Monthly Archives: October 2016

#Bdx16

As the 2016 harvest in Bordeaux draws to a close, I wanted to share some of my photos taken over the last month or so of touring around the vineyards. As a wine educator I’m lucky enough to accompany professionals, journalists, wine educators, sommeliers and other enthusiastic drinkers on winetours tours through the vineyards at this exciting time. And it is exciting; 2016 was another year that showed the unpredictability of Bordeaux weather – we really do never know quite what Mother Nature will throw at us.

Morning mists announce the arrival of cooler nights and harvest weather

Morning mists announce the arrival of cooler nights and harvest weather

This is supposed to be a photo essay so I won’t go on too much, use the #bdx16 on line and you’ll see much more comment and many more photos. I rarely remember to use hash tags when sharing my photos, so I thought I’d regroup a few here to make up for it! The comments using #bdx16 will continue until (and past) the presentation of the wines in their infant state to the press and trade at the primeur tastings in April next year.

It was a year that started wet and cold, with the organic vine growers in particular sighing with exhaustion, as they were obliged to get back on their tractors again and again. The more natural alternatives to the systemic treatments used to combat the attacks of Mildew, so frequent in this damp maritime climate, need reapplying every time it rains.

Another sign that it's that time of year - the colours really start to change once the grapes have been picked.

Another sign that it’s that time of year – the colours really start to change once the grapes have been picked.

More established organic producers claim that they see a greater resistance against these diseases as the years under organics go by. Nicola Allison, an organic producer at Chateau du Seuil in the Graves and a MD, compares it to not giving excess antibiotics to children, allowing them to build up a natural immunity.

After a damp, cool start the sun came out and didn’t stop shining all summer, with no rain at all from mid June to until mid September. That early build up of water in the sub soils came in handy, especially for vines with deep roots to access the subterranean reserves.

The flowering is another crucial period and with all the rain there was cause for concern but the sun shone, giving a drier and warmer period early June – perfect timing just when it was needed, to allow a lovely flowering – lots of potential yield in store making up for some of the losses due to mildew earlier on.

The vine in flower

The vine in flower June 2016

Summer hydric stress is all well and good, it concentrates the vines attention on the grapes allowing sugars and polyphenols to be transferred from leaves to berries but enough is enough. Too much means vines stop functioning and shut down and younger vines, without well-established root systems, really start to suffer.  Just when worried wine makers were starting to stress as much as the vines, they were saved by the rain.  High rainfall fell on 13th September and then again a little rain on the 30th. Phew! This gave enough moisture to save the vintage, allowing the final maturation.

The Sauvignon blanc at Chateau Olivier - some of the first grapes to be picked

The Sauvignon blanc at Chateau Olivier in Pessac Leognan – some of the first grapes to be picked

Then followed a sharp cool snap in early October, allowing growers to wait for optimum ripeness in the skins without the fear of reduced acidity or mould attacks.

My first taste of #bdx16 fermenting Sauvignonblanc at Chateau du Taillan

My first taste of #bdx16 fermenting Sauvignonblanc at Chateau du Taillan

The moisture was also perfectly timed for the sweet white wines of Bordeaux; the triggering the botrytis attack on grapes that were perfectly ripe – avoiding any problems of grey rot that can sometime occur when Botrytis arrives too early on under-ripe grapes.

Botrytised grapes at Château Doisy Daene in Barsac

Botrytised grapes at Château Doisy Daene in Barsac

And into the trailer - very physical work!

And into the trailer – very physical work!

So all in all there are smiles on the faces of wine makers. Many of the berries are small but that will give a lovely concentration although yields will not be enormous but thanks to an even flowering there should be plenty to go around.
It’s early days, all the dry whites have been safely in for a few weeks, the Merlots too and I think the last of the Cabernets were picked at the end of this week, leaving properties to prepare the Gerbaude or harvest celebrations for exhausted but elated pickers.

The sweet wines have a long way to go yet, they are still keeping an eye on the sky for forecasted rain that seems to be no more than a threat for the moment.

Happy days!

Enjoy the photos.

Fermenting white at Chateau Thieuley in Entre Deux Mers

Fermenting white at Chateau Thieuley in Entre Deux Mers

 

Rosé on it's way from the press to the tank at Chateau Thieuley

Rosé on it’s way from the press to the tank at Chateau Thieuley

Picking is hot work at Chateau Haut Brion

Picking is hot work at Chateau Haut Brion

Picking on the slopes of Chateau Gaby over looking the Dordogne.

Picking on the slopes of Chateau Gaby over looking the Dordogne.

Hand sorting the bunches of Merlot at Chateau Villemaurine in Saint Emilion

Hand sorting the bunches of Merlot at Chateau Villemaurine in Saint Emilion

Berry by berry selection at Chateau Recougne

Berry by berry selection at Chateau Recougne

Berries or Caviar? Post sorting.

Berries or Caviar?

It's not just greenery that gets removed during sorting - snails make a break for it at Chateau Monconseil Gazin in Blaye

It’s not just greenery that gets removed during sorting – snails make a break for it at Chateau Monconseil Gazin in Blaye

Testing for sugar density at Chateau Peyrabon in Haut Medoc

Testing for sugar density at Chateau Peyrabon in Haut Medoc

All the stages of botrytis in the ands of the wine maker Guillaume Perromat at Chateau Armajan Des Ormes in Sauternes

All the stages of botrytis in the ands of the wine maker Guillaume Perromat at Chateau Armajan Des Ormes in Sauternes

Cerons fermenting in oak barrels at Chateau de Cerons

Cerons fermenting in oak barrels at Chateau de Cerons

Egg shaped barrels waiting for the white harvest for barrel fermentation at Chateau la Louviere

Egg shaped barrels waiting for the harvest for barrel fermentation at Chateau la Louviere

cabernet juice pre fermentation at Chateau Monconseil Gazin

Cabernet juice pre fermentation at Chateau Monconseil Gazin

The BBQ awaits hungry harvesters at the end of the day at Chateau de Gaby in Canon Fronsac

The BBQ awaits hungry harvesters at the end of the day at Chateau de Gaby in Canon Fronsac.

And it's all over for another year - no more dawn picking for a while

And it’s all over for another year – no more dawn picking for a while.

Bordeaux à table!

Often described as a food wine, Bordeaux wine needs good food to show to its best advantage, food and wine matching has become quite the art. Lucky then that the food and restaurant scene in Bordeaux is thriving with new chefs and well established ones opening new restaurants or taking over established names.

But what of the chateaux themselves? Surely they should be show-casing their wines with food? Many chateaux are happy to organise meals for groups with a little advance notice, some like Chateau Phelan Segur will even welcome you into their kitchens for a cooking class first. But should you wish to dine independently amongst the vines it is also possible.

It’s not new, three very well established Bordeaux examples are Château Lynch Bages in Pauillac, with Chateau Cordeillan Bages, Château Smith Haut Lafitte in the Graves with Les Sources de Caudalie, and Hostellerie de Plaisance in Saint Emilion, owned by Chateau Pavie, all of which take wine hospitality to internationally renowned levels with Michelin stars in their respective hotel restaurants.

Chateau Cordeillan Bages in Pauilllac

Chateau Cordeillan Bages in Pauilllac

Saint Emilion on the right bank is a particularly popular destination so it’s no surprise that wineries here welcome guests offering food alongside their wines. Château Troplong Mondot opened Les Belles Perdrix in 2013. Starting off as casual dining for guests staying in the chateau guest rooms, it was awarded a its first Michelin star this year and the views from the terrace are some of the best in the region.

The Terrace of les Belles Perdrix at chateau Troplong Mondot in Saint Emilion

The Terrace of les Belles Perdrix at chateau Troplong Mondot in Saint Emilion

Chateau Angelus, on the other side of the medieval city, decided to go another path. Rather than opening a restaurant at the chateau, they bought the restaurant Le Logis de La Cadene in the heart of the town in 2013, which thanks to the skill of chef Alexandre Baumard, has rapidly gained a excellent reputation.

Delicious and elegant fare at Logis de la Cadene in Saint Emilion

Delicious and elegant fare at Logis de la Cadene in Saint Emilion

So much for fine dining, but for a relaxed lunch with that glass of wine, call in to Château La Dominique on the boundary between Saint Emilion and Pomerol. The chateau joined forces with the Bordeaux Restaurant ‘La Brasserie Bordelaise’ to offer informal fare on the roof of their new Jean Nouvel designed cellar, where the glass red pebbles resembling the open top of a fermenting vat of wine compete for your attention with the views over the famous names of Pomerol. On the foothills of the famous limestone slopes of Saint Emilion, the tiny fairy tale Château de Candale was recently renovated to include a restaurant with a delightful terrace looking across the Dordogne valley.

But if you can’t make it to Bordeaux (although you really should) Bordeaux can come to you.

Previously mentioned, Château Phelan Segur, is owned by the Gardiner family. They are famous for their food and wine hospitality at the beautiful Les Crayeres Hotel and restaurant in Champagne. Having added the Taillevent restaurant in Paris to their portfolio they recreated a bistro version, Les 110 de Taillevent, in both London and in Paris, named after the range of 110 wines offered by the glass, that I have raved about in a previous post.

But the jewel in the crown has to be the restaurant ‘Le Clarence’ opened in Paris at the end of last year by Château Haut Brion.

Le Salon of Le Clarence : all the elegance of Chateau Haut Brion in the heart of Paris.

Le Salon of Le Clarence : all the elegance of Chateau Haut Brion in the heart of Paris.

Chateau Haut Brion is one of the oldest and most respected vineyards in Bordeaux, not surprising then, that when they turned their minds to hospitality they would get it right. Their objective was to re-create in Paris the same chateau atmosphere that visitors enjoy in Bordeaux. Having been fortunate enough to dine at both Château Haut Brion and Chateau La Mission Haut Brion, I can vouch that their signature warm and elegant hospitality is perfectly mirrored in their new venture in Paris.

The library dinning room of Le Clarence

The library dinning room of Le Clarence

The ‘Hotel Dillon’ is not a hotel but a ‘town house (‘hotel particulier’ in French), named after the Dillon family who acquired the property in 1935. It is just off the Champs Elysées on avenue Franklin Roosevelt. The 19th century building houses the headquarters of the wine company but also beautiful reception rooms, a bar, the elegant dining room of ‘Le Clarence’ and an underground cellar. The cellar alone is worth a visit, with a vaulted brick ceiling and suitably stocked with not just wines from the family vineyards but other Bordeaux and from further afield.

The cellar, as spectacular as the bottles it contains.

The cellar, as spectacular as the bottles it contains.

The décor is sublime – you are indeed transported to a chateau atmosphere with carefully curated furnishings and art. The food is on a par with the surroundings, seasonal with a twist to traditional dishes. It is the perfect place to show the wines of their vineyards to their best advantage. Once you have tasted this Bordeaux hospitality in Paris, you will inevitably be drawn to come and sample the real thing.