Monthly Archives: October 2012

Power to the Fraternité de la Femme

Yet again I am indebted to my dear friend and colleague, Bordeaux expert and Champagne lover, Bordeaux Blonde, for passing my name on to the PR company organising a wonderful sampling lunch of Duval-Leroy Champagnes at The Greenhouse, Mayfair last week. I went in Wendy’s place and I truly hope that I did justice to the dishes (yummy) and particularly the champagnes (delicious) and now, here to her blog.

This was my third visit to The Greenhouse (number 25 in The Sunday Times’ Britain’s Top 100 Restaurants list, don’t you know?) and, without wanting to sound too swanky, they have always involved Champagne and some  Very Important Bods of the wine business. This occasion was no different and I was delighted to be sat next to Sandrine Logette-Jardin, Chef de Cave at Duval-Leroy, the only woman of this rank in Champagne.  I have met and tasted with Sandrine before and was charmed by her and her wines then, as now.

Her modesty is typically feminine; she credits Carol Duval-Leroy, her boss, for her success. Having spent all her working life at Duval-Leroy, straight from university and working her way up to take control of the wine-making, it is easy to see why she may think she owes Carol much. No doubt she does, but Carol, who learnt to become a businesswoman overnight when she was widowed very young  having to take sole charge, not only of her three young sons, but of a leading Champagne House would not, there is no question, have entrusted Sandrine with such a role if she wasn’t entirely sure she would come up trumps.

And she seriously does. Sandrine produces Champagnes of delicacy, attractiveness and classy commerciality. She makes wines which are firm, focussed and great matches with food; others that are herby, lean, complex and worthy of long-term keeping. There is a house style which runs through  the range from Brut NV to the Vintage Blanc de Blancs, from the Rosés to the pinnacle of the collection, Femme, and then there is Clos des Bouveries, something different; from a single vineyard, oak-aged, powerful, an intellectual wine, as Sandrine described it.

The Menu

Fleur de Champagne 1er Cru NV with Canapés – easy, fruity, fresh and appealing exactly what you want from an aperitif Champagne

Rosé Prestige 1er Cru with Wild Salmon, cucumber, coconut, wasabi and curry – a wonderful pairing. Rosés are not always easy to get right but this, made differently from most, certainly ticks the right boxes and worked beautifully with the dish. 90% Pinot Noir macerated for about 18 hours, Sandrine adds vinified Chardonnay at the end of the wine-making to lighten the colour, add a soft edge and to harmonise the wine.

Femme de Champagne 2000 Grand Cru with Cornish Crab, mint jelly, cauliflower, Granny Smith apple and curry. A classy Champagne this but not the best match with the dish. This is 90% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Noir with 25% vinified in oak barrels, so no surprise that the aromas were of apple, honey, toast, truffles. Wonderfully textured, very complete and harmonious, I kept mine in my glass to enjoy with the main dish.

Femme de Champagne

Clos des Bouveries 2005 Cuvée Oenoclimatique with Chicken, truffle, chestnut and squash. This Champagne with all its complexity, its linear quality, its earthy freshness and crispness would have, I think worked so much better with the previous course. It didn’t clash with the chicken however, but I enjoyed the Femme so much more with it. (Sandrine and Julien Duval-Leroy agreed)

Lady Rose NV with Raspberry, lychee, rose. A heavenly dessert with a fun, sweetish Rosé, both of which slipped down far too easily and all too quickly!

Lady Rose

How fitting to end with such a perfect match.

Serendipty, karma, good commercial management, call it what you will, Sandrine makes world-class wines and Carol runs (with her sons) a great business with international recognition. Long may the sisterhood run. (Did I mention that 45% of the staff are women?)

A guest post by Champagne Ambassador and Accredited Bordeaux Tutor Laura Clay.

Laura Clay






Is Barsac and Sauternes the perfect dry white terroir?

It would appear so judging by some recent releases.

White wines in Bordeaux remain the minority only 8% of the production in dry white and another 3% in sweet whites but it is one of the most dynamic areas technically with dramatic improvements in quality in recent years.  Many top properties from the Sauternes region produce dry whites either from specific terroirs within their vineyards or from younger vines. Being an innovative bunch they take the original name such as G de Guiraud, Y d’Yquem, S de Suduiraut, R de Rieussec – I think you get the picture !

A few are slightly more adventurous I have already mentioned “La Demoiselle de Sigalas” introduced by Laure de Lambert whilst she was running the family property, 1st growth Sigalas Rabaud. Now Chateau Coutet, First growth of Barsac has released the 2010 Opalie on to the US and UK markets. The name of this 50:50 Semillion, Sauvignon blend  underlines the minerality from the limestone and clay soil, enhanced by fermentation and aging in french oak.

The team from Domaine de Chevalier under Remi Edange are also producing a dry white from the Sauternes terroir. Being no stranger to Sauternes since their investment in 1st growth Chateau Guiraud  in 2006 along side Robert Peugot, Stephan de Neiperg and Xavier Planty, they also know a thing or two about great white wines! They produced their first Clos des Lunes dry white in 2011, 17 000 bottles of Lune d’Argent from 25 ha just behind Chateau Guiraud at Caplan. As befits a wine from the region it is 70% Semillion for 30% Sauvignon. 2012 will see two another labels from the property, a small production of Lune d’Or and a second wine La Lune Blanche.

Clos des Lunes, Lune d’argent, presented in a traditionnal heavy sloped shouldered Bordeaux Bottle

But let’s not forget the more traditional Graves terroir famous for the dry whites of Bordeaux. The Medieval Chateau la Brede is at the heart of the Graves, more famous for Montesquieu, it’s historical owner, than its wine – this could be about to change.  Dominique Haverlan from, Vieux Château Gaubert, has taken over the wine making on these recetly planted vines and the dry white 2011 vintage is now available, again presented in an old fashioned heavy bottle with sloping shoulders and featuring the signature of the illustrious previous owner.

Meeting of the clans

The Lurton family is a legend in Bordeaux, you can hardly turn a corner without happening upon another Lurton Vineyard! The family traces its origins back to Saint Emilion in 1650 although the heart of the dynasty started in the Entre de Mers in the 19th century at Chateau Bonnet in Grezillac. Currently owned and run by Andre Lurton, Chateau Bonnet one of Bordeaux’s largest properties at over 300ha under vines.
Between all the cousins the family today owns 1300 ha of vineyards in 27 different properties from Sauternes to the Medoc via Entre deux Mers and Saint Emilion, as well as more far flung estates in South America, Spain, Portugal and Australia! In 2009 they all joined forces using the family signature to promote their wines together throughout the world.

I visited Chateau Reynier, home to Marc Lurton, this week for the last day of the harvest. His wine has been selected for the house Claret at the RAC in London’s Saint James and it is here that the Lurton clan will be presenting their wines in London this December.

Marc Lurton presents his Chateau Reynier range

Another Bordeaux clan has also joined forces since 2009 to present their wines to the world. This time they are cousins by geographical proximity rather than blood. Corbin is an area in the North Western corner of Saint Emilion up against the neighbouring Pomerol. The soils are more reminiscent of Pomerol than the classic Clay and limestone we traditionally associate with Saint Emilion. A mixture of sand, clay and the famous iron oxide that gives those truffle aromas to older Pomerols, and perfect for these Merlot dominated wines.

The lay of the land at Corbin

Once upon a time there was just one Chateau Corbin which was divided into 6 different estates in the 20th century. A common trait in Bordeaux history (think Leoville and Pichon in the 19th century). The estates that now carry the family name are Chateau Corbin, Chateau Grand Corbin, Chateau Grand Corbin Despagne  Chateau Corbin Michotte,  Chateau Haut-Corbin, all Grand Cru Classes in the latest 2012 classification, and Grand Cru Grand Corbin Manuel.

The Corbin line up

It is not just about promoting the wines, they have employed a historian to get to the bottom of some of the myths surrounding these vineyards including the possible past ownership by the Black Prince and are working together planting hedgerows, training vineyard workers and analysing and draining the soils. Should you like to see this corner of Saint Emilion for yourself on the weekend they ensure that at least one of the Corbin properties will be open on Saturdays for visitors from May through October.

As soon as my back’s turned.

While I’ve been away Its been a busy month this September in Bordeaux, as if the start of the harvest was not enough to keep winemakers on their toes, some have been holding their breath waiting for the results of two new classifications.
Just a reminder that, as if 60 appellations was not enough diversity on offer in Bordeaux, history has added a couple more layers of complexity in the form of classifications. The historic 1855 classification of Medoc, Graves and Sauternes is unlikely to change anytime soon, nor the 1959 classification of the Graves, however both the Cru Bourgeois and Saint Emilion classifications were revised this September.

The Cru Bourgeois classification is up for revision every single year now since the 2008 vintage and this month saw the announcement of the classification of the 2010 vintage. Why 2010 now? Well this is the vintage coming to market, bottled in the spring or early summer after barrel aging the wine makers will be looking to ship these wines towards the end of the year so will need that classification for the new labels. The current head count is 260 Cru Bourgeois out of 300 applications over the 8 Medoc appellations. You can now find out more about your Cru Bourgeois by scanning the flash code on the new labels, which also act of a quality guarantee, or by entering the unique number on the label  on the Cru Bourgeois web site.

Saint Emilion also saw a new classification. In theory this is an event that happens every ten years since 1956. After the fiasco of 2006 when in the spirit of compromise the classification was adapted to ensure there were no losers only winners it was completely reassessed this year with a total of 82 Classified growths of which 18 are classified as 1st growths. The classification is open to all Grand Cru wines from Saint Emilion. (Unlike Burgundy Grand Cru in Saint Emilion is not a classification but an appellation). The classification has 3 levels; Grand Cru Classé, 1er Grand Cru Classée B and 1er Grand Cru Classée A. Since its creation there have only ever been 2 ‘A’s Ausone and Cheval Blanc, this year sees for the first time 2 more properties join this exclusive club; Angelus and Pavie. In another innovation Valandraut and La Mondotte have been parachuted directly from Grand Cru up to first growth without passing through the stage Cru Classe.

View over the vines of Saint Emilion

Interestingly enough all four of these properties tend towards a more modern style of wine: powerful and fruit driven – a sign of the times?

This changes the dynamics at the very top of the Bordeaux pile. Up until now we spoke of the Club of 9 the five 1sts from 1855 (Margaux, Latour, Lafite, Mouton and Haut Brion), the 2 ‘A’s from Saint Emilion, Petrus, and Yquem. Will there now be 11? We’ll see if the ‘new boys’ are invited to join the club.

Now that’s sorted – back to picking !