Category Archives: Dining

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Clairet. Claret. Clarette,

The Bordeaux invasion of London – continued

London has always been a Bordeaux friendly wine hub and the Bordelais love London back, always happy to come over and share their wines with Londoners. As early as 1666 Arnaud de Pontac, then owner of Château Haut Brion, sent his son to London to open The Pontac’s Head, a tavern where they served the Chateau wine. He created a trend amongst the smart 17th century London set for ‘The New French Claret’ as compared to the lighter Clairet and established the ‘Graves de Bordeaux’ as their go-to wine well before the Wines of the Medoc dominated the market. This was possibly the first example of direct wine marketing and the first French bar.

The trend continues; I reported on 110 of Taillevant when it opened and Château Latour have recently created a new club in the Four Season at Ten Trinity Square, London, with the wonderful Anne Sophie Pic’s ‘Dame de Pic’ restaurant that I have yet to try but I did recently test-drive another new London venue.

Clarette opened in Spring this year (2017), in a beautiful half timbered Marylebone townhouse, Clarette is the project of a young generation of wine lovers with deep Bordeaux roots: Alexandra Petit, of the Château Margaux family and restaurateur Natsuko Perromat du Marais (the Perromat family are from the Graves) are in partnership with Thibault Pontallier son of the much missed director of Château Margaux, Paul Pontallier.

Clarette by night

The building lends itself to an atmosphere of private dining upstairs with its different nooks and crannies, with an impressive wine display in the private dining room. The large communal table on the ground floor lends a more informal atmosphere. Wines by the glass are served with sharing plates in front of a fireplace. On warmer days the terrace is perfect for people watching.

The wine list is French focused, as you would expect, but not all the bottles are Bordeaux, or even French, with an eclectic by the glass selection starting from around £5.

If you are planning a visit to Bordeaux, Clarette will give you a perfect taster while you wait.

 

 

 

Villa Lacoste – breathless.

Finally I arrive in Provence.

I say finally as it was a last minute inspiration to add a few Provence days on the end of a recent Rhone wine tour. My friends (we’ve been touring together too long to call them clients) had decided to go and I tagged along for a few extra days.

I’m thrilled I did; thanks to a recommendation from Mary Dardenne of Decanter Tours I discovered a spectacular new wine tourism destination: Villa Lacoste.

Our timing was perfect. The vineyard and sculpture park of Château Lacoste are well established, but we were there just in time for the opening of their new hotel.

I have been known to be gushing in my praise before, but this place took my breath away. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, I had been warned it was very contemporary. We arrived on a very busy Sunday afternoon. Driving through the sculpture park and past the art centre looking for the hotel, I wondered what we were heading for. So well hidden is the hotel that initially I thought I’d brought my friends to stay in a series of Nissan huts. Fortunately these were the new, Jean Nouvel wine cellars, not the hotel.

Around a bend, up a slope, hidden by trees and vines we discovered the spectacular new, purpose built  hotel.

Villa Lacoste amongst the vines and trees

Having just left the historical building of la Mirande in Avignon, (see a previous post) this was a big culture shock. The beautiful, ultra modern suites are perched high up the hillside with spectacular views of the vines, the valley and the art scattered across the 200 ha estate.

We enjoyed the warm welcome and undivided attention of their very first days. With everything brand spanking new, we had the impression of having the place almost to ourselves – but given the layout I think this would be the case even if the hotel was full.

The elegant suites are not exactly minimalist but their deceptively simple design is a show case for wonderful details: lots of contemporary art, complemented by curated books to learn more about it, as well as fresh fruit, local specialities and of course, a bottle of Château Lacoste Rosé to be sipped on the balcony looking at that view.

My suite at Villa Lacoste                                       Photo Credit Wendy Narby

The all white theme runs into the marble bathrooms each with their own terrace and an elegant olive tree over the bathtub.

The bathroom with it’s own olive tree             Photo Credit Wendy Narby

We dined in the Louison restaurant. Thanks to a photo shoot, Michelin star chef Gérald Passedat was there and it was like having a private chef. We were thoroughly spoilt.

The Couple by Louise Bourgeois high above our table at dinner.

 

Amuses bouches at Louison                                Photo Credit Wendy Narby

The food was spectacular. Excellent quality local ingredients, traditional recipes, all with an original and inventive twist, as exciting for the eye as the palate.

Olive Bread – more olive than bread                Photo Credit Wendy Narby

The art theme runs right though this place down to the smallest details. My friends liked it so much they returned for dinner the following night and were just as thrilled.

The crab…..                                                               Photo Credit Wendy Narby

and its provencal vegetables         Photo Credit Wendy Narby

Onion: the content and the container. Photo Credit Wendy Narby

There is also a more informal restaurant, a cool bar, a well-stocked library to browse the wine and art books, as well as a swimming pool to occupy the residents.

The next morning, after a power walk through the vines, getting lost amongst the art installations, breakfast was served on the terrace of the hotel. Suspended high up above the pool, as delicious as breakfast was, it was hard to concentrate on with such a spectacular view.

Breakfast with that view                                      Photo Credit Wendy Narby

After breakfast off we went to discover the sculpture park – driven in a shiny new Land Rover Defender. Another box ticked for the boys on the tour.

Irishman Patrick McKillen purchased this classic French Provencal estate in 2002. As well as renovating the chateau and replanting the vines, Mckillen has created a unique sculpture park with thirty major contemporary artworks spread throughout the vineyard. The art centre, created by Japanese architect Tadao Ando in 2004, holds pride of place at the centre.

The Louise Bourgeois spider at the art centre Photo Credit Wendy Narby

It is breath-taking – arriving in front of the centre you are welcomed by a Louise Bourgeois
 Crouching Spider sculpture, which seems to be floating over the water. It was here that charming young Irish art expert, Tess Rumgay, met us.

I highly recommend taking a guided tour. You can of course walk around and discover at your own pace with a well-edited guide and map but Tess’s explanations and insights made all the difference. We felt so much more intelligent and cultured at the end of the morning.

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Tom Shannon’s Drop – in action

And the wine? Well, sadly I didn’t have time to visit the impressive new cellars designed by Jean Nouvel, (the ones that look like Nissan huts). That’ll be for another trip. But we did taste the wine. As well as the tasting room and shop, there are several restaurants to choose where you can sample by the glass or the bottle. The art centre has a light and airy Tadao Ando restaurant running alongside the water. But, after all the contemporary art, we returned to the more traditional atmosphere of the original château courtyard for lunch. The Terrace restaurant serves fresh organic produce from the neighbouring kitchen garden, at tables laid out around the fountain, all served with a selection of the delicious still and sparkling rosés from the property.

The Rosé Fountain                                                Photo Credit Wendy Narby

There is so much to see here that it merits at least a couple of days stay, but do allow extra time if you can just to soak up the Zen atmosphere of the place. A quite remarkable wine tourism experience; it merits reflection.

Part of the warm welcome at Villa Lacoste    Photo Credit Wendy Narby

 

 

 

 

Star studded Rhone.

Tasting wine works up an appetite. I’m not looking for sympathy; as we tasted our way down the Rhone Valley last month, the high concentration of Michelin stars more than solved our wine induced munchies.

Being spring, the French passion for seasonal produce meant we had asparagus at almost every meal – it was delicious and on a wine tour any nod towards detox is very welcome!

Here are some of our gastronomic highlights should you find yourself in the same position on a Rhone Wine Tour.

In 1934, Andre Pic opened La Maison Pic in Valence, wining his three Michelin stars the same year. He would be proud of his great granddaughter; Anne-Sophie took over the kitchens in 1997 and re established the 3 star status in 2007; the first woman chef to win this accolade.

A history of Michelin stars at la Maison Pic

Her personal passion for certain ingredients is generously shared. Tea (not asparagus) seemed to be a highlight when we were there. Her 3 star-cuisine is breath taking in presentation, taste and inspiration. The same elegance is reflected in the décor that more than makes up for the location, that can take you by surprise.

The interiors as inspirational as the cuisine at Maison Pic

I think this aesthetic made it a favourite with the ladies in the group more than the men! In the seven years since I was last there (I won’t wait so long before returning again) she has spread her brand across this part of town: as well as the hotel, 3 star restaurant and Bistro André she has opened a relaxed ‘Cantine’, a cooking school, a kitchen shop, a patisserie and a deli – selling more of those products she is so passionate about.

Spolit for 3 star choice

I highly recommend the Bistro André; dinner there was one of the highlights of the trip. The atmosphere is less restrained than the Grand Restaurant, the service is generous and the staff very friendly and especially good at pointing out value amongst the famous names on the wine list.

Even the simplest fare has the Anne-Sophie signature at Bistro Andre

If you can’t get to Valence, Anne Sophie can come to you, at least if you are in London, Lausanne or Paris. She opened La Dame du Pic in Paris in 2012 (in French La Dame du Pic means the queen of Spades) now a Michelin star. She also opened a restaurant in the beautiful setting of the Lausanne Beau Rivage Palace in April 2009, winning 2 Michelin stars in October of the same year. She has just opened her latest venture; a Dame du Pic in collaboration with Château Latour in the Four Seasons Hotel in London – it’s on my radar for September so I will report back.

Breakfast at Pic – who gets the domino reference?

La Pyramide is another historical gastronomic monument of the Rhone. Opened in 1922 in Vienne, just where the Rhone vineyards start, it was named in 1925 after the neighbouring Roman obelisque. Chef Fernand Point put it on the map in 1933 winning the very first 3 Michelin stars. He was an amazing character, more or less inventing Nouvelle Cuisine and was the first chef to come out and meet the customers, wrote ‘Ma Gastronomie’ what many called the most important cookbook, and trained such famous names as Paul Bocuse, les frères Troisgros and Alain Chapel.

The view of the Pyramide in Vienne from my bedroom window

The hotel and restaurant re opened after renovation in 1989 and it is still in the capable hands of Patrick Henriroux, who earned his 2 star status in 1992 which he has kept continuously to date – quite an achievement. The wine list, very important on a wine tour, received the seal of approval from our wine experts for being ‘well rounded, deep and relatively reasonably priced’. Sounds like a wine recommendation to me! The cuisine is inventive with a dash of humour – a pyramid of snails anyone?

A pyramid of snails and seasonal asparagus at La Pyramide.

It wasn’t uniquely Michelin star dining all week, honest. I always try and visit The Beau-Rivage in Condrieu when I’m in the northern Rhone, mainly for it’s situation on the banks of the Rhone – you almost have your toes in the water while sipping wine on the terrace. I was particularly impressed by the food this year and it has a really good local wine list.

Asparagus was the star of the show at the Beaurivage in Condrieu

Further south in Avignon, La Mirande gets my vote for a future Michelin accolade (it has 3 knives and forks). When we came here a few years back it was one of our best dining, experiences, we promised to return and we weren’t disappointed. The building is tucked away right behind the Palais des Papes – you almost fall into it when you come out of the gift shop! The 18th century décor makes you feel like you are living part of the history of the city, managing to keep this traditional feel but with 21st century fittings, including very cool TV screens hidden in ancient mirrors.

Aperitif in the courtyard of la Mirande

The walled garden, in the shadow of the majestic walls of the Palace, was perfect for breakfast, the cosy bar serves a mean martini and there is even a cooking school.

Perfect lighting for a late night Martini in the bar of la Mirande

Dinner was brilliant, definitely Michelin star quality but its unpretentious charm is perhaps best kept away from stardom? The wine list offered a very good selection across a large price range with a great selection of the local Chateauneuf du Pape.

La Mirande – The cherry on the cake!

There are many local bistros that merit a stop over for great value food and wines. The Bistrot de Serine, a stone’s throw from Guigal cellars in Ampuis has great food but a very well priced and interesting wine list and, judging by the wine makers we saw there, is obviously a local favourite.

Great wines, great food at la Serine in Ampuis

I mentioned in a previous post about the wineries getting in on the restaurant act. Jaboulet opened their Vineum shop and restaurant in the centre of Tain l’Hermitage where you can taste, and buy, all the range of the Jaboulet wines and a very good selection by the glass offered with a light lunch, right in the town centre.

How Jaboulet puts their corks to good use at the Vineum in Tain l’Heritage

On the other bank, tucked away in Cornas it’s worth searching for La Ruche. Named after a beehive, as the owners consider themselves like bees buzzing around the wineries picking out local favourites, the wine list proves them right, with a wide range of local and more distant Rhone wines at very competitive prices.

Cherries were another seasonal favourite – Cherry clafoutis at La Ruche

OK, so my last recommendation is not a restaurant but it is gastronomy. You really should include a Tour of La Cité du Chocolat in Tain l’Hermitage, if you need any persuading that red wine and chocolate work – this is the place!

 

Happy New Year!

This seems like just the right time to take a quick look at where my wine adventures have taken me in 2016 and at plans for 2017. I thought I’d let some photos do the talking, although looking back through the images of the year it has been a challenge to choose just a few to sum up the last 12 months – so here’s a go, by theme.

A year in drinks: as well as wine, there was quite a penchant for cocktails in 2016, my girlfriends responsible for this know who they are!

Comparing the old and the new identities of chateau Quintus in Saint Emilion

Comparing the old and the new identities of Château Quintus in Saint Emilion

Bordeaux Bubbles on the banks for the Dordogne at La Maison de l'Amiral

Bordeaux Bubbles on the banks of the Dordogne at La Maison de l’Amiral.

A Medoc Wine line up for staff at PLCB Fine Wines and good Spirits Harrisburg

A Médoc line up for staff at PLCB Fine Wines and Good Spirits, Harrisburg

Tasting the wonderful wines at Eisele in Napa

Tasting the wonderful wines at Eisele in Napa

An intimate tasting at Chateau Angelus

An intimate tasting at Chateau Angelus

Who said the Bordelais always take themselves too seriously? Not the Courselle sisters at Chateau Theuiley

Who said the Bordelais always take themselves too seriously? Not the Courselle sisters at Chateau Theuiley.

A beautiful example of how well Sauternes can age at Chateau Doisy Daëne.

A beautiful example of how well Sauternes can age at Chateau Doisy Daëne.

Frosé with Bordeaux Clairet - perfect summer drinking

Frosé with Bordeaux Clairet – perfect summer drinking

And for something completely different Lactilium Vodka from milk by the team at Chateau Gruaud Larose.

And for something completely different Lactilium Vodka made from milk, by the team at Chateau Gruaud Larose.

A year of food: wine goes with food goes with wine and I have been lucky enough to experience some wonderful meals in some wonderful settings. Some meals have been haute cuisine, others a simple vineyard lunch, even wine dinners in the tropics. All have served as research for my next book ‘The Drinking Woman’s Diet’,  which will be published in 2017, exploring how to stay healthy whilst drinking for a living.

Anniversary celebrations at Chateau Biac

Anniversary celebrations at Chateau Biac

Sunset Croquet at chateau Phelan segur

Sunset Croquet at Château Phelan Segur

Ready for dinner at Château Montrose

Ready for dinner at Château Montrose

A picnic basket ready for lunch on the terrace at Chateau Petit Village in Pomerol

A picnic basket ready for lunch on the terrace at Chateau Petit Village in Pomerol

A vineyard lunch at Chateau Guibeau

A vineyard lunch at Chateau Guibeau

Putting Bordeaux tutors to work on practical food and wine pairing during their accreditation.

Putting Bordeaux Tutors to work on practical food and wine pairing during their accreditation.

An after lunch glass of Chateau Sigalas Ribaud at the Belles Perdrix restaurant at Château Troplong Mondot that won it's 1st Michelin star in 2016.

An after lunch glass of Chateau Sigalas Ribaud at the Belles Perdrix restaurant at Château Troplong Mondot. They won their 1st Michelin star in 2016.

Lunch at the Chateau Haut Brion restaurant, Le Clarence in Paris

Enjoying lunch at the Chateau Haut Brion restaurant, Le Clarence, in Paris

Informal dining in a formal setting at Chateau Pichon Baron

Informal dining in a formal setting at Chateau Pichon Baron

from healthy

from healthy

A less healthy breakfast

to a less healthy breakfast

Settling for a happy medium

Settling for a happy medium

Healthy can be delicious at Viva Mayr

Healthy can be delicious – much needed detox at Viva Mayr in August.

Post cure retox!

Post cure retox!

A year of teaching: wonderful opportunities to share my experience and knowledge of Bordeaux to the East, the West and of course in Bordeaux, with more successful Accredited Bordeaux Tutor candidates. I continue to learn just as much from their knowledge of other wine regions as I share with them the latest from Bordeaux. It’s been fun doing video tastings too, especially the live tastings with the Cru Bourgeois to the US.

The beautiful view over Lake Geneva was a bit of a distraction at Glion Hotel School

The beautiful view over Lake Geneva was a bit of a distraction at Glion Hotel School

Explaining the particularities of Sweet Bordeaux at the Bordeaux Wine School

Explaining the Bordeaux wines at the Bordeaux Wine School

The future of Hong kong wine service with students at the Hotel and Tourism Institute of Hong Kong.

The future of Hong Kong wine service with students at the Hotel and Tourism Institute of Hong Kong.

The latest Bordeaux Tutor Accreditation at Chateau La Louviere

The latest 2016 Bordeaux Tutor Accreditation at Chateau La Louviere

Teaching sales team from Southern Wines and Spirits in California.

Teaching sales team from Southern Wines and Spirits in California.

Medoc masterclass with Swires Group service team at Upper House Hotel in Hong Kong.

Medoc Masterclass with Swires Group service team at Upper House Hotel in Hong Kong.

Wine, Women and clothes: Bordeaux bootcamp tasting at Susan Graf Ltd.

Wine, Women and clothes: Bordeaux Bootcamp tasting at Susan Graf Ltd.

A year of writing: for those of you who follow this Blog I’ve shared some of the news from Bordeaux and things I’ve learnt and enjoyed on my travels. For those who don’t please join us, or follow me on twitter, instagram or the Insider Tasting Facebook page.

I also contributed to other blogs, including the Great Wine Capitals blog, profiling the Bordeaux Best of Wine Tourism winners but it’s also an opportunity to discover other leaders in wine tourism across the globe – more of which below.

I updated my book Bordeaux Bootcamp, the Insider Tasting guide to getting to grips with  Bordeaux basics, with the latest facts and figures and I’m now working on the final draft of The Drinking Woman’s Diet, reuniting my two passions of Wine and Wellbeing explaining how the two are not mutually exclusive. It will be in print in 2017.

Bordeaux Bootcamp, Second edition is now available on Amazon.

Bordeaux Bootcamp, the second edition is now available on Amazon.

And finally a year of touring: welcoming guests to Bordeaux. With more and more properties opening their doors my guests can now stay in their very own Bordeaux chateau, where I introduce them to the wine makers, movers and shakers, experiencing the Bordeaux vineyard lifestyle for themselves.

Chateau Le Pape, one of the many chateaux in Bordeaux you can make your own.

Chateau Le Pape, one of the chateaux in Bordeaux you can make your own.

 

Modern cellars at Chateau Pedesclaux

Modern cellars at Chateau Pedesclaux

and at Beau Sejour Becot

and at Beau Sejour Becot

The historical cellars at Chateau de Cerons

historical cellars at Chateau de Cérons

A new take on an ancient wine making technique at Château La Maison Blanche

A new take on an ancient wine making technique at Château La Maison Blanche

Time for a tasting at Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte

Time for a tasting at Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte

Francois Despagne gets closer to the terroir at Chateau Grand Corbin Despagne

Francois Despagne gets closer to the terroir at Chateau Grand Corbin Despagne

Flowering of the 2016 vintage.

Flowering of the 2016 vintage.

Veraison

Veraison

The Sauvignon blanc at Chateau Olivier - some of the first grapes to be picked in 2016.

The Sauvignon blanc at Chateau Olivier – some of the first grapes to be picked in 2016.

Hand sorting the bunches of 2016 Merlot at Chateau Villemaurine in Saint Emilion

Hand sorting the bunches of 2016 Merlot at Chateau Villemaurine in Saint Emilion

Some hidden treasures : The vaulted well dating back to the Merovingian period at Chateau Coutet in Saint Emilion

Some hidden treasures : The vaulted Merovingian well at Chateau Coutet in Saint Emilion

 

Alexandre de Bethmann shares another secret - the ice house at Chateau Olivier.

Alexandre de Bethmann shares another secret – the ice house at Chateau Olivier.

An itimate Cru Bourgeois taking lunch for Bordeaux tutors at Château Peyrabon.

An itimate Cru Bourgeois tasting lunch for Bordeaux tutors at Château Peyrabon.

Next year? More of the same I hope but also some new destinations and different experiences. Already on the itinerary are: tours in the Rhone and Provence, a distillery tour in Scotland, seminars and master classes in Switzerland, the UK, Hong Kong and the annual coast-to-coast US Road-show with an appearance at the Women for Wine Sense conference in the Finger Lakes. Lots of opportunities to for you to join me with and new destinations you might like to add to your future wish list?

The new Cité du Vin in Bordeaux - for your 2017 to do list. Credit Arnaud Bertrande

The new Cité du Vin in Bordeaux – for your 2017 to do list.
Credit: Arnaud Bertrande

I look forward to welcoming those of you coming back to Bordeaux in 2017 and some of you for the first time, or to sharing Bordeaux with you in classrooms or conferences across the globe.

Future projects include corporate and wine and wellness retreats amongst the vines and I’m excited to be working on an International Wine Tourism project sharing some of the best from other leading wine producing countries, more of which to follow.

Wine and Wellness - it's all about the balance!

Wine and Wellness – it’s all about the balance!

Please contact me for more information or stay tuned to the blog, I’ll be sharing my progress.

Thank you to everyone who has joined me this year, if you haven’t please do so in 2017, it will be a busy year with many opportunities for us to meet up, I hope to see you.

Happy New Year!

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Hospitable South Africa.

You’ll have seen from my recent post about South Africa that I was blown away by my trip there. A large part of this was due to the fantastic hospitality. Wine tourism here is a refined art; you can’t help but get carried away with the wine-makers passion and enthusiasm.

The Beautiful Cape winelands

The Beautiful Cape wine lands. Photo Rory Kirk

Tourism is booming, with a weak Rand, wonderful countryside, great weather and a sophisticated wine and food scene. We bumped into California hikers, South American honeymooners and lots of European food and wine lovers. Often considered a Safari destination, it’s worth making a visit to the winelands a destination, rather than making it just an ‘add on’.

I only scratched the surface in 10 days visiting Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Constantia but the array of terroir was huge and the beautiful topography, with those crazy mountains, adds the variable of elevation to the mix. Take the time to explore and to understand, they are only too happy to help.

Breath taking views from Delaire Graff Photo Rory Kirk

Breath taking views from Delaire Graff
Photo Rory Kirk

Like all major wine regions, they are gaining a deeper understanding of their terroir and adapting to a block-by-block planting and precision viticulture. To get to grips with how the place affects the taste you need to get amongst the vines.  At Jordon we tasted a range of their wines in the plots where they were grown. Hurtling about in an adapted Range Rover, we not only enjoyed beautiful views but gaining an intimate understanding of the difference in soil, sun exposure and breeze affecting the personality of each wine; a real wine safari.

Heading out on safari

Heading out on safari

Most of the vineyards were excited to share this with us; Warwick Estate offers a similar experience ‘The Big 5 Vineyard Safari’. You can go tearing around the vineyard with a guide showing you the different terroirs that go into their range of award winning wines. Liberated from legislative constraints, they are free to experiment with new terroirs and grape varieties. It may appear confusing from afar and perhaps hinders a clear vision of the personality of each region but close up, it becomes clearer how each wine fits into the range, expresses the place and appeals to different sectors of the market both at home and abroad. 60% of South African wines go to the export market.

Although cellars visits aren’t always part of the classic tasting experience here, ask for a peek; just like Bordeaux, as the plots or blocks are getting smaller, so are the vats and micro cuvees, such as the different Sauvignon Blanc from Klein Constantia, are on the rise.

The wineries are also terrific showcases for local produce alongside the wines; from biltong to honey and from face cream (Klein Constantia giving Caudalie a run for it’s money?) to diamonds. On the decidedly chilly morning we visited Warwick, they were doing a roaring trade in windcheaters and sweat shirts (went there, got the T-shirt – well a very fetching wind-cheater).

And the art on display too, the wineries really showcase everything that is great about the country: the food and arts and crafts – again this underlying pride in their country. It’s a very eclectic experience.

Leopards at Delaire Graff

Dylan Lewis cheetahs at Delaire Graff

And were would wine be without food? The food culture draws on historical European influences, both French and Dutch, African traditions and local produce creating an innovative food scene. Most wineries showcase their wines, and often those of their neighbours, in in-house restaurants, from relaxed tapas tastings to top end gastronomy.

It’s a relaxed atmosphere at Warwick. You can picnic in the grounds, as well as have lunch in the winery.

In and around Stellenbosch, you are spoilt for choice for lunch. Haskell has a restaurant, The Long Bar, as does Ernie Els but as I was there Monday and they were closed, so Rianie Strydom from Haskell took me over to the other side of the valley to Jordan. (No relation to the Alexander Valley, CA Jordan). Where both their restaurant and bakery were open.  Tasting the food alongside the wine by the glass selection on a deck overlooking the small reservoir was perfect. If you are jealous and in London you can sample it closer to home; they also own their own restaurant, High Timber, in the city, showcasing South African cuisine and wine.

Lunch at Jordan

Lunch at Jordan

You are spolit for choice at nearby Delaire Graff Estate. As well as the elegant tasting room that offers snacks, there are two restaurants; a bistro overlooking the valley and the award winning Indochine restaurant with an Asian African fusion theme which is well worth a detour.

The impression ceiling sculpture at Indochine

The impression ceiling sculpture at Indochine

We also enjoyed a spectacular tasting menu with a ‘by the glass’ wine pairing in the very elegant dinning room of Grand Provence. Although it’s a great place to start, the food scene is not just at the wineries. The local hotels showcase the local food and traditions. Le Quartier Français is the French translation of the name of the picturesque wine town of Franschhoek. It is also the name of the hotel where chef Margot Janse in her Tasting Room Restaurant creates daily tasting menus designed to match local wines to local produce. We had two different 8 course tasting menus on our table of 4 with a total of 13 wines and 1 beer between us – quite an introduction to the diversity of the region. The food was a performance – a unique experience, but the delicious breakfasts were worth surfacing for too.

Exotic faire at The Tasting Room

Exotic faire at The Tasting Room

Ernie Els has a more relaxed but elegant restaurant in Stellenbosch; The Big Easy, also the name of one of his wine ranges (see previous post). It is in one of the oldest buildings of the town ‘la Gratitude’ dating from the late 1600s, carries almost 200 wines from the surrounding vineyards and there’s a branch in Durban too.

Inside the beautiful owners lodge at Delaire Graff Photo Rory Kirk

Inside the beautiful owners lodge at Delaire Graff
Photo Rory Kirk

The perfect place to relax after a hard day's tasting. Photo Rory Kirk

The perfect place to relax after a hard day’s tasting.
Photo Rory Kirk

Where to stay? Again spoilt for choice. We stayed in one of the beautiful lodges on Delaire Graf Estate over looking the vineyards and the valley down to Stellenbosch. Just the walk past the Dylan Lewis cheetah sculptures on the way to breakfast every morning alone was worth the stay. Many wineries have cottages of guest rooms, la Grande Provence, Haskell, Jordan to name a few.

Art with a view at Ellerman House Photo Rory Kirk

Art with a view at Ellerman House
Photo Rory Kirk

If you are just passing through Cape Town and really can’t make it to the wine country, help is at hand. Stay at the Ellerman House high above the Bantry Bay waterfront; it is a perfect example of the passion for the country and the desire to share that passion that we felt everywhere we went.

The owner of Ellerman House, Paul Harris, uses his hotel as a showcase for both art and wine from the country, elements that seemed intrinsically linked throughout our visit

The carbon fibre corkscrew wine cellar at Ellerman House

The carbon fibre corkscrew wine cellar at Ellerman House

The wine cellar is more of an art installation than just a place to store wine. It’s a unique showcase for South African wines – the only non South African exception being a unique collection of Dom Pérignon – worth making an exception for. In a modern annexe to the 1900s villa the entrance to the cellar, opened in 2013, is hidden behind spectacular granite boulders.

The Terroir Wall at Ellerman House

The Terroir Wall at Ellerman House

Geology has long been part of SA identity with its history of minerals. This theme has been explored by sculptor Angus Taylor showcasing the importance of place in wine making with the Terroir wall.  Soil cross-sections of 100 different South African wineries are each framed on the wall and, identified by name and by GPS location, show the rich diversity of the soil types in the vineyards. The vine is represented by a spectacular bronze casted sculpture of an old Pinotage vine and the theme of vine tendrils continues in the giant spiralling carbon fibre corkscrew that houses a selection of 1500 of the 7500 bottles that make up the cellar. Resident Chilean sommelier, Manuel Capaballo, hosts wine dinners, lunches and tastings at the granite bar illustrated by films of the wine makers explaining their vineyards. After dinner you can retire to the brandy lounge, another important South African product. Glass in hand you can gaze upon the brandy sculpture, where hand blown glass holds different ages of brandy showing the evolution from white spirit to dark barrel aged brandy.

The Brandy Sculpture in the Ellerman House cellars Photo Rory Kirk

The Brandy Sculpture in the Ellerman House cellars
Photo Rory Kirk

A perfect end to a perfect trip.

Need help organising? Our trip was organised by Shannon Bishop of African Safari Home, we couldn’t have been in better hands. shannon@africansafarihome.com

Bordeaux Intercontinental.

Yesterday saw a first for Bordeaux; The Grand Hotel at the heart of the city became France’s 6th Intercontinental Hotel.

Built in 1789, it remained closed in the 90s before the current owner Michel Ohayon gave it a new lease of life, reopening it 16 years ago. The hotel has made a name for itself in Bordeaux finally offering a large and top end range of rooms and services in the heart of the city, including a spa and roof top bar.

intercontinentalBDX.jpg-large

This along with The UNESCO status awarded to the city in 2007 and the multitude of affordable flights from many major European cities has changed the face of Bordeaux tourism, establishing Bordeaux as a weekend break destination. Visitor figures increased to over 5 million last year, making it a popular destination even for those not making a trip out to visit the vineyards.

Intercontinental is a British brand and the love affair between Britain and Bordeaux is not new. It dates back to Eleanor of Aquitaine’s marriage to Henry Plantagenet in 1152.  Bordeaux and Bristol have been twinned since 1947 and Britain remains just about Bordeaux’s biggest wine export market, jostling with China for top position with values of between 230 – 270 million Euros per year.

In keeping with the British theme Gordon Ramsey took over the top restaurant of the hotel; Le Pressoir d’Argent earlier this year.

No wonder us Brits in Bordeaux feel so at home.

 

 

 

 

 

So many wines, so little time.

You can see from the previous post that I’ve just returned from a trip to the wine lands of South Africa where the hospitably was wonderful – more of which later. To get there, I took a circuitous route via London and Hong Kong. I mentioned Hong Kong in a previous blog post but not London. London remains the centre of the international wine trade, a world wine hub. It is old and established and at the same time extraordinarily innovative and modern. You can find just about any type of beverage here, unlike the wine regions I’m usually visiting.

It is not surprising then that the Gardinier family have chosen London as the latest outpost for their food and wine empire.

I first met the family in Bordeaux where they have owned the beautiful, and in my opinion still underrated and undervalued, property Château Phelan Segur since 1985. This elegant château is at the heart of Saint Estèphe, the most northerly of the Medoc ‘Communal’ appellations. The 70ha are spread between classified neighbours such as Chateau Calon Segur, Château Lafon Rochet and Chateau Montrose, to whom they sold some of their vines in 2010.

The beautiful Château Phelan Segur

The beautiful Château Phelan Segur

It missed the 1855 classification and was a ‘Cru Bourgeois Exceptionel’ until 2003 when, under the new rules, the hierarchy within the Cru Bourgeois was eliminated.

One of the 3 brothers, Thierry Gardinier, is at the head of the estate alongside the director Veronique Dausse. As the director of the Alliance des Cru Bourgeois Thierry was pivotal in overseeing its development  to its present form.

Tasting in the orangerie at Chateau Phelan Segur

Tasting in the orangerie at Chateau Phelan Segur

This elegant property has one of the most spectacular views from the plateau of Saint Estèphe across a majestic lawn, the vines and the Gironde Estuary. Upon appointment, you can enjoy the view as well as the wines. They will happily share verticals of recent vintages and their hospitality reaches as far as the family dining room. You can even participate with a cooking class in the kitchen with their in-house chef and then sample your hard work with the wines.

Their al fresco lunches on the lawn at harvest time are some of the best in Bordeaux, where you will rub shoulders with most of the Bordeaux wine trade.

Harvest lunch at Chateau Phelan Segur

Harvest lunch at Chateau Phelan Segur

It comes as no surprise then that the family has a very gastronomic background. Their home base is Champagne where their father, Xavier Gardinier, owned and ran both Lanson and Pommery Champagne houses since the 1970s including Le Domaine Les Crayères. Les Crayères remains in the family, a Relais Château Hotel and Michelin starred restaurant.

In 2011 they purchased the Taillevent group. The Taillevent restaurant opened in Paris in 1946 and is a French gastronomic legend, winning its first Michelin star in 1948, a second in 1954 and a third in 1973.

It is also famous for its wine selection; the cellar holds over 2000 listings of wines and spirits from 16 countries. Trading on this reputation, they opened a wine shop in 1987 ‘Les Caves de Taillevent’, originally as part the restaurant.  From 1994 to 2013, Les Caves de Taillevent also opened in Japan, with five wine shops in Tokyo, Yokohama, Nagoya, Kyoto and Osaka.

In 2012 the Gardiniers renamed the bistro Les 110 de Taillevent, after the 110 wines served there by the glass. From this selection different wines are suggested each day to match the menu. 4 for each dish: starter, main and dessert at 4 different price points. The wines are available by the glass in two sizes (7cl or 12.5) the wines are kept under argon gas system.

110 Taillevent London on Cavendish Square

110 Taillevent London on Cavendish Square

The London 110 de Taillevent Restaurant opened in October this year on Cavendish Square, just as I was passing through London. Serendipity. The by the glass selection is eclectic (and very international), the food delicious and varied and the portion sizes perfect, the atmosphere a happy blend of sophistication and fun (or was that just the girlfriends I was lunching with?) and the staff extremely friendly. The decor is classically elegant and it really is all about the wine, there are bottles everywhere.

I didn't count but that looks like 110 wines at the Taillevent bar

I didn’t count, but that looks like 110 wines at the Taillevent bar.

They open for lunch, diner and breakfast (wine with breakfast? But of course!). Food and wine matching underlies the Gardinier philosophy and the range of wines on offer makes it a perfect venue. They should receive a very warm welcome from London wine and food lovers.

A Table!

A Table!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!