Tag Archives: Sauternes

The long & international journey of a wine barrel.

Wherever I am in the world Bordeaux seems to follow me around, usually as bottles.  There is usually a familiar wine on the list. Sometimes on the other side of the world I’ll discover something new from very close to home. But it’s not only bottles and the wine they contain that travel from Bordeaux. Barrels do too.

Barrels are an important part of wine making. Used judiciously, they can add complexity, longevity and power. Used less wisely, they can overpower a wine, masking elegance and subtlety. Barrels add aromas and tannins but also help the wine along its evolution, encouraging a slow and controlled oxygenation of the wine as air seeps in through porous oak. This allows the highly reactive tannins from the wine and the oak to combine, creating larger tannin molecules that seem less abrasive on the palate.

Barrel cellar montrose

Beautiful French oak barrels at Château Montrose

This influence of the barrel upon the wine depends on so many factors. I mention oak above, but it doesn’t have to be, I’ve seen other wood essences used. Acacia is one you will sometimes find in white wine cellars in Bordeaux.

For oak the source of the tree, how slowly it grew, where it grew, (terroir doesn’t only come into play with grapes) and the age of the tree all play a role. The slower the tree grows the tighter the grain will be and the better quality the oak.

An oak tree destined for barrels may be over 200 years old. This raises a few eyebrows at a time when sustainability is a wine buzzword, but be reassured. These French oak forests are owned and tightly managed by the French state, only released for sale by auction, plot by plot, when they are ready to be felled and systematically re-planted. Thanks to Colbert’s 17th century policy of planting oak forests for war ships to fight the English, the French forests are thriving. Ironic then that so much of barrel-aged Bordeaux wine now ends up on the UK market.

Despite increasing worldwide demand, supply remains controlled explaining why these French oak barrels don’t come cheap; anything from €600 to €900 a pop depending on the size and the aging of the oak.

Once felled, how the oak is prepared and aged also influences the flavours it imparts to the wine. French oak is split not sawn. This ensures the grain of the wood is respected so the barrels remain watertight.  It adds to the cost, in labour but also reduces the volume of the tree trunk that can be used for barrel staves. American oak has a less regular grain so planks are sawn meaning more volume can be used, this higher yield and ease of manipulation reduces cost. The flavour profile is different however. Several wine makers have described American oak to me as giving  more coconut than vanilla aromas that are associated with French oak. You will find both in many Bordeaux cellars.

After being split and prepared into staves the wood must be aged, for anything up to three years. Exposed to wind and rain in the unpolluted areas near the forest, inelegant tannins are washed away and transformed by microscopic fungus on the surface of the cut wood.

Barrel staves ageing

Barrel staves ageing at Nadalie in the Medoc

Splitting also means that staves size will differ, assembling the staves to form a barrel is like creating a unique 3D puzzle for each individual barrel. Once the oak is matured barrel making begins. It’s a fascinating process that remains very manual – there is only so much you can mechanise. The key skills of heating the staves, whilst keeping them damp allows for sufficient flexibility to bend them to the rotund shape of a barrel. Then gentle toasting will impart the flavours to the wine; a raw barrel will bring very little to the party. Both these processes rely on the traditional skill and judgement of the barrel maker. It’s impressive to watch, I  highly recommend a visit to a cooperage if you have never seen this. The finished barrels are each a work of art.

Barrel toasts 2

Different degrees of toasting give different flavour profiles.

With so many variables in the process, each having an influence on the final taste profile, most barrels are tailor made to suit a particular wine maker. It’s not unusual to see barrels from several different cooperages in a chateau cellar, each one bringing its own flavour profile.

Barrel toasting

Barrel making – still a manual skill here at Boutes in Bordeaux

In Bordeaux barrels will be used for one to three years on average, depending upon the barrel policy of the wine maker. Their flavour profile changes with age. The newer the barrel, the more pronounced the flavours and the tannins it will impart to the wine. Vineyards producing powerful, often Cabernet driven, wines may use 100% new oak for their first wines. A more traditional Bordeaux approach is one third new, one third one year old and one third two year old barrels, combining new barrels with some already used for previous vintages. A producer making lighter wines may prefer older barrels if they are looking for the gentle evolution resulting from ageing in an oak container rather than a cement or stainless vat.

Blending defines Bordeaux wines and the use of barrels is part of this. Some wine makers will blend their wines before barrel ageing, others after or even during the ageing process. Blending just before bottling allows wine makers to profile the different lots of wine, adapting the choice of barrel to each lot (age of vines, different varietals). Other wine makers prefer to blend before ageing and rack from one barrel to another so the wine benefits from the complexity a range of barrels bring.

Racking

Racking from barrel to barrel, here in the cellars of Chateau Phelan Segur,  increases complexity as well as removing sediment from aging wines.

What happens to the barrels once the wine makers have finally finished with them? I come back to my introduction – they travel. I have seen Bordeaux oak barrels in many places. New ones are exported directly to wine makers from California to South Africa, with French oak holding a premium for many wine makers.

Barrel shipments Boutes

New oak barrels reading for shipping around the world from Boutes in Bordeaux

boutes vbarrels glenelly

A new Boutes oak barrel at Glenelly in South Africa

But used barrels travel too. They may go to other wineries. Rioja, for example, buys a lot of used barrels as much of their wine is aged for many years in older barrels looking to round out the wines through slow oxygenation rather than add powerful tannins.

As wine ages in barrels it soaks into the wood, staining it dark red and leaving a shiny deposit of tartaric crystals. This makes the barrel less porous but it also make the wood very attractive and staves from these older barrels are often up-cycled for decorative items such as bottle holders, and furniture – the limit is your inspiration.

Barrel art 2

Wine and tartrate deposits make used barrel staves decorative.

 

Barrel cellar door Evangile

Barrel staves make a stunning cellar door at Château l’Evangile in Pomerol

If you replace the wine with a more powerful alcohol it acts as a solvent leaching some of the wine colour and flavours as well as the oak flavours and tannins into the alcohol. Whisky is always aged in used barrels, although once you get to Scotland they are referred to as casks. These casks come from all over the world. The thousands of barrels in the ageing warehouses (not cellars) are all shapes, sizes and colours reflecting their origins, be it Spain, Portugal, USA or France, making for a very different impression to the neat and tidy lines of barrels we see in Bordeaux cellars.

Whisky casks 2

Used casks waiting to be prepared and filled with whisky at Glenfiddich.

Those dark, rich aromas and mouth-feel we associate with whisky for example, owe a lot to the previous tenants of the barrel. Whisky needs long cask ageing; straight from the still spirit is white, taking its colour from the barrel. Sherry or bourbon casks are traditionally used, the decline in sherry’s popularity, reducing production has resulted in whisky distillers often financing sherry companies barrel consumption to ensure their supply.

Whisky casks

Whisky casks of different origins in the Edradour warehouse

Spirit producers are getting more adventurous, offering a diverse and growing range of finishes. A finish is when a spirit spends the last few months of its life in a different cask, often a wine barrel. It makes a difference. Compare different finishes and you’ll see a different hue depending upon the barrels used. Unsurprisingly whiskies finished with a Bordeaux or other red wine barrel will have a more ruddy colour than others.

Barrels are expensive new but after three years of wine ageing they are worth less than €100. Even so it helps if you can ensure the supply chain. Handy then that some wineries and whisky distillers belong to the same groups. At the Auchentoshen distillery near Glasgow I saw many Chateau Lagrange barrels used for their Bordeaux finish – unsurprising as drinks group Suntory owns both the winery and the distillery.

There is synergy in other groups too. Glemorangie is owned by LVMH and was one of the first whisky distilleries to introduce a complete range of different finishes including a premium Sauternes finish. No coincidence perhaps that LVMH are also the owners of Château d’Yquem. The residual sweetness of the Sauternes barrels – reminiscent perhaps of those sweet sherry barrels – imparts unique aromas and mouth feel to the whisky. On my last trip to Scotland last year I saw Sauternes barrels from Château Suduiraut used for the Sauternes finish at Tullibardine.

Glenfiddich cerons

The Chateau du Seuil Cerons finish limited edition Glenfiddich

It was a sweet Bordeaux finish that first took me to Glenfiddich. I was there to sample a Cerons cask-finished 20-year-old Glenfiddich in barrels of Chateau du Seuil. Glenfiddich continues to innovate; the latest addition to their experimental series is Winter Storm a whisky finished in Canadian ice wine casks. Again that residual sweetness.

winters-bottle-box

Winter Storm from Glenfidich: the love story between whisky and sweet wine barrels crosses the Atlantic.

Why not import the whisky to Bordeaux rather than export the barrels? Upon returning to Bordeaux, I found that this is exactly what Moon Harbour is doing, finishing whisky from Scotland in barrels from Château La Louviere while they wait for the first whisky from their new Bordeaux based still.

Moonharbour range

Moon Harbour – Scotch Whisky aged in Bordeaux – whilst they wait for the first drops from the Bordeaux stills to age.

Whisky is not the only spirit that uses old barrels; Rum enjoys the influences of used barrels too. I have already talked about the joint venture between London wine merchant Berry Brothers and Rudd and Medine in Mauritius. This week, at a rum tasting in Mauritius, I tasted the delicious new Sauternes finish rum at the Chamarel Rhumerie. See what I mean when I say Bordeaux barrels travel?

Chamarel Sauternes

A Sauternes finish for the Chamarel Rhum from Mauritius

And what goes around comes around. The Balvenie Caribbean cask whisky is finished in – you guessed it – rum casks.

Balvenie line up small

The Blavenie line up including the Caribbean Cask

Even after all this there may still be life left in an old cask or barrel; furniture, planters or barbeque fuel perhaps? From fire to fire. The life of a barrel can be a long and winding road.

barrel art glenfiddich small

Old casks have a second life in artwork by a Glenfiddich artist in residence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Château Sigalas Rabaud – a family tradition

The same names do tend to pop up again and again on my blog – I don’t apologise for having my favourites and Chateau Sigalas Rabaud is one of them.

Chateau Sigalals Rabaud

Chateau Sigalas Rabaud

It ticks a lot of boxes for me:

– sweet wines are, of course, part of my Bordeaux history,

– it is tiny (just 14 ha – the smallest of the 1er Crus) so defies the perception of Bordeaux vineyards all being enormous estates.

– despite being a 1st growth of Sauternes from the 1855 classification it is still family owned and has been for 7 generations

– it is run by a woman who is also the wine maker.
I rest my case.

Chateau Sigalas Rabaud is perched on a gentle southern slope of the ‘terrasse du Sauternais’ where all the top growths of Sauternes are situated. The gravel topsoil, deposited over a clay subsoil by the Garonne River 600,000 years ago, gives the best of both worlds; gravel for ripeness, clay for water supply.

Less than 500 metres to the North West of Château d’Yquem, it is closer to the Ciron, the small cold stream responsible for the autumn fog, the key to the development of the fungus Botrytis Cinerea. Its slope exposes the grapes to a light breeze, drying the botrytised grapes in October, encouraging both the noble rot and the subsequent concentration of the natural sugars for these great sweet wines.

Morning mists from the Ciron

Morning mists from the Ciron

Being a family property has its challenges but also its advantages; it implies a notion of stewardship; a respect for the terroir and the long view of leaving a living soil to future generations, preserving the biodiversity. Through observation, ploughing the soil and the use of pheromones to repulse some pests means the property has vastly reduced any pesticide use and eliminated the use of weed killers.

Sauternes - a time consuming process

Laure de Lambert Compeyrot checking on barrel aging Sauternes

The feminine side of the property runs through its history Rabaud was founded at the end of the 17th century and passed down as dowry through one of the daughters. In 1863, Henry de Sigalas acquired the Château and his only son sold the biggest part of the property (now Chateau Rabaud Promis) in 1903, keeping only the “jewel” of the terroir, that homogeneous southern slope that makes up the property today. Henry added his name to the property and it became Château Sigalas Rabaud. There’s nothing new about vanity vineyards!

La Marquise

La Marquise

In 1951, Château Sigalas Rabaud was taken over by Henry’s granddaughter, Marie-Antoinette de Sigalas, who was married to the Marquis de Lambert des Granges. Two generations later, in 2006, Laure de Lambert Compeyrot joined the estate as technical director. She succeeded her father as manager, the Marquis Gérard de Lambert des Granges, in 2013 buying her uncle’s shares, to become the major shareholder of the château, following in the footsteps of her grandmother, Marie-Antoinette de Sigalas, and bringing back a feminine signature to the estate.

Laure de Lambert Compeyrot

Laure de Lambert Compeyrot – elegance runs in the family.

Her two sons, who work in their own Bordeaux merchant house also, help out – the seventh generation of the family.

As well as Chateau Sigalas Rabaud Sauternes the property produces a second Sauternes, Le Lieutenant de Sigalas, and Laure is also one of the pioneers of the dry white revolution in Sauternes. Despite some resistance from the family she introduced La Demoiselle de Sigalas, the first dry white wine in the history of the property, named after the rather beautiful Marquise. As her confidence grew, Laure continued to innovate with the 100% dry Sémillon ‘La Semillante’.

The wines of Chateau Sigalas Rabaud

The wines of Chateau Sigalas Rabaud

This varietal is used in white blends throughout Bordeaux, dry as well as sweet although it is more often associated with sweet Bordeaux. It is rare to find a 100% dry Sémillon. It is quite different in style to the Sauvignon-led dry whites with more weight, a very floral nose when young and a potential for ageing.

See here for an interview with Laure and Jacques Lurton about the dry white wines of the property.

Often relegated to a dessert wine, Sweet Bordeaux wines are so much more versatile than we often give them credit for. Chateau Sigalas Rabaud, like many others in the sweet appellations, are turning their back on the heavier style of wine, crafting wines with a freshness and elegance that compliment so many foods.

Sweet wine doesn't have to be served with dessert

Sweet wine doesn’t have to be served with dessert

Or you could just sit back and enjoy a glass on it’s own – I know I do.

White on white

If you are a regular reader, you’ll know from previous posts I am a fan of Bordeaux dry white and in particular those from the terroir of Sauternes.
It takes beautifully ripe berries affected by noble rot to create the spectacular sweet  wines from the south West Bordeaux of the Bordeaux vineyards. Some wine growers pounce on this fruit before the treasured fungus attacks it, and make lovely aromatic dry whites from them.

Sémillon is the signature grape of the sweet white wines of Bordeaux, making up 80% of the blends on average complemented by Sauvignon Blanc and sometimes a little Muscadelle. Although this obviously varies from estate to estate and vintage to vintage.

Normally the dry whites invert the ratio and are dominated by Sauvignon, But not always.I have already mentioned La Semillante, the 100% dry Sémillon made by Laure de Lambert at Chateau Siglalas Rabaud in a previous post.

At the start of the 2015 harvest I interviewed her along with Jacques Lurton who, with his global experience of Sémillon, is acting as a consultant for the third year running on this wine.

The dry whites from Chateau Sigalas Rabaud with the 1er Cru Classé Sauternes

The dry whites from Chateau Sigalas Rabaud with the 1er Cru Classé Sauternes

Jacques owns and make the Islander Estate wines on Kangaroo Island in Australia, as well as in Bordeaux and the Loire. Jacques is part of the Lurton family, a Bordeaux wine dynasty. He studied and worked with Denis Dubourdieux, known as the ‘white wine pope’ of Bordeaux – having been at the forefront of innovation in white wine making for the last 20 years when these wines really started to shine.

The dry white harvest at Chateau Sigalas Rabaud

The dry white harvest at Chateau Sigalas Rabaud

You might enjoy the conversation between two of the new generation from old Bordeaux families about how they are facing some of the challenges. It’s a long video but I couldn’t bear to cut anything out; they talk about the Sauternes too of course. This is such a perfect example of the dynamism and openness that now characterises Bordeaux.

Click here to see the interview with Laure and Jacques. With many thanks to Graham Booker of Avalon Images. http://www.avalonimages.fr/

 

Take a walk on the white side.

The region of Graves, south of the city of Bordeaux, is considered the top terroir for the dry whites of Bordeaux. Here you will find the only classified whites of Bordeaux. The dry whites were classified along with the reds in 1953, revised and completed in 1959. Coming 100 years after the famous 1855 Medoc and Graves classification, it includes 16 properties but for a total of 22 wines (13 red and 9 dry whites – 6 properties do both – do the math!)

Carry on further south to the Sauternes and Barsac appellations and once again you are in classification country. When someone mentions the 1855 classification, we immediately think about the reds but at the time of this classification, the top dog was in a fact a Sauternes; Chateau d’Yquem was classified as the only 1er Cru Classé Supérieur, a step above even the Lafites and Latours of the time – those where the days!

Some of you will know I have a certain bias towards these wines but I feel it’s justified, as there are a total of 27 classified growths in Sauternes and Barsac, of which 10 are first growths.  For an appellation of only 2 200 ha compared to the Medoc (16500 for 60 classified growths), that’s quite an achievement.

Chateau d'Yquem, 1er Cru Supérieur

Chateau d’Yquem, 1er Cru Supérieur

But don’t ignore the dry whites produced in the Southern Graves. Many Sauternes and Barsac properties make delightful dry white wines, either from terroir that is not included in the sweet wine appellation or by choice, enjoying experimenting with the aromatic expression of their sauvignon and semillion before the famous botrytis attacks.

The white wines may only represent a small amount of Bordeaux production (8% for dry white and 3% for sweet) but they probably represent the product sector where some of the most dramatic increases in quality have been seen in Bordeaux in the last 20 years or so. Thanks to research at the faculty of oenology in Bordeaux University and the application of this research in the properties, there is marked difference in the style of the whites produced now compared to 60 years ago when white wine production made up over half of the wine production of the Bordeaux region.

The white wine of Chateau Latour Martillac aging on the lees

The white wine of Chateau Latour Martillac aging on the lees

Temperature control, cleanliness, skin contact, controlled use of SO2 and yeast selection as well as the judicious use of oak and aging on the lees have produced a new generation of crisp dry and elegant oak fermented white wines as well as the fabulous sweet wines including those from lesser known  appellation of Cérons as well as Sauternes and Barsac.

Time for an Apér'oCérons at Chateau de Cérons

Time for an Apér’oCérons at Chateau de Cérons

Talking of Cérons, book ahead to experience the ‘Apér’O Cérons’ at Château de Cérons. Following the visit of the château, cellar and vines and a tasting of their 3 wines you can call in at their little grocery store to stock up on local specialities such as foie gras, tapenades, bouchons de Bordeaux, etc. for an ‘apéro-picnic’ under the magnificent magnolias in the park around the château, followed perhaps by a walk along the river or a horse and carriage ride to neighbouring Château Myrat.

The Graves has a big advantage for visitors. As well as the range of wines; red, dry and sweet white, it also offers a range of prices points from Cru Classé to affordable. If you want to learn more about this area and its wines, it has now become much more accessible; the wine producers of the 3 appellations of Graves, Pessac-Leognan and Sauternes and Barsac have joined together to create an interactive web site to help you discover the region. ‘La Route des Vins de Bordeaux en Graves et Sauternes’  is unique as it has a daily update of properties are open to public for visits and tastings. You can also see which properties are happy for you to just drop in, as well as those that require an appointment.

Chateau Olivier, that dates back to the middle ages

Chateau Olivier dates back to the middle ages

Graves is considered the birthplace of the fine wines of Bordeaux, with some properties dating back to the middle ages. This cultural and historical heritage is also detailed on the website along with details of where to eat, from Michelin stars to local bistros, and where to stay from B & B S to 5-star luxury.

It’s a one-stop shop.You can plan your trip and reserve directly on-line. It also keeps you up to date and what’s happening and other attractions in the region.

Samedi Blanc

Samedi Blanc

This Saturday for example is the ‘Samedi Blanc’ an opportunity to visit 12 white-wine producing properties of the Pessac Leognan appellation in the Northern Graves. They are all open for tastings and visits as well as a giant picnic across several of the properties. You  can just turn up for the tastings but  book on line for the picnics on info@pessac-leognan.com or by phone : 05 56 00 21 90

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Golf and wine

Golf and fine wine have a couple of things in common, golf courses always seem to be in wonderful countryside – as do vineyards and many a golfer is partial to a nice glass of wine! Bordeaux has several world-class golf courses, all of which offer a day off from the tough routine of Château visits and wine tastings when you are touring the vineyards.

Le Golf du Pian in the south of the Medoc, is one of the most famous, and in 2010 was rated the third best golf course in France by the Rolex Guide and has a recently opened a 79 room hotel and spa between their two 18 hole courses. Nearby, tucked in behind Château Margaux on the banks of the Garonne, is Le Golf du Margaux and nearer the city the Golf Bordelais is the oldest golf club in the area.

Further afield towards Bergerac, not far from Saint Emilion, there is the beautiful Château des Vigiers with 2 18 hole courses around the beautiful Château known locally as the ‘Petit Versailles’ which is also a working vineyard.

However if you would like a unique wine and golf experience come to Sauternes for the weekend of 8-9th September when the whole of the appellations will be turned into a golf course.

Chateau d’Yquem, site of one of the holes of the weekend

Open for players at all levels a golf course will be set up at each of the eleven châteaux participating in the event. The 2 day programme will take players to each chateau and includes an opportunity to taste the top wines from the appellation including a gala dinner in the grounds of Chateau d’Yquem. Sign up at www.golfetgrandscrus.com

 

There’s more to Bordeaux than….

wine and history and culture….…. there’s also food.
Traditionally visitors to Bordeaux end up quacking after a few days with the Foie gras and Sauternes, Magret and Medoc or Confit de canard and Saint Emilion matches that are often served in local chateaux and bistros alike – and who can complain it’s all delicious but there is more to the local gastronomy than duck.
Think the famous ‘Agneau de Pauillac’, you can guess which wine is served with that, and the ‘Asperges de Blaye’ always delightful in spring with the dry white Sauvignon blanc based blends.
There is one product that seemed lacking and that is a local cheese. Renown Bordeaux cheesemonger Jean d’Alos has now come up with an new idea based an old tradition to remedy this. In the past, local shepherds would make a spring cheese from milking their goats kept in the Graves vineyards before herding them back to towards the Pyrenees for the summer. In the 15th century cellar under the town centre shop the cheesemongers from Jean d’Alos have renewed this tradition. Ageing hard goats milk cheeses named Tomme d’Aquitaine for at least 4 months and washing them twice a week with Sauternes to give them a unique fruity flavor.

The 15th century aging cellar under the town centre Jean d’Alos cheeseshop

And how about some fish, yes the Atlantic ocean is not far, giving a wonderful supply of shellfish, in particular oysters. However the famous Gironde estuary that influences the microclimate of the Medoc is also traditionally home to the Sturgeon. The wild Sturgeon was sadly over fished long ago but is now being introduced and a local company Sturia is now France’s leading caviar producer with sturgeon being farmed at 9 different sites producing 12 tonnes of caviar each year. The often forgotten flesh of the Sturgeon is also delicious and local Michelin star chef Philippe Etchebest from the beautiful l’Hostellerie de Plaisance in Saint Emilion is a big fan, often using it, as well as the caviar, in his recipes. He has now gone a step further creating a small range of products based on the sturgeon.

Tasting the Sturgeon pâté on the terrace of the Hostellerie de Plaisance.

There are 2 pâtés (my favourite is the slightly spicy one) and a marinated sturgeon with an Asian flavoured marinade and you don’t have to come to Saint Emilion to try them (although I do recommend it). Both are available on the web site and can be shipped, now all you have to do is decide which of Bordeaux 60 appellations matches best – bon appétit!

Vines on vacation

14th July, Bastille Day and it’s time for staff from the Bordeaux château to go on holiday before coming back to prepare for the upcoming harvest.
Touring the vineyards of Bordeaux this week with guests from Hong Kong, there are clear signs of an early harvest on its way. Throughout Bordeaux winemakers are estimating about 3 weeks advance on the usual season and château workers are taking their holidays earlier to be back before the end of August to prepare for a harvest which could start mid September for the reds.
Veraison is clearly on the way in some area see the photos of La Tour and La Mission Haut Brion, which is always ahead of the other vineyards of Bordeaux thanks to its location in the Bordeaux suburbs giving a warmer micro climate.

Veraison at Château Latour this week
Veraison at la Mission Haut Brion this week

An early season does not mean it has all been kindness however. Parts of the plateau of Sauternes were hit by a hailstorm late April.
The Plateau of Margaux was also hit by a hailstorm early June going right through the Rauzan section of the appellation causing considerable damage.
On the Margaux plateau some areas have suffered badly from the very dry and, in particular the very hot, conditions on the last weekend of June have given some of the grapes ‘sun burn’ and in some places, as below where the grapes are exposed to direct sunlight along the edges of plots, grapes have completely desiccated. Showing how important canopy management and leave stripping (or lack of it) is in these atypical vintages.

A touch of sun burn on grapes at Château Haut Bailly
after the hot weekend sun late June

Desiccated grapes on the vines of Château La Mission Haut Brion,
these vines on the edge of the parcel are in the direct sunshine where
they are not shaded by neighbouring vines.

It is a year where the relatively new techniques of optical selection and tribaie will be put to good use;
Rain in the last 24 hours, however light, was a welcome relief .The vine-workers might be looking forward to sun for their holidays as of this weekend but the vines would welcome some water. Looking at the weather forecast the vines might have to wait another few days.
Not all the château close for the holidays, more and more properties throughout the whole of the region remain open to visitors for the summer as wine tourism takes a firm hold in Bordeaux. I would recommend booking ahead however to avoid disappointment.
Happy holidays!

Three approaches to dry white wine production

Three visits in Pessac Leognan and Sauternes today to see the beginning of the dry white
The grapes arrive in the cellars of Château La Mission Haut Brion in a refrigerated truck.

Using dry ice to protect the crop during pressing at Château Guiraud for Le G de Guiraud

A little help picking the grapes at Château Sigalas Rabaud for the second vintage of the La Demoiselle de Sigalas dry white.

New wine for Château Sigalas Rabaud

Laure de Lambert is working closely with her father but this dynamic young winemaker is never the less slowly but surely making her influence felt at Sauternes 1er grand cru classé Château Sigalas Rabaud.
2009 will be the first vintage that this small ‘boutique ‘ Sauternes will make a dry white white wine, the production of which has become common practice amongst the top Sauternes and Barsac properties.
We tasted from the 4 barrels of this Semillion-Sauvignon blend and what a delightfully floral and complex wine.
Normally the dry white wines of the region take as their name the initial of the Sauternes premier vin, following in the footsteps of Y d’Yquem. However S and R are already taken what to do?
The name is to be confirmed but will probably be La Demoiselle de Sigalas after her very dynamic Grand mother – now we know who Laure takes after!

Laure de Lambert shares her new wine directly from the barrel

Sweet wine and Curry

The sweet wine producers of Bordeaux always tell us what a great match these wines, so often relegated to dessert, are for spicy and ‘exotic cuisine’.

Well I’m in the perfect location to find out; an Indian Buffet and yes there is a Sauternes on the wine list – and guess what? Château Sigalas Rabaud, what a well travelled wine – last seen in its 2002 version in Geneva, (see post on 3rd March). This time it’s a delicious 1995 and yes it does work but honestly I’m afraid to say it showed to its best advantage with the tropical fruit platter for dessert