Tag Archives: Château Canon

Sauternes No 5

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

No 5 from Château Sigalas Rabaud

No 5 from Château Sigalas Rabaud

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



A little bit of Bordeaux in the heart of Napa

Comparisons between Bordeaux and Napa are inevitable, they both enjoy a reputation for excellence, especially for the expression of Cabernet Sauvignon and the exchange of wine makers and techniques between the two regions seems to be making the distance between the two a lot shorter.

There’s nothing new about transatlantic relationships such as Opus One with Mouton and Mondavi or Christian Moueix with Dominus. And it continues; ex Chateau Margaux wine maker, Philippe Bascaules, has been making wonderfully elegant wines at Inglenook for the last few vintages, Chanel (owners of Rauzan Segla and Canon here in Bordeaux) recently acquired Saint Supery and Melanie and Alfred Tesseron of Pontet Canet, have great plans for the Robin Williams estate.

Chateau Latour owners, Groupe Artemis, joined this select transatlantic club in 2013, buying The Eisele vineyard from the Araujo family, adding another name to their wine portfolio, which includes Château Grillet in the Rhone and Domaine d’Eugenie in Burgundy.

Eisele has a long history; first planted with Zinfandel and Riesling vines back in the 1880s, it has been dedicated to Cabernet Sauvignon for the last fifty years.

Situated on an alluvial fan at the base of the Palisades Mountain, the property is divided by two, mostly dry, riverbeds that have deposited big pebbles giving great drainage, a reminder of the home terroir in Pauillac perhaps? Cool air brought by Northwesterly breezes from the Chalk Hill Gap sinks into these valleys giving the fresh microclimate that determines the concentrated elegance of these wines.

The pebbles in the dry river bed

The pebbles in the dry river bed

The property has a history generously sprinkled with the famous names of Napa. Although Jackson G. Randall and Charles Nathan Pickett, planted the first vines and they remained in the Pickett family until the Second World War, it was Milton and Barbara Eisele that gave their name to the vineyard in their 60s. Paul Draper of Ridge Vineyards produced the first Eisele Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon starting the story of Cabernet at Eisele.

Conn Creek Winery produced the second vineyard-designated Eisele Cabernet in 1974, and from 1975 to 1991, Joseph Phelps continued the tradition, of producing excellent Cabernets from the Eisele Vineyard. In 1991 the vineyard produced its first Estate Cabernet Sauvignon alongside the final Phelps bottling from the property.

It was Daphne and Bart Araujo, who purchased the vineyard in 1990, that introduced winemaking, building a winery, including a 1km long tunnel through the mountainside to barrel age the wine. The tunnel, which links two parts of the vineyard, has to be air conditioned due to the hot subsoil of the region – we’re not far from the hot springs of Calistoga here remember.

The long tunnel barrel aging cellar

The long tunnel barrel aging cellar

Their 23-year tenure wasn’t just about the wine making; the Araujos introduced organic farming in 1998 and pioneered biodynamics in Napa becoming certified in 2002. It wasn’t just about Cabernet either; in 1990 they identified a small number of Syrah vines within a Cabernet block dating from 1978 and made a Syrah varietal and they planted Sauvignon Blanc on a cooler east-facing slope.

So has anything changed since the Groupe Artemis acquired the vineyard in 2013? Well they took their time, very aware of the prestigious and successful reputation of the vineyard. In2014, Hélène Mingot was appointed technical director, although she modestly calls herself the stewardess of the vineyard on her twitter account. Having worked with Stephane de Deronencourt in Bordeaux and in Napa she is very attuned to the environmental impact of vine growing.

Commitment to environmentally sensitive development is pretty obvious right down to the welcome clucking from the chickens in the beautiful grounds and herb garden for the biodynamic preparations. As well as the 500 ancient olive trees that produce organic olive oil – all part of biodiversity, perfect for Hélène given her previous experience as an olive taster in Italy!

Napa is known for the great complexity of its terroir, with over 100 different soil types in an area that is 5 miles wide and 30 miles long – smaller than the Médoc. With a desire to better understand and express these variations, the 38 acres are divided into 13 blocks and over 40 sub-blocks, based on soil and subsoil in a very similar approach to that seen at Latour.

The map of the plots that make up the Eisele Vineyard

The map of the plots that make up the Eisele Vineyard

There are just four labels for a total of about 5000 cases: 1500 cases of the Grand Vin, 300 cases of Syrah and 2500 cases of the ‘Second Wine’ Altagracia, and some Sauvignon Blanc. One change has been the oak treatment for the wines, they still use 100% new oak for the first wine but the barrels have a lighter toast than previously, sourced from 6 different French coopers with 80% new oak for the second wine and 50% for the Syrah.

Three quarters of the 38-acre Eisele Vineyard are dedicated to Cabernet Sauvignon and the other components of the Bordeaux blend: Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot for the Grand vin.

The ‘second wine’ is called Altagracia, also a Bordeaux-style blend mainly from the Eastern parcels of the Eisele Vineyard, but complemented by fruit sourced from other Napa Valley vineyards including some Malbec – a wine more accessible in style when young.

The Syrah, originally made from those vines identified in that plot of Cabernet back in the early 90s, now comes from new plantings sometimes co-fermented with Vigonier in the traditional Rhone style – a nod perhaps to Chateau Grillet, also in the groups’ portfolio.

The Sauvignon Blanc is simply delicious, served to us after the red in the underground, very chilly, tasting room at the heart of the estate. And the blend of 60% Sauvignon Musqué (the first time I think I have knowingly tasted this Sauvignon clone) with Sauvignon Blanc has the wonderful tropical flavours added to the super fresh Sauvignon Blanc. Barrel ageing on the lees, as of the 2013 vintage, just adds to the depth.

Tasting at Eisele

Tasting at Eisele

The most, obvious change is the recent change of name, (well less of a change and more of a ‘back to the future’ moment), using simply ‘Eisele Vineyard Estate’ for The ‘Grand Vin’ as of the release of the 2013 vintage this year; a reflection of the importance attached to the land or terroir. The names of the Eisele Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc and Altagracia have not changed.

The new Eisele Label

The new Eisele Label

I was stunned by the elegance of these wines. Having often struggled with the power of Cabernets from Napa in the past, these wines struck me as having the perfect blend of old and new world. The vines growing in these dry, rocky soils produce very small berries of thick-skinned, intensely flavoured grapes – again a parallel with Pauillac.

The wines develop increased complexity with age; friends were kind enough to serve me a 2004 a few days after my visit that clearly showed this. However I feel the vintages under the new ownership definitely show more of old world elegance.

Precision, texture, elegance and consistency are terms historically used to describe the wines from Eisele, terms not dissimilar for those used to describe Chateau Latour. The property continues to be in safe hands.


‘There has never been as much good wine in Bordeaux, believe me’

John Kolasa is a well-known figure in the Bordeaux wine trade. His 40 year career has taken him from loading cases on the waterfront of the city via the cooperative of Saint Emilion to director of Château Latour, 1st growth of Pauillac. His 40 years in the business have given him a unique perspective on the Bordeaux wine industry, its changes and evolution.

Talking to John Kolasa in the salon of Chateau Rauzan Segla

Talking to John Kolasa in the salon of Chateau Rauzan Segla

I spoke to him in the enclosed interview as he retires from his current role as director of the Chanel Inc. Bordeaux portfolio, including the two prestigious Chanel properties: Chateau Rauzan Segla, second growth of Margaux, Chateau Canon, 1st growth of Saint Emilion, and the leading negociant house Ulyssee Cazabon,

The vat cellar at Chateau Canon

The vat cellar at Chateau Canon

He has been a witness to many dramatic changes in Bordeaux over his 40-year career. He reflects upon these changes and the challenges he faced in bringing back the prestigious Chanel properties to their rightful place in the hierarchy.

The complex vineyard of Chateau Rauzan Segla

The complex vineyard of Chateau Rauzan Segla

Running a left bank and a right bank property as well as a leading Bordeaux merchant house gives him a fascinating and unique perspective on the region. As he says ‘There has never been as much good wine in Bordeaux, believe me’

He should know.

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To view the full interview click here.








A Golden Elixir.

Bordeaux is home to several Château owned by luxury Brand Corporations: Chanel Inc. owns classified growths Château Rauzan Segla in Margaux and Château Canon in Saint Emilion, Kering owns Château Latour in Pauillac, and then there is LVMH with a slew of international wine and spirits brands in their portfolio. As well as their flagship Bordeaux wineries Château d’Yquem in Sauternes and Chateau Cheval Blanc in Saint Emilion, LVMH are heavily invested in Champagne and Cognac.

There are several advantages for a chateau owned by such groups. Apart from the obvious advantage of a parent company with deep pockets, it enables properties to make drastic selections and even not produce at all in tricky vintages ensuring a consistent quality (the last year d’Yquem didn’t produce any of the classified wine at all was as recently as 2012). It also allows for investment in cellars, both technical and aesthetic, and the advantages of belonging to a luxury goods portfolio with the marketing and promotional synergy that that entails.

The elegant new tasting room at Chateau d'Yquem

The elegant new tasting room at Chateau d’Yquem

There has been a less obvious cross marketing initiative within the LVMH stable. Dior and Château d’Yquem, both member of the LVMH luxury stable, have been working closely together on the beauty benefits of Sauternes.

Wine and beauty is nothing new; Caudalie, have been extracting polyphenols from grape pips since the early 90s and the brand is now an international success and the reference in ‘wine spas’ with their ‘Vinotherapie’.

Dior got into the act as early as 2006 creating the l’Or de Vie range using an extract from the sap of the vines of Château d’Yquem as an active ingredient. With the 2013 vintage, they have taken this a step further, adding a serum to the range. This time molecules extracted from the marc left after fermentation of the wine appear to hold magic properties for the skin and have been included alongside other active ingredients in the new l’Or de Vie  ‘La Cure’.

The l'Or de Vie range

The l’Or de Vie range

This magic comes at a price; the serum is presented in elegant golden phials in packs of three for about £ 1200, although this ‘Cure’ is a nine-month supply. Long enough to see a visible difference according to their studies.

Sandrine Garbay, cellar master at Chateau d'Yquem.

Sandrine Garbay, cellar master at Chateau d’Yquem.

If the lovely cellar master Sandrine Gaby is anything to go by, being exposed to the magic ingredient must work, but I think I’ll stick to taking my Chateau d’Yquem elixir of youth by the glass.

Elixir by the glass

Elixir by the glass


Right bank or Libournais?

There is so much that is new on the right bank of Bordeaux at the moment that I hardly know where to start. “Right bank “is a misleading name. After all, there are two rivers and an estuary that run through Bordeaux, all of which have a “right bank”. “The Libournais” is a more accurate descriptor as the  appellations to which we refer surround this ancient waterside town.  It was an important centre for wine trading and export with continental Europe in the middle ages, with the Libourne Merchants trading directly, rather than through ‘La Place de Bordeaux’, all thanks to the charter granted to the town in 1224 by the King of England.

Libourne on the Dordogne river

Libourne on the Dordogne river

Despite its ancient history, with vineyards dating back to 56 BC, this region of Bordeaux is a hotbed of innovation and has been since the ‘garage wine movement’ was pioneered by the likes of oenologists and winemakers, Michel Rolland, Jean-Claude Berrouet, Jean-Luc Thunevin, Jonathan Maltus and Denis Durantou in the 90’s.

It is a curious mix of old and new. Saint-Emilion is the first winegrowing area in the world to be listed as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites in the “Cultural Landscapes” category in 1999. These landscapes have succeeded in preserving the traces of their history; the medieval village of Saint-Emilion, Romanesque churches, grottos, windmills and dovecotes, etc.  In 1884 the first French Syndicat Viticole saw the light here and in 1933 the 1st cooperative cellar of the Gironde was established here too.

The land of 1000 chateaux from the Steeple of Saint Emilion

The land of 1000 chateaux from the Steeple of Saint Emilion

Compared to the rest of Bordeaux, the average size of properties here is small; for a total size of 12 000 ha there are less than 2000 properties, so do the math and you’ll see that the average size of 6-8 ha is half that of the Bordeaux average of 15 ha.

This structure of numerous individual wine estates is one of the reasons behind this constant innovation.  Small is beautiful but also perhaps more flexible than larger corporate ownership?  That, and the dominance of Merlot, which lends itself more kindly to experimental wine making than Cabernet.

The Libournais is also perhaps more ‘democratic’ than the left bank. Driving around the Medoc, the wealth seems to stop at the Chateau gates with vast tracts of vine and not much else in between except rather dreary villages (Bages being the exception that proves the rule). In the Libournais, cellars and chateaux are all side-by-side surrounded by their ‘gardens’ of vines, it is known as the land of 1000 chateaux.

Out of the 10 appellations only Saint Emilion ‘enjoys’ a classification. This came into being in 1954, almost 100 years after the Medoc/Graves/Sauternes classification of 1855. I’m on dangerous ground here, but it could also be considered more democratic being up for grabs every 10 years (or so). The last classification, in 2012, was a revision of the previous controversial 2006 edition, and no less controversial if you listen to a few disgruntled producers and certain sensationalist journalists. Despite this they are now the holders of a classification including 82 classified growths of which 18 are first growths and 4 are As with two new A’s  (Chateaux Angelus and Pavie) added to Cheval Blanc and Ausone, for the very first time since the classifications creation.

So what is new? As elsewhere at the top end of Bordeaux, there is a rash of new and beautiful cellars. They are easy to spot here, as the properties are all much closer together. Promotional opportunities perhaps, but also a desire to incorporate the new technology in a more efficient way and also open their doors to visitors.

Cement tanks have always been traditional on the right bank, their thick walls being resistant to rapid temperature change, and smaller family estates couldn’t afford to destroy them when the trend towards stainless steel started in the 70s so they remained and are now the height of fashion again, see the new cellars at Cheval Blanc.

With an increased understanding of the soils on the properties leading to more precise plot by plot management, it is not unusual to see vat size reduced or the older, larger vats replaced by smaller ones and even to see a mix of oak, cement and stainless in a single cellar allowing the wine maker even more flexibility. I must admit a certain affection for these older ‘art deco’ tanks that are now being spruced up again.

The old cement tanks at Chateau Petrus pre renovation

The old cement tanks at Chateau Petrus pre renovation

Cheval Blanc is not the only one to reinvent concrete. Family owned Château La Conseillante in Pomerol has created a super efficient oval cellar of 22 brand new elegant concrete vats for the 12 ha property, allowing for precision vinification for Chateau La Conseillante and the second wine Duo de Conseillante. The cellar is an elegant illustration of the style of their wine underlined with their purple signature.

The elegant new vat cellar at Chateau La Conseillante

The elegant new vat cellar at Chateau La Conseillante

A close up showing the attention to detail

A close up showing the attention to detail

Visiting Saint Emilion can be a religious experience. In the 8th century, the hermit Emilion stopped off on his pilgrimage from Brittany to Santiago de Compostela and  sheltered in a cave in the rock, the remains of which can still be seen near the 8th century monolithical church (Europe’s largest). There then followed a Benedictine monastery a century later reinforcing the religious importance of the town.

The religious theme can be seen in the names of many properties, l’Eglise Clinet, La Dominique, l’Evangile, Prieuré, Angelus, Saint Georges, etc. and the influence is clear in some cellars, such as Croix Canon recently brought to life by Chanel.

A religious experience in the cellars of Croix Canon

A religious experience in the cellars of Croix Canon

Chanel purchased first growth Chateau Canon in 1996, two years after their purchase of Chateau Rauzan Segla 2nd growth of Margaux, in 2011 they purchased the neighbouring classified growth, Chateau Matras. Wary of the influence of the INRA (the body governing wine appellations and classifications) and the effect it could have on their classification they were prepared not to include the new land into Chateau Canon. However they were given the right to include 1ha12 of old Cabernet Franc vines into Chateau Canon.  With the 2011 vintage they changed the name of Matras to Croix Canon, now the second wine of the property replacing Clos Canon. As these new hectares join the younger Canon plots to make the second wine Clos can no longer be used as the new plots are not within the (beautifully restored) walls that surround Chateau Canon.

The renovated walls around the vines of chateau Canon that gave the name to Clos Canon

The renovated walls around the vines of chateau Canon that gave the name to Clos Canon

Chanel know about renovation, having already renovated the cellar, underground caves and walls of Canon they are now working on the Chateau itself – more of which next year.  The cellars of Matras were within a badly run down 12 century chapel, now renovated to more than its former beauty to showcase the vat room and barrel cellar surrounded by a gallery, complete with pulpit. The tasting room has a spectacular stain glass window with a camellia at its heart as a subtle reference to Coco Chanel. They have even rebuilt the bell tower and if you have a head for heights, you can climb the wooden ladder to the top to see views across the vines and admire the new bell made by the foundry that made the bells for Notre Dame de Paris.

The stunned glass window designed by director John Kolasa

The stained glass window designed by director John Kolasa

Talking of bells, the Croix Canon cellar is just next door to Chateau Angelus. Angelus made the headlines with the 2012 classification, being one of two properties along with Chateau Pavie to break the glass ceiling of the A classification taking the total from 2, at which it had remained since its inception in 1954, to the grand total of 4. To celebrate, their 2012 vintage will be sold in bottles embossed with a golden label.

The new 2012 and the classic Angelus labels

The new 2012 and the classic Angelus labels

The property has also just opened its brand new cellars. The wine making and ageing cellars themselves have not changed that much but the building including the bell tower has. The new entrance hall is a spectacular wood and stone renaissance structure topped with the bell tower, which will peal out your national anthem for you as you pass through the portals.

The new entrance at Chateau Angelus with bells on!

The new entrance at Chateau Angelus with bells on!          Photo Manfred Wagner

The renovations however are more than just a PR opportunity. They have enabled the integration of new wine making techniques, the signature of experimental co-owner and winemaker, de Bouard. In 1986 Angelus was the first property in St Emilion to use a sorting machine, and his La Fleur de Bouard, in neighbouring Lalande de Pomerol, has a spectacular cellar of suspended inverted vats that could be considered a testing ground for these techniques.

The new inverted vats at Angelus Photo Manfred Wagner

The new inverted vats at Angelus
Photo Manfred Wagner

He has introduced two of these vats, one in oak and another in stainless, into the new cellars at Angelus alongside the classic cement, stainless and oak vats already in place. He has also reduced the temperature of the 1st year barrel cellar to 10°C enabling a more efficient precipitation of lees and a slower, longer 12 months aging on the lees. The lower temperature also reduces the inherent risk of brett and the use of sulphites and gives a more elegant uptake of oak allowing for a longer, 2 year aging in barrels.

If all this talk of new cellars has worked up an appetite, help is on hand. After Chateau Troplong Mondot and Chateau Candale. Chateau La Dominique, Saint Emilion cru Classé on the border of Pomerol, has also opened a restaurant.  Construction tycoon, Clement Fayat, owner of Chateau Pichon Clement in Haut Medoc, has commissioned a spectacular new cellar designed by French architect Jean Nouvel inspired by the work of British artist Anish Kapoor. The artist’s fascination for red is perfect for Saint Emilion. The red plastic surfaces on the curved walls of the winery reflect the vines and the sky. The building is topped by an enormous ‘Terrasse Rouge’ the floor of which is covered with red glass pebbles, designed to look like the top of an open fermenting vat full of grapes.  Here you can sit admiring the view over neighbouring vineyards and watch the chefs busy at the grill, preparing your steak and other regional specialities.

La Terrasse Rouge

La Terrasse Rouge

Bon appétit!




Size matters at Chateau Soutard.

The average size of a wine property in Bordeaux is 14ha, this is a dramatic and relatively recent evolution. In the 60’s the average size was only 3ha and there were over 45 000 producers compared to ‘only’ 8 700 today. On the right bank however the properties have remained smaller, around 6ha in Saint Emilion and Pomerol on average. There are some notable exceptions to this rule, not least amongst the top properties. First classified growths such as Chateau Canon with 22ha, Chateau Troplong-Mondot at 33 ha, Chateau Cheval Blanc at 37 ha and the largest Chateau Figeac with 40ha under vines and a further generous 14ha in parkland, buck this trend. Classififed growth Chateau Soutard is amongst this group with 22ha under vines unchanged around the 18th century chateau for the last 100 years. The monumental Chateau is one of the largest buildings at the heart of a Saint Emilion property with 30 000 sq ft of roofing.

Under ownership of the de Ligneris family since the early since 1900’s the property was sold to La Mondiale insurance company in 2006. La Mondiale already knows a thing or two about St Emilion owning the neighbouring classified growth Château Larmande for the last 20 years, Grand Cru Château Grand Faurie La Rose and, the most recent addition to the team, Château Cadet-Piola. In total, the company owns almost 55 hectares of vines in the classic terroir of the limestone and clay plateau and extending throughout the clay, limestone and sandy slopes at the very heart of Saint-Émilion.
Claire Thomas-Chenard manages all four properties, assisited by cellar master Véronique Corporandy, and she has overseen the two year renovation of Chateau Soutard. The 2011 harvest was the second crop to enter the new cellars and they are spectacular – showing that some things are just worth waiting for. An elegant marriage of steel and oak in both the decor and the fermentation vats (50/50 stainless and oak small vats) the classic varietal blend of 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Franc enter into the cold storage rooms before being transferred to the vats, allowing not just temperature control of the must but an even flow management of the process. Even the remontage of the cellars is automatied allowing Claire to keep a close on all four cellars simultaneously during the busy harvest period.

It is not just in wine making where they are reaping the rewards of their investment. Chateau Soutard won the 2012 Best of Wine Tourism award for parks and gardens offering a unique way of discovering the property. As well as visiting the cellars and tasting the wine the gardens and vineyards allow visitors, map in hand to discover the different themes, from the natural approach to cultivation of the vines, to a childrens tour or a romantic moonlit visit. The boutique is open to the public, not just to sell wines, there is a large range of books and momentos including a children’s corner. If you would like to taste, pull up a chair on the terrace to taste their wines with some local cured ham or buy a bottle and borrow a picnic hamper to go and picnic in the grounds.
If you fancy more formal dining book ahead for a private lunch, dinner or cooking class and then cycle off lunch by pedalling through the four propeties and you can even stay the night at one of the guests rooms at Château Grand Faurie la Rose to sleep it all off.

A new crop – of labels!

Harvest is well underway, most of the dry whites are in and driving around I can see some merlot on trailers already on the way to the cellars.
The vintage 2011 is not all that is new here, this week I saw the new bottling of 2009 on display. Most of the properties bottled their 2009 through the summer and are just planning to deliver the bottles to customers who stumped up their money spring 2010 for their primeur allocation. The 2009 vintage will be on the shelves for the end of the year although most of them will be laying down for a few years rather than ending up on festive tables.
There are some new labels amongst the 2009 crop. Château Pichon Longueville Baron, second growth of Pauillac, has a very complicated label but it has become such a signature that fans do not need to look at it to understand what’s in the bottle, they can recognise it from a distance. Changing it would be tricky, however their label for their second wine ‘Les Tourelles ‘ has had a complete revamp. The picture on the new label shows the property as it is today. Not that the 19th century ‘fairytale’ chateau has changed since it was built by Raoul de Pichon-Longueville, but the cellars have and the château is now reflected in a pool covering the new underground cellars. The label manages to capture the traditional château but with a clean presentation – the mix of tradition and modern that represents today’s Bordeaux so well.


However the label of the Grand Vin is nodding towards the 21st century sporting a QR code on the back label.

Another property with a change to the back label is Château Canon, first growth of Saint Emilion. The Wertheimer family, owners of Chanel purchased canon, in 1996 but along with their ownership of Château Rauzan Segla since 1994. For many years the Wertheimer family kept a low profile about their Bordeaux presence and the link to Chanel was rarely mentioned. This has all changed now the new label of Rauzan Segla designed by Karl Lagerfeld (see previous post ) and now the back labels of the 2009 clearly mention the link with Chanel.

A glass with your wine?

There are rumours that the legislation for taking liquids on board planes will be lifted soon which will be a relief to the châteaux receiving visitors and their guests alike.
The legislation has made a big difference to cellar-door purchases by foreigner visitors not wanting a risk a breakage in their suitcase on the way home. However for many of the top growths in Bordeaux there is often no wine to purchase at the cellar after visits anyway, as everything is pre sold on primeur. Some properties keeps a little back for visitors but it’s a challenge during the bun fight at primeur time for them to hold on to bottles.
All is not lost however as if you can’t take back a bottle you can also take another little memento. Move over corkscrews and sommelier aprons Bordeaux has a better class of souvenir – crystal decanters and glasses.
Chateau Troplong Mondot has just created tasting glasses and the Chanel properties,Château Rauzan Segla and Château Canon, who know a thing or two about luxury, have crystal glasses and decanters with a discreet logo on the base and stopper. Château Latour also has a beautiful decanter and glasses but as they only welcome trade at the Château you’ll be lucky to get your hands on one.

Château Lagrange has a more modern decanter and glass set with the signature château visual from their label, and Château Kirwan, one of the pioneers of wine tourism, also sells signature classes with a bold K. Château Giscours even offers a free glass as a gift with the visit and tasting.

Recognise the château?

You can buy the wines when you get home but the decanters and glasses are the exclusive proof that you were there. The question remains; can you serve your Pichon in a La Tour decanter or your Cheval Blanc in a Canon glass? It might lead astray your guests at a blind tasting though!

Bleu de Chanel

Luxury is synonymous with Bordeaux, reinforced by the well-known presence of luxury conglomerates LVMH and Pinault owning leading estates, Yquem and Cheval Blanc and Latour respectively. Less well know is that couture and perfume house Chanel owns two leading Bordeaux properties, neatly balanced between left and right bank : Château Rauzan Ségla, deuxième grand cru classé of Margaux and Château Canon, première grand cru classé of Saint Emilion. At first their seems little synergy, unless of course you take into account the commitment to quality which can clearly be seen in the rigorous renovation that has taken place in these properties.
Chanel purchased Château Canon from the Fournier family in 1996 and they have invested a serious budget in renovation, starting with the vineyards (that needed a dramatic replanting programme), the cellars but also the amazing underground quarries on which the château is perched. This has all come beautifully together with the recently completed cellars. If you look closely here is where you can see a Chanel signature – – the decoration of the cellars echos the recently launched aftershave Bleu de Chanel.

It is apparently the colour used for the family’s racehorses – an elegant touch of luxury indeed.