glass accompanied by artisan cheeses and ‘charcuterie’.