Tag Archives: Sweet Bordeaux

Women making Sense in Bordeaux

If you think women in the world of the wine world is something new and/or unusual, where have you been in recent years? You might be forgiven for thinking that in such a traditional bastion of wine as Bordeaux, women in the vineyards and cellars might be more unusual that in other regions  – think again. Historically, there have always been influential women on the Bordeaux wine scene, as well as many others working behind the scenes.

Some of Bordeaux’s leading vineyards are still going strong today thanks to the historical role of women. Jean de Bellon was the first owner of Chateau Haut Brion in the 16th century and it’s not only Champagne that has famous widows. As a young widow, Françoise Josephine de Sauvage d’Yquem was thrown into prison twice during the French revolution but she continued to make Château d’Yquem prosper. The Comtesse de Bournazel successfully took over the reigns of the family Chateau de Malle in Sauternes on the death of her husband, before handing it over to her son. Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande is named after another Comtesse responsible for its success.

Properties may be handed down from fathers to daughters who continue to grow the family estates. Famously Baroness Philippine Rothschild continued and expanded her father’s work at Mouton Rothschild, Corinne Mentzelopoulos owns and runs Chateau Margaux with her daughter. More recently, Siaska Rothschild took over running Château Lafite from her father Baron Eric, and Stephanie de Bouard-Rivoal is now in charge of Chateau Angelus alongside her cousin Thierry Grenié,with Emmanuelle Fulchi their cellar master. There is nothing new about feminine power in Bordeaux wine.

Not so long ago it was unusual to see a woman working in the cellars – with an older generation of male wine makers talking about women ‘turning’ the wine – and that is still in living memory. Women are now making the wines as well as owning, running and marketing them. A few that come to mind, and not only in the top growths, are Marjolaine de Cornack at Chateau Marquis d’Alesme, Maylis De Laborderie at Chateau La Lagune, (both working with female owners), Paz Espejo at Château Lanessan and Caroline Artaud at Château Forcas Hostens. Some women are carrying on from the parents in a family vineyard, such as Estelle Roumage at Chateau Lestrille, Armelle Falcy Cruse at Château du Taillan, and I could go on.

I organized my first Women in Wine Tour in Bordeaux back in  2007, so again nothing new here, but these women, and many more, came back on my radar thanks to the recent visit here in Bordeaux of the American association Women for Wine sense (WWS). Created in 1990 by two leading Californian women in wine, Michaela Rodeno and Julie Johnson, WWS aims to increase knowledge about wine through education as a counterweight to the anti-alcohol lobby. Their premise is a better understanding of wine leads to more responsible consumption. The success of this organisation has been phenomenal; they now have a network of 10 chapters and growing throughout the US and a charitable arm that sponsors wine education for women in the industry.

I have run several Bordeaux seminars for WWS members in the US over the last year but this was their first trip to Bordeaux. With Decanter Tours it seemed only natural to concentrate on vineyards with a feminine signature, choosing properties for them to visit that were owned by, managed by or where women made the wine. I’m aware it’s sexist – but it was great fun!

We were spoilt for choice with just three days we only scratched the surface. Following their tour, I wanted to use this post to profile some of the leading women in Bordeaux but as I started looking at the long list I realised that it would take a book rather than a blog post to do them justice, so I’ll just concentrate on the women that offered us such a warm welcome and amazing hospitality during our tour.

Margaux has traditionally been considered the most feminine of all the Medoc appellations, thanks to its signature sumptuousness and velvety tannins, so it seemed like the perfect place to start. Chateau Margaux is known as the most feminine of all the 1st growths by its style as well as being owned and run by Corinne and Alexandra Mentzelopoulos. The harvest had just started when we were there, with a man at the helm; Philippe Bascules splits his wine making between Bordeaux and Napa – and was very excited about explaining  the complementarity of making wines both sides of the Atlantic – he is a very busy man!

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With Philippe Bascaules wine maker at Chateau Margaux above the new Pavillon Blanc cellars.

Further north, Lilian and Melanie Barton Sartorius, another mother and daughter team, are working together. As Lilian takes on more and more responsibility at the family vineyards, Leoville and Langoa Barton, her daughter Melanie, the eighth generation of the Bartons in Bordeaux and the first qualified oenologist of the family, has taken over the wine making at their new vineyard Mauvesin Barton in Moulis, purchased in 2011.

Lilian and Melanie at Mauvesin

Lilian and Melanie Barton-Sartorius at Chateau Mauvesin

We also met the latest member of the family, Oona, the Parson Russell terrier puppy, who completely stole the limelight!

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The newest member of the Barton family

Pascale Peyronie welcomed us to her family property Chateau Fonbadet in Pauillac. After working alongside her father for 20 years, she has stepped into his shoes to run the vineyard. Her vines are on some of the best and priciest gravel terroir in Pauillac, smack in the middle of the famous names of Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Chateau Latour, Chateau Lynch Bages, Chateau Pichon Baron and Longueville Comtesse. You can imagine that she has received some interesting offers for her vines, but she continues to produce Chateau Fonbadet as an independent Cru Bourgeois rather than succumbing to the temptation of an easier life, although she did exchange three ha of vines with Mouton Rothschild to re-organise the vineyard. When she showed us around, her 92-year-old father was still on hand to meet the ladies and help serve the wine.

Fonbadet barrel

Is it a characteristic for women to work more closely together? We had several examples of collaboration between neighbouring women in wine which make me think that perhaps it is.

Four properties in Margaux owned and/or managed by women have grouped together to welcome visitors into their chateaux. Well aware that chateau visits can be repetitive (vines, cellars, barrels, tasting, repeat), Lise Latrille of Château Prieuré Lichine, Nathalie Schyler of Chateau Kirwan, Marie Laure Lurton of La Tour Bessanand Anne-Francoise Quié of Chateau Rauzan Gassies have grouped together to create a ‘Une Journée Gourmande à Margaux’. These dynamic women explained this project to us over lunch in the beautiful kitchens of Chateau Prieuré Lichine.

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Ladies who lunch at Chateau Prieuré Lichine

Their idea was to create a tour where each visit concentrates on a different part of the wine process.  The tour starts at Château Prieuré-Lichine, with a history of the Medoc while sipping on their white wine (yes there are some rare white wines in the Medoc even though they don’t carry the name). Then at Chateau Rauzan Gassies they explore the importance of terroir, tasting the wines from the three vineyards owned by the Quié family. Lunch at Chateau Kirwanis the opportunity to taste the wines from all four vineyards paired with regional dishes before a visit to Château La Tour Bessan to try your hand at blending, tasting your results alongside local chocolates – there’s a reason this is called a ‘Gourmande’ tour.

Margaux gourmand girls

Nathalie Schyler of Chateau Kirwan, Lise Latrille of Château Prieure Lichine and Marie-Laure Lurton of Château La Tour Bessan.

Margaux gourmande

Women do seem to be very open to developing wine tourism. I was recently asked to cover leading women winners of best of Wine Tourism awards reinforcing this impression. Chatting with Florence Cathiard at Château Smith Haut Lafite, one of the pioneers of wine tourism in the region, it was interesting to compare the European and the American approach to wine tourism. The chateau with its open door policy, new land art exhibition alongside the more traditional visits, as well as the phenomenal success her daughters have had, both with The Sources de Caudalie resort and the Caudalie cosmetics is a case study for successful wine tourism.

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Talking wine tourism with Florence Cathiard at Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte

We had another experience of collaboration with the women of sweet Bordeaux. A picnic lunch in the park of Chateau de Ceronswith Caroline Peyromat and her neighbour Nicola Alison from Chateau du Seuil, was the ideal way to discover the characteristics of the tiny Cerons appellation but also to share their red and white wines from the Graves appellation.

Then on to Sauternes and Barsac for a progressive dinner, the idea was to show just how food friendly the sweet wines of Bordeaux really are. After a visit and tasting at Chateau Yquem with cellar Master Sandrine Garbay, and a look at the new in-chateau boutique, we headed down the hill to the terrace of Château Sigalas Rabaud. Here, with tapas, we tasted the range of wines made by owner wine maker Laure de Lambert including her 100% dry Sémilion (La Semillante) and a Sweet Bordeaux made with no Sulphur le 5 – quite a technical challenge.

Mout at Sigalas

Tasting the semillon juice at Chateau Sigalas Rabaud before fermentation

Then on to Barsac, to first growth Château Climensfor the main course served with three vintages from the property, after discovering where owner wine maker Berenice Lurton dries and prepares the herbs she uses in her biodynamic preparations.

Climens Tissanerie

La Tisanerie at Château Climens in Barsac

Climens sunset

Climens 3 vintages

And of course dessert served at neighbour Château Coutet by Aline Baily, and we all slept soundly on the coach all the way home!

Coutet Chapel

The chapel at Château Coutet

Coutet with desert

We found this same spirit of cooperation in Pomerol. The neighbours came over to lunch organised by Monique Bailly at the new Ronan by Client winery of Château Client. Hosted by Nathalie Bez, we were joined by Maireille Cazaux Director and wine maker at Chateau La Conseillante and Diana Berrouet Garcia Wine maker at Chateau Petit Village.Tasting their wines side by side, although they are so close, showed just how important the notion of terroir can be even in as small an appellation as Pomerol.

Pomerol bottles

Tasting with the neighbors in Pomerol

Cellar master Emmanuel Fulchi hosted us at Chateau Angelus, taking us into the vineyard to get to grips with the terroir in their two properties, Chateau Angelus and Chateau Bellevue. Walking amongst the almost ripe grapes, we could understand the subtle differences of terroir up and down the south facing foothills of the limestone slopes of Saint Emilion.

Emmanuelle Fulchi

Emmanuelle Fulchi explains the Saint Emilion terroir at Château Angelus

The tasting was a master class in right bank Merlot. Bellevue is 100% Merlot and Angelus a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Recently returned from a Merlot seminar in the US, Emmanuel shared her surprise at the reputation Merlot suffers from in the States. The tasting firmly dispelled any questions hanging over the great potential of Merlot on the right bank.

Belleve:angelus

The Women for Wine Sense visit was both an opportunity to shine a light on the women in Bordeaux but also to dispel a few Bordeaux myths. They are planning to return, so it’s back to the drawing board to see which other Bordeaux Women in Wine we can visit on their next trip – we will be spoilt for choice.

 

The Sweet Spot.

The sweet wines of Bordeaux are too often overlooked. They were at the height of their fame and success in the 19th century, whereas now they are too often relegated to a dessert wine after dinner, when everyone is already replete, or as an optional add-on to a Bordeaux wine tour.

The wines have an undeserved reputation for being expensive. They are certainly costly, and difficult, to produce. Low yields, labour intensive, risky harvests, but they are rarely expensive to buy, certainly not compared to many Bordeaux reds. Sweet Bordeaux wines merit a closer look. Do get yourself to Sauternes, it has never been easier or more exciting. Add an extra day (or two) on your next Bordeaux wine tour – it’s nearer than Pauillac and no further than Saint Emilion and every wine tourist finds time to go there.

When I say Sauternes, I really mean Sweet Bordeaux. Did you know there are 15 different appellations in Bordeaux where sweet wines can be made? Some are really tiny and don’t make sweet wine every year. The first person to list them all in the comments below will receive a signed copy of my new book ‘The Drinking Woman’s Diet’.

So what is so exciting? First the wines themselves: wine makers are producing sweet Bordeaux wines that are brighter, lighter and perfectly adapted to so many drinking opportunities, from aperitif, to fish, from roast chicken to blue cheese. Try them with spicy food and there are always the classic matches of foie gras and dessert – but be bold, don’t limit yourselves to the classics. The producers don’t – they will show you the way. The doors of Sauternes chateaux are now thrown wide open for amateurs and enthusiasts alike to sample the wines alongside all sorts of food options.

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Sweet Bordeaux and fish? be more adventurous

The area is beautiful. The rolling hills of the Sauternes plateau, the vines of Barsac along the Garonne and the limestone slopes of Saint Croix du Mont, Cadillac and Loupiac on the right bank are often swathed in the legendary early morning mists, responsible for the noble rot and adding to the romantic atmosphere. In amongst all this there is a wealth of wonderful architecture, witness to the historic and prosperous past of the region and the success of these fine wines.

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The beautiful morning mists of Sauternes

One such gem is Château Lafaurie Peyraguey, a 1er Grand Classé (a first growth) in the heart of Sauternes – just down the slope from Château d’Yquem (always the reference).

Dating back to the 13th century, this proud, fortress-like construction has always been an iconic part of the diverse architecture of the appellation. Renovations were under taken by the previous owners but under the new ownership of Sylvio Denz it is really enjoying a renaissance, with the opening in June of the Lalique Hotel as a 400th birthday present to the estate.

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Château Lafaurie Peyraguey, now the home of the Lalique Hotel

Denz is no stranger to wine; he owns a wine auction house in his native Switzerland, vineyards in Spain and Italy and Château Péby Faugères and Château Faugères in Saint Emilion and Château Cap de Faugères in Castillon-Côtes de Bordeaux. Lalique is no stranger to wine either. Rene Lalique was from the town of Ay in Champagne, (a Lalique discovery trail opened there this spring). He designed a collection of Yquem carafes and glasses in 1934, and a Barsac collection in 1939.

This is the third Lalique hotel, La Villa René Lalique opened in 2015 (a Relais & Châteaux 5 star hotel and 2 star restaurant) and Château Hochberg in 2016, both in Alsace where the crystal is made.

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Make yourself comfortable at The Lalique Hotel

The decor at The Hotel Lalique in Sauternes is amazing, there is Lalique crystal everywhere; the door handles, the arm rests of chairs and sofas, crystal panels of the signature grape motif inlaid into the furniture, crystal vine leaf light fittings and chandeliers and vases and other objets d’art scattered around the rooms and check out the taps. It’s like a permanent crystal treasure hunt.

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The crystal treasure hunt

A modern extension (glass of course) houses the restaurant; the ceiling is decorated with gold crystal Semillon leaves. More Lalique pieces grace the tables, including perfect replicas of the salt and pepper mills co-created by René Lalique and Peugeot in 1924.

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Some of the beautiful crystal ‘objets-d’arts’ are for sale in the boutique alongside the wines of the property

It takes quite a chef to compete with all this and Jérôme Schilling, the former executive chef of Villa René Lalique, (two Michelin stars) rises to the challenge with a menu that plays with different ways of using Sauternes in preparing the food as well as serving it. In his opinion ‘Sweet wine brings other foods into the realm of haute cuisine’. I’ll drink to that.

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The restaurant with its views over Sauternes

Lalique at Lafaurie Peyraguey is set to be an excellent showcase for Sauternes, if you were waiting for an excuse to get down there this is it.

Sauternes is not a one-stop shop; there are plenty of other things that merit the trip.

When you are sitting at your table in the Lalique restaurant you look straight across the vines to neighbouring Château Sigalas Rabaud, another 1855 1st growth. You can’t miss the bright red parasols on the sunny terrace. I’ve mentioned Sigalas Rabaud before, due to the dynamism of owner-wine maker Laure de Lambert Compeyrot. Since taking over the family property in 2006, she has added two dry white wines to their portfolio, including a 100% dry Sémillon, and a ‘natural’ sweet wine (i.e. without sulphur). Called Le 5 It is a typical example of a move in the region toward brighter, lighter wines. She is just as dynamic in wine tourism, she has opened the doors of the traditional one storey Chartreuse, where you can happily spend an afternoon sipping her wines on the terrace: Sauternes – the perfect siesta wine.

 

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The Terrace of Château Sigalas Rabaud

The most spectacular Chartreuse in the sweet wine region of Bordeaux is Château de Cérons, taking its name from the appellation with one of the smallest productions in Bordeaux.

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Chateau de Cerons

Château de Cérons is a listed historic monument, built in the early 17th century on a gravel terrace overlooking the Garonne River.

Xavier and Caroline Perromat, who took over the family estate in 2012, will make you feel at home under the trees in their park overlooking the beautiful 12th century church. Settle in to enjoy a picnic with a by the glass selection of the dry white and red Graves that the property produces, their rosé and of course their flagship sweet Cérons.

If you want a more substantial lunch, Chateau Guiraud back in Sauternes has also recently opened a restaurant, La Chapelle, in the beautiful old chapel in the grounds next to the Château. 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.

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La Chapelle de Château Guiraud

 

It’s not all about food and wine in Sauternes, you can also just hang out, literally. Château Rayne Vigneau, another 1st growth, sits right at the top of the plateau of Sauternes, considered by many locals to be some of the best terroir in the region. Their hillsides of vines run down from the fairy-tale chateau – still lived in by the previous owner of the vineyard – with views across the Ciron valley.

To get a better viewpoint, don a harness and hoist yourself up a 200-year-old Cedar tree, here you can sip your wine seated at a suspended table high above the vines. Or get up close and personal with the terroir on a horse back tour through the different soils that make up this beautiful region. Returning to the chateau, you can blend wines from the individual grape varieties to create your very own blend of Sauternes.

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Hanging out at Château Rayne Vigneau

Barsac and Sauternes are often said in the same breath. Barsac is one of the five villages that makeup the appellation, but the only one that has the choice to put its name on the wine labels. When you come you really should visit Barsac too. It is lower than the Sauternes plateau, closer to the Garonne, on a soil dominated by limestone with a thin layer of red, iron dominated clay and sand giving wines a lovely freshness – a trend towards which most sweet wine producers are now working. There are two first growths in Barsac: Chateau Climens and Château Coutet. Visit them both.

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La Tisanerie at Château Climens. Photo credit @ F. Nivelle

Château Climens is owned and run by Berenice Lurton and she is passionate about Biodynamics. A visit to Climens will allow you to discover the wines but also get an understanding of biodynamics with a visit to her ’tisanerie’, a special plant and herb drying room dedicated to biodynamic preparations. Climens was one of the Bordeaux vineyards that produced no wine at all in 2017 due to the terrible frost early in the season.

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Château Coutet

Nearby Château Coutet is also a must see. It is an impressive 13th century fortress with its own chapel and the cellars are in what used to be the stables of the Lur Saluces family, then owners of Château d’Yquem. The Baly family now owns and runs the property and they offer a warm welcome. What I really enjoyed was a unique way of understanding the aromatic complexity of these wines. With a local jam maker, owner Aline Baly has created a range of grape preserves from the emblematic grapes of the region, one from Sauvignon grapes, one from Muscadelle and one from Sémillon. There is also one made from Sémillon affected by botrytis, which really educates the palate as to how the complexity of these great sweet wines develops. Tasting each of these is a great introduction to how the different elements come together to make these special wines.

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Discover the flavours of Barsac

One day is just not long enough to discover everything there is on offer. It is a good job there is a new hotel here If you wait a while, you will be able to enjoy more Sauternes hospitality at Château d’Arche. This Classified Growth has operated a hotel in the 17th century château since before I arrived in town. Now everything is getting an upgrade. The cellars first, they are investing over three million euros in an eco friendly winery, with a vegetal roof and wooden architecture to blend in with the surrounding area. This will also give them room to welcome visitors with an emphasis on discovering the unique viticulture needed to create a great sweet wine. The hotel will also be renovated with and there are rumours of a high-end spa. A little relaxation after all this activity? Watch this space.

 

 

 

 

 

Sauternes No 5

Chanel might own two vineyards in Bordeaux, Château Rauzan Segla in Margaux and Château Canon in Saint Emilion, but it is in Sauternes that you can find a wine called No 5. Those following me will know that Sauternes was my first love in Bordeaux – in so many ways. These Sweet Bordeaux wines may have an international reputation for excellence but that doesn’t mean they are always an easy sell. Why not? One reason is an image of being wines reserved for ‘special occasions’, as being expensive, and of not knowing exactly when and with what to serve them. Producers are trying very hard to make this easier for consumers.

No 5 from Château Sigalas Rabaud

No 5 from Château Sigalas Rabaud

I’ve written about Laure de Lambert before, since taking over the family vineyard Château Sigalas Rabaud just over ten years ago, she has become a poster child for innovation in the appellation, it would see she is gaining momentum!
When she took over the property in 2006 this First growth of the 1855 Classification produced two wines, the ‘Grand vin’ Château Sigalas Rabaud and a second wine ‘Le Lieutenant de Sigalas’ AOC Sauternes – so far so classic.

On trend, she then introduced a dry white wine Le Demoiselle de Sigalas, a Semillon/ Sauvignon Blanc blend, since the terroir of Sauternes has become renowned for the quality of its dry whites. La Semillante was introduced to the range in 2013, having the unique signature of 100% dry Semillon and, although a small production, has already gained a reputation for its elegance.

Behind the scenes, Laure continued to experiment with sweet white production, looking to perfect the quality, year on year, but also to respond to a demand for an ‘easier drinking’ sweet Bordeaux.

The question she asked herself was how to make a ‘natural sweet wine’. Natural? To ensure the right balance between alcohol and sweetness wine makers typically introduce sulphur to arrest fermentation when they feel enough natural sugar in the must has been transformed through fermentation into alcohol, leaving the residual sugar that gives the characteristic botrytised sweetness to the wines. The use of sulphur also protects the wine against oxidation and ensures that there is no refermentation of the residual sugar.

A natural wine (i.e. without sulphur) means this fermentation will stop naturally, when it find its own equilibrium rather than being dictated by the wine maker. This means that the selection of a precise ripeness (sugar levels) of the berries is all-important. The wine still requires protection against oxygen to preserve the elegant fruit and flower aromas from the berries and the fresh acidity, which is such a perfect foil for the sweetness, but without the use of sulphur.

To pull this off, vigilance is needed from grape picking, during fermentation and right up to the point of bottling. Investment in cooling equipment insures this signature freshness is preserved and it is reinforced by a very slight sparkle. It’s taken Laure and her team a lot of time, trials and errors, and a lot of friends over for tastings, to create a wine they are happy with. The 2016 vintage sees the launch of the fifth wine produced by the family, what better name than No 5, especially as I find that Laure has more than a passing resemblance to Audrey Tatou in the film Coco.

At 12.5% alcohol it is below the level of a classic Sauternes and with just 60g of residual sugar per litre (about half the sugar levels of the grand vin) it is labelled under the Bordeaux Supérieur Appellation rather than Sauternes: light, bright, sweet and affordable. The perfect tipple for happy hour.

 

 

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.

Hong Kong or Frong Kong

I’ve just returned from two weeks teaching and tasting in Hong Kong. It’s always a pleasure, such an exciting place to visit. This year what struck me was how French Hong Kong has become. It could be because I spent my time talking about Bordeaux but hearing French being spoken in the street seems to be more commonplace.

According to a recent blog post on the WSJ Hong Kong might be heading that way.

Up to 20,000 French citizens currently live in Hong Kong, a 5% growth rate over the past five years; this is the strongest growth rate among any expatriate population, according to the Hong Kong government. What’s the attraction? Well, the ease of setting up and doing business for a start.

Unsurprisingly, a lot of them seem to working in the wine and food sector, with many opening French restaurants. Yes, the big names are here and this month’s announcement of new Michelin stars for the city included a few French names including Serge et le Phoque, who received their first Michelin star

Other favourites are Upper Modern Bistro managed by Jeremy Evrard and Cocotte  in NoHo central, owned and run by Brice Moldovan. Joël Robuchon is in town with his stars but also cafés and patisseries. French baking seems to be in vogue with the successful French baker, Kaiser,  the place to go for your morning croissants and baguettes. Kaiser opened his first shop in Dec 2012 and now has 4 throughout the city. Agnes B has branched out from couture opening a series of cafes with one in Gough street including a beautiful flower shop, just across the road from the Caudalie shop and spa. Food and wine is a national sport in Hong Kong and France with its gastronomic image is surfing the wave as are Bordeaux wines.

Party time at Hong Kong Wine and Dine

Party time at Hong Kong Wine and Dine

If you needed confirmation about the Hong Kong passion for food and wine, you need look no further than the Hong Kong Wine and Dine Festival; one of my reasons for visiting. This was the 7th annual edition and Bordeaux has been the leading partner from the start, exporting the ‘Bordeaux Fête le Vin concept as they have done in Quebec.

Almost 150 000 people visited, of whom 2700 came by the Ecole du Vin de Bordeaux stand to participate in one of our classes. But Bordeaux wine education in Hong Kong is not limited to one weekend. The Ecole du Vin de Bordeaux currently has 14 accredited Wine educators in Hong Kong alone and 5 accredited schools. In 2014 they taught over 4500 people between them.

The Students from IVE discovering Bordeaux wines.

The Students from IVE discovering Bordeaux wines.

And the future looks bright; there was a party atmosphere at the festival with young people very much the target audience. They are interested in wine, consuming but also understanding. This was confirmed when teaching a series of Bordeaux, Médoc and Graves Master classes at the IVE Hotel school I was impressed with the quality and enthusiasm of students.

Sweet wine and food matching - it doesn't have to be dessert!

Sweet wine and food matching – it doesn’t have to be dessert!

The International Culinary Institue at Pok Fu Lam showed the skills of the future generation with a food and wine matching dinner designed specifically to showcase a range of Sweet Wines of Bordeaux.

The students and staff of the Culinary institute match up with Sweet Bordeaux producers.

The students and staff of the Culinary institute match up with Sweet Bordeaux producers.

 Hong-Kong remains an important market for Bordeaux wines, it is the 7th largest market volume wise  but the 2nd in value (after China and on a par with the UK) with over 11 million bottles shipped there for a value of 214 million euros last year. Even enthusiastic French expats can’t be responsible for all that consumption!