Monthly Archives: February 2013

When to visit – what’s on and when in Bordeaux this year.

We are already well into the second month of the year, as memories of the year end’s festivities fade it’s time to think about – holidays. Perhaps this year a visit to Bordeaux?

Bordeaux by night

When to come? Well the wine calendar is getting busier each year with events for both the general public and the trade, there are times to avoid and times to visit. So here’s a run down of some of things you can look forward to if you’re planning to visit Bordeaux in 2013.

Anyone who still thinks that Bordeaux châteaux operate a closed door policy to visitors obviously hasn’t been paying attention lately. All the regions (appellations) organise open door weekends and the first in 2013 is the Medoc on the 23/24th march

April will be manic with the presentation of the 2012 vintage organised by the Union des Grand Crus to the trade and press from 8-12th. Unless you are a member of the trade with a professional invite I highly recommend you avoid visiting Bordeaux during this week as it’s a bit of a zoo properties being very busy with their trade guests. However Bordeaux city will be full and the weather is just starting to be spring like.

However if you come a month later the highlight will be Weekend des Grands Crus on 17/19 May. This will be the 8th edition with over 100 Grands Crus presenting their 2010 (current release) vintage for tasting under one roof open to one and all and the are chateaux open for visits and gala tasting dinners. A much more gentle experience for the taste buds than the barrel samples on offer earlier in April.

Barrels ready for tasting

Back in April from 13-14th is the 19th Edition of the Blaye Spring Festival and the open door weekend Lalande de Pomerol is at the end of the month 27/28th. These lesser-known appellations are well worth the visit, and are an answer to the critics that insist that good Bordeaux wines are always expensive.

In May things start picking up speed with open door weekends in Saint Emilion 4/5th , the Côtes de Bourg 11/12thand Cadillac on 18/19th.

Saint Emilion

The important dates in June are Vinexpo from 16-20th, the trade fair that takes over the city and the vineyards every other year. Again, unless you part of the trade, again I strongly suggest avoiding these dates as all the growers are manic looking after the movers and shakers that are making, or trying to make, the market. However it is, by far, the best shop window for the worldwide wine and spirits industry.

photo Frédéric Demesure / Yann Kerveno

If you do decide to come try and get there a day early you can join the Spring Jurade de Saint Emilion on the 15th June.

Fancy a more active Bordeaux break? Come and get fit with wine! You can intersperse your wine tasting with a little physical activity if you choose your dates carefully. The Blaye Marathon is on the 11th May this year or you can discover the beautiful hillsides of this appellations by Mountain biking a week later on the 19th, choose from one of 3 circuits depending upon your level of expertise.

On the other bank of the Garonne the Médocaine VTT is a cycle race through some of the most famous vineyards of Margaux, Haut-Médoc, Moulis and Listrac, on Saturday 25th May 2013 almost 7000 cyclists will leave Arsac in the morning and of course it all ends in a big party. The atmosphere is reminiscent of the Marathon du Medoc  a little further north up the peninsula which will be held on the 7th September this year. If you need to get into shape before the big event you could join in The Sauternes Marathon on the 2nd June. On the last weekend of May or first weekend of June you can combine wine and wellbeing with one of the Yoga and wine weekends.

More of a spectator than participator?  From 24th May – 2nd June the whole of the Bordeaux riverfront, and the river itself, will celebrate the River Festival finishing with the start of the 44th edition of the Solitaire du Figaro race on the 1stJune.

A spot of music with your wine?  The Saint Emilion jazz festival will see it’s second edition this year from 18-21st and then the Jazz and Wine itinerant festival will be working it’s way through the region again this summer stopping in the Cotes du Bourg on the 3rd August.

Jazz in Saint Emilion

All that should give you food for thought for the spring and summer – I’ll be back with more ideas for the autumn nearer the time.



More Rock and Roll

Sometime ago I wrote a blog post about Rock and Roll and wine It’s only rock and roll but I’ll drink it . Celebrity wines have been in the news again recently with the announcement that the wines from Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s  Château Miraval in the Côtes de Provence will henceforth by made by the Perrin family of Beaucastel fame.

The new rosé presentation

The property currently produces a rosé called Pink Floyd. So called because a previous owner, Jacques Loussier, installed a recording studio in the Chateau where Pink Floyd recorded part of their album The Wall, so this is a property used to the celebrity spot light.

and the old.

The Perrin wine making skills will perhaps add a little gravitas to a property whose wines could perhaps not be taken seriously giving all the Hollywood glamour surrounding the owners which given the quality of the terroir and the organic credentials of the estate has to be a good thing.

Whilst we’re on a rock and roll theme, and talking about not taking wine seriously, has anyone tasted wines from Wines that Rock, vinified by the  Mendocino Wine Company in California? The reviews look good and I’d love to know if the wines taste as good as the music they portray.

From 40 Licks to the Dark side of the Moon, bottles from Wine that Rocks.




Cabernet Franc from Cheval Blanc


It’s not every day you taste 100% Cabernet Franc. It’s not every day you taste 100% Cabernet Franc from three different soil types. Nor is it every day you do exactly the same with Merlot and with the wines coming from the Premier Grand Cru Classé A St Emilion, Château Cheval Blanc. It is in fact so out of the ordinary that it has actually never before been done outside of the château or by anyone other than the technical team, yet here was Pierre-Olivier Clouet, the château’s Technical Manager since 2008, presenting plot samples alongside finished wines to 75 of the great and the good (and me!) of the wine world’s MWs, student MWs, educators, journalists, importers and merchants.

This new openness is refreshing. Pierre-Olivier explained vineyard and vinification decisions which lead to Cheval Blanc being one of the greatest wines in the world, then gave us the evidence to prove it, without any PR patter, prices or bumptiousness. His down-to-earth, clear and hugely informative presentation was a welcome relief from the usual hype.

Cabernet Franc samples ready for tasting

Initially we tasted 2012 samples – raw components, or ingredients, of the new wine to be blended, crafted, created at the end of the month. What a privilege to be able to make our very own 2012 albeit with just a fraction of the 44 plot samples the winemaking team will have at their disposal. As soil, (Pierre-Olivier tried very hard, and failed only once, not to use the word terroir) makes such a huge impact on the flavours, the grape variety being an expression of its soil, each plot in the 39 hectares Cheval Blanc farms, is vinified separately. Once fermented, and pre-ageing, the wines are tasted blind. No matter where the grapes originate – whether from the lesser sandy soils or those generally offering more complexity from the gravelly plots or the concentrated more structured grapes from clay soils – whichever are deemed the best in that year will fulfil their rightful destiny and make it into the Grand Vin, otherwise they will find their way into the second wine, Le Petit Cheval or even into the third wine. In this new spirit of glasnost, not only did we taste an expressive, concentrated, fine sample of Cabernet Franc 2012 from a clay soil plot but also one from sandy soils where the wine was not of sufficient quality, showing too many green pepper notes and with unripe tannins. Its final fate will be a less glamorous one.

I would not be inclined to argue with Pierre-Olivier having tasted the 2001 sample of Cabernet Franc, blended from the various plots which went into the Grand Vin, that in his opinion it is ‘the best variety in the world’. It and Merlot are the only two grapes used in Cheval Blanc and the ratio of each is totally dependent on the vintage – there is no set formula. The only rule they work to is to work ‘like monks’, traditionally, toiling in the vineyards: limiting vine vigour in the Cabernet Franc, controlling yields by green harvesting the Merlot. In the winery, they only ever add sulphur, yeast and egg white but there was no suggestion of letting the wine make itself. Why spend a fortune on a truly beautiful new winery if you never actually go there!

The concrete vats inside the new Cheval Blanc cellar

And the ultra-modern architecture of the new cellars from the outside

Making the perfect wine is more than a lifetime’s work. Pierre-Olivier admitted to not yet having made the perfect blend so the toiling and striving goes on. Already, over the course of fifteen years, they have developed their own Cabernet Franc clone through micro-vinification experimentation. Every vintage they retain 24 bottles of each wine which makes up the blend to assess its development over the years – there are now 6 fewer bottles of 2001 – so the research, decisions and planning continue. The team at Cheval Blanc makes premium wine selling at stratospheric prices, yet is far from complacent. One feels sure that that perfect blend is within Pierre-Olivier’s grasp, and tasting the 2010, he’s certainly not far away, whether it will ever be 100% Cabernet Franc is anyone’s guess.
Thanks to Yvon Mau for organising such an enlightening (not to mention delicious!) tasting and to Pierre-Olivier for sharing his knowledge and insights with such candour.

Romance with wine

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

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

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

An Invitation from Troplong Mondot

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

A romantic room at Le chateau des Vigiers

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

The Isle aux Oiseaux suite

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

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

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

Reserve de Sours in the Hoyland packaging.

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

Mrs Wigley’s sparkling rosé

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

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