Tag Archives: Château Margaux

Women making Sense in Bordeaux

If you think women in the world of the wine world is something new and/or unusual, where have you been in recent years? You might be forgiven for thinking that in such a traditional bastion of wine as Bordeaux, women in the vineyards and cellars might be more unusual that in other regions  – think again. Historically, there have always been influential women on the Bordeaux wine scene, as well as many others working behind the scenes.

Some of Bordeaux’s leading vineyards are still going strong today thanks to the historical role of women. Jean de Bellon was the first owner of Chateau Haut Brion in the 16th century and it’s not only Champagne that has famous widows. As a young widow, Françoise Josephine de Sauvage d’Yquem was thrown into prison twice during the French revolution but she continued to make Château d’Yquem prosper. The Comtesse de Bournazel successfully took over the reigns of the family Chateau de Malle in Sauternes on the death of her husband, before handing it over to her son. Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande is named after another Comtesse responsible for its success.

Properties may be handed down from fathers to daughters who continue to grow the family estates. Famously Baroness Philippine Rothschild continued and expanded her father’s work at Mouton Rothschild, Corinne Mentzelopoulos owns and runs Chateau Margaux with her daughter. More recently, Siaska Rothschild took over running Château Lafite from her father Baron Eric, and Stephanie de Bouard-Rivoal is now in charge of Chateau Angelus alongside her cousin Thierry Grenié,with Emmanuelle Fulchi their cellar master. There is nothing new about feminine power in Bordeaux wine.

Not so long ago it was unusual to see a woman working in the cellars – with an older generation of male wine makers talking about women ‘turning’ the wine – and that is still in living memory. Women are now making the wines as well as owning, running and marketing them. A few that come to mind, and not only in the top growths, are Marjolaine de Cornack at Chateau Marquis d’Alesme, Maylis De Laborderie at Chateau La Lagune, (both working with female owners), Paz Espejo at Château Lanessan and Caroline Artaud at Château Forcas Hostens. Some women are carrying on from the parents in a family vineyard, such as Estelle Roumage at Chateau Lestrille, Armelle Falcy Cruse at Château du Taillan, and I could go on.

I organized my first Women in Wine Tour in Bordeaux back in  2007, so again nothing new here, but these women, and many more, came back on my radar thanks to the recent visit here in Bordeaux of the American association Women for Wine sense (WWS). Created in 1990 by two leading Californian women in wine, Michaela Rodeno and Julie Johnson, WWS aims to increase knowledge about wine through education as a counterweight to the anti-alcohol lobby. Their premise is a better understanding of wine leads to more responsible consumption. The success of this organisation has been phenomenal; they now have a network of 10 chapters and growing throughout the US and a charitable arm that sponsors wine education for women in the industry.

I have run several Bordeaux seminars for WWS members in the US over the last year but this was their first trip to Bordeaux. With Decanter Tours it seemed only natural to concentrate on vineyards with a feminine signature, choosing properties for them to visit that were owned by, managed by or where women made the wine. I’m aware it’s sexist – but it was great fun!

We were spoilt for choice with just three days we only scratched the surface. Following their tour, I wanted to use this post to profile some of the leading women in Bordeaux but as I started looking at the long list I realised that it would take a book rather than a blog post to do them justice, so I’ll just concentrate on the women that offered us such a warm welcome and amazing hospitality during our tour.

Margaux has traditionally been considered the most feminine of all the Medoc appellations, thanks to its signature sumptuousness and velvety tannins, so it seemed like the perfect place to start. Chateau Margaux is known as the most feminine of all the 1st growths by its style as well as being owned and run by Corinne and Alexandra Mentzelopoulos. The harvest had just started when we were there, with a man at the helm; Philippe Bascules splits his wine making between Bordeaux and Napa – and was very excited about explaining  the complementarity of making wines both sides of the Atlantic – he is a very busy man!

Bascules a Margaux

With Philippe Bascaules wine maker at Chateau Margaux above the new Pavillon Blanc cellars.

Further north, Lilian and Melanie Barton Sartorius, another mother and daughter team, are working together. As Lilian takes on more and more responsibility at the family vineyards, Leoville and Langoa Barton, her daughter Melanie, the eighth generation of the Bartons in Bordeaux and the first qualified oenologist of the family, has taken over the wine making at their new vineyard Mauvesin Barton in Moulis, purchased in 2011.

Lilian and Melanie at Mauvesin

Lilian and Melanie Barton-Sartorius at Chateau Mauvesin

We also met the latest member of the family, Oona, the Parson Russell terrier puppy, who completely stole the limelight!

oona

The newest member of the Barton family

Pascale Peyronie welcomed us to her family property Chateau Fonbadet in Pauillac. After working alongside her father for 20 years, she has stepped into his shoes to run the vineyard. Her vines are on some of the best and priciest gravel terroir in Pauillac, smack in the middle of the famous names of Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Chateau Latour, Chateau Lynch Bages, Chateau Pichon Baron and Longueville Comtesse. You can imagine that she has received some interesting offers for her vines, but she continues to produce Chateau Fonbadet as an independent Cru Bourgeois rather than succumbing to the temptation of an easier life, although she did exchange three ha of vines with Mouton Rothschild to re-organise the vineyard. When she showed us around, her 92-year-old father was still on hand to meet the ladies and help serve the wine.

Fonbadet barrel

Is it a characteristic for women to work more closely together? We had several examples of collaboration between neighbouring women in wine which make me think that perhaps it is.

Four properties in Margaux owned and/or managed by women have grouped together to welcome visitors into their chateaux. Well aware that chateau visits can be repetitive (vines, cellars, barrels, tasting, repeat), Lise Latrille of Château Prieuré Lichine, Nathalie Schyler of Chateau Kirwan, Marie Laure Lurton of La Tour Bessanand Anne-Francoise Quié of Chateau Rauzan Gassies have grouped together to create a ‘Une Journée Gourmande à Margaux’. These dynamic women explained this project to us over lunch in the beautiful kitchens of Chateau Prieuré Lichine.

Prieure kitchen

Ladies who lunch at Chateau Prieuré Lichine

Their idea was to create a tour where each visit concentrates on a different part of the wine process.  The tour starts at Château Prieuré-Lichine, with a history of the Medoc while sipping on their white wine (yes there are some rare white wines in the Medoc even though they don’t carry the name). Then at Chateau Rauzan Gassies they explore the importance of terroir, tasting the wines from the three vineyards owned by the Quié family. Lunch at Chateau Kirwanis the opportunity to taste the wines from all four vineyards paired with regional dishes before a visit to Château La Tour Bessan to try your hand at blending, tasting your results alongside local chocolates – there’s a reason this is called a ‘Gourmande’ tour.

Margaux gourmand girls

Nathalie Schyler of Chateau Kirwan, Lise Latrille of Château Prieure Lichine and Marie-Laure Lurton of Château La Tour Bessan.

Margaux gourmande

Women do seem to be very open to developing wine tourism. I was recently asked to cover leading women winners of best of Wine Tourism awards reinforcing this impression. Chatting with Florence Cathiard at Château Smith Haut Lafite, one of the pioneers of wine tourism in the region, it was interesting to compare the European and the American approach to wine tourism. The chateau with its open door policy, new land art exhibition alongside the more traditional visits, as well as the phenomenal success her daughters have had, both with The Sources de Caudalie resort and the Caudalie cosmetics is a case study for successful wine tourism.

Florence

Talking wine tourism with Florence Cathiard at Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte

We had another experience of collaboration with the women of sweet Bordeaux. A picnic lunch in the park of Chateau de Ceronswith Caroline Peyromat and her neighbour Nicola Alison from Chateau du Seuil, was the ideal way to discover the characteristics of the tiny Cerons appellation but also to share their red and white wines from the Graves appellation.

Then on to Sauternes and Barsac for a progressive dinner, the idea was to show just how food friendly the sweet wines of Bordeaux really are. After a visit and tasting at Chateau Yquem with cellar Master Sandrine Garbay, and a look at the new in-chateau boutique, we headed down the hill to the terrace of Château Sigalas Rabaud. Here, with tapas, we tasted the range of wines made by owner wine maker Laure de Lambert including her 100% dry Sémilion (La Semillante) and a Sweet Bordeaux made with no Sulphur le 5 – quite a technical challenge.

Mout at Sigalas

Tasting the semillon juice at Chateau Sigalas Rabaud before fermentation

Then on to Barsac, to first growth Château Climensfor the main course served with three vintages from the property, after discovering where owner wine maker Berenice Lurton dries and prepares the herbs she uses in her biodynamic preparations.

Climens Tissanerie

La Tisanerie at Château Climens in Barsac

Climens sunset

Climens 3 vintages

And of course dessert served at neighbour Château Coutet by Aline Baily, and we all slept soundly on the coach all the way home!

Coutet Chapel

The chapel at Château Coutet

Coutet with desert

We found this same spirit of cooperation in Pomerol. The neighbours came over to lunch organised by Monique Bailly at the new Ronan by Client winery of Château Client. Hosted by Nathalie Bez, we were joined by Maireille Cazaux Director and wine maker at Chateau La Conseillante and Diana Berrouet Garcia Wine maker at Chateau Petit Village.Tasting their wines side by side, although they are so close, showed just how important the notion of terroir can be even in as small an appellation as Pomerol.

Pomerol bottles

Tasting with the neighbors in Pomerol

Cellar master Emmanuel Fulchi hosted us at Chateau Angelus, taking us into the vineyard to get to grips with the terroir in their two properties, Chateau Angelus and Chateau Bellevue. Walking amongst the almost ripe grapes, we could understand the subtle differences of terroir up and down the south facing foothills of the limestone slopes of Saint Emilion.

Emmanuelle Fulchi

Emmanuelle Fulchi explains the Saint Emilion terroir at Château Angelus

The tasting was a master class in right bank Merlot. Bellevue is 100% Merlot and Angelus a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Recently returned from a Merlot seminar in the US, Emmanuel shared her surprise at the reputation Merlot suffers from in the States. The tasting firmly dispelled any questions hanging over the great potential of Merlot on the right bank.

Belleve:angelus

The Women for Wine Sense visit was both an opportunity to shine a light on the women in Bordeaux but also to dispel a few Bordeaux myths. They are planning to return, so it’s back to the drawing board to see which other Bordeaux Women in Wine we can visit on their next trip – we will be spoilt for choice.

 

Christmas gift ideas for the wine geeks in your world.

Now it’s December, I feel it’s safe to offer some Christmas gift ideas. It is perfect timing for the release of Château Margaux’s 2015 vintage. With its exceptional golden silk-screen print on the bottle instead of the classic label, it’s the perfect festive presentation. A bottle of Château Margaux will always be a superb present for a wine lover but this is the gift that keeps on giving. Even when the wine is drunk – probably not for another 10 years or so – you will want to keep this special bottle. It’s the first (and probably only) time that the chateau will produce such a bottle. This vintage is exceptional not only for the quality but also as it celebrates two hundred years of architecture with the inauguration of the new Norman Foster designed cellars. Perhaps most importantly, it was the last vintage of director Paul Pontallier. A well deserved homage.

Château Margaux 2015 unique bottle.

Château Mouton Rothschild edits a special label for every vintage, and has done since 1945, choosing a new artist for each vintage. This year’s release of the 2015 is no exception – the difference being that this is the first label to be signed by the new generation following the death of Baroness Philippine de Rothschild in 2014. The artist Gerhard Richter has created the piece of art for this year’s release, the original of which will now join the fascinating exhibition of all the original art behind the labels in the museum at the Chateau. The artwork is inspired around the notion of blend – a key of course to making fine Bordeaux.

Château Mouton Rothschild 2015 label.

Something to drink that from? Most regular imbibers have their favourite stemware but you might want to take a look at the new range Baccarat has created with Bruno Quenioux. Called Château Baccarat, the four glasses, sold as a ‘kit’, include a champagne flute, 2 wine glasses and a spirit glass. With the beautifully Baccarat presentation they make a great gift, although you’ll have to buy one for each member of the family or party if you all want to drink together. I do have a wine tour client that always brings his own selection of wine glasses with him when he tours – so that could work too!

The four glass set from Baccarat.

Baccarat also launched a new perfume this year to celebrate the 250 years of the Crystal house. Called Rouge 540 Baccarat and created by perfumier Francis Kurkdjian, it is unsurprisingly presented in a beautiful crystal bottle created by Georges Chevalier. It takes its name not from wine but as a reference to the emblematic packaging and the temperature needed to create the red colour in the crystal – very seasonal.

If classified Bordeaux for a top vintage or the crystal to sip it from aren’t quite in your Christmas gift budget, books about wine make excellent, and easier to ship, gifts for your favourite wine geek. Knowledge increases pleasure is my strapline after all.

No one wants to read a diet book during the festive season so I’ll come back to you in the New Year with details of my next book ‘The Drinking Woman’s Diet’, but I do have a reading recommendation for you: Jane Anson, Contributing Editor and Bordeaux correspondent for Decanter Magazine, is the author of several books I have previously recommended including Bordeaux Legends and The Club of Nine. Her latest book, Wine Revolution, is a brave move away from her usual ‘terroir’ of the top classified growths of Bordeaux into the world of organic, biodynamic and other ‘natural’ wines. You would be mistaken for thinking that it is simply a manifesto for small is beautiful; it is a well-researched look at the natural wine movement from both big and small producers. There are some Bordeaux wines in there but it is an around the world wine trip (including a Welsh sparkling), illustrated by stunning vineyard photography. Some of these wines themselves would make excellent Christmas presents alongside the book.

Wine Revolution

Wine is not normally on children’s Christmas wish list but humour me for a shameless plug for my husband’s book, The Golden Dolphin. Written for our granddaughter, who plays a key role in the story of course, it harks back to a tale he made up about the Dolphin that graced the label of Château Guiraud when we owned it.

The hero of the Golden Dolphin

Instead of offering stuff why not offer a wine experience? Berry Brothers and Rudd is my go-to recommendation for wine events be they gourmet or education but of course I’m going to recommend offering a wine tour for 2018.

I’m involved with two wine tours in early 2018 organised by Decanter Tours that promise to be a little different to a classic tour. The ‘Wine and Design Tour‘ will see me with London interior Abigail Hall interior designer and author of Cushions and Crime, leading a small group around Bordeaux and it’s Chateaux. Abigail will be expounding upon the architectural and design styles of Bordeaux and I’ll be sharing the wines from the properties whose design and architecture both in the chateaux and the cellars we’ll be admiring.

The beautiful Bordeaux architecture explained

If by May your new year’s resolutions are still holding, join yoga teacher Martine Bounet and me for a wine and yoga weekend. Not as incompatible as it sounds – yoga classes held in beautiful chateaux will be followed by a tastings of the wines and you will learn how a little meditation could improve your tastings skills. If you fancy these themes – you can plan a tailor made trip along these lines for a group of friends. Any hen parties in your plans for 2018?

Wine and Yoga – on your wish list for 2018?

Can’t wait until next year? It’s still not too late to squeeze in a pre Christmas trip to Bordeaux. If you do, you can call in at Château Phelan Segur for their Christmas box – a Christmas themed cooking glass in the chateau followed by a tasting and lunch. Perfect to get you into the Bordeaux Christmas spirit.

Merry Christmas!

 

 

Booze Books for Christmas

There are so many good books about wine, spirits and tasting and Christmas seems as good a time as any to take a look. Here are four recommendations as gift ideas for like-minded wine geeks, beginners or even to add to your own Christmas stocking.

I mentioned Decanter Journalist, Jane Anson’s previous book Bordeaux Legends, in the run up to Christmas a couple of years ago. Well, she has done it again with this beautiful book. She has teamed up with photographer Andy Katz to profile the Bordeaux vineyards known as The Club of Nine.

The Club of Nine by Jane Anson and Andy Katz

The Club of Nine by Jane Anson and Andy Katz

His photos are spectacular. Even having lived near these properties for almost 30 years, I found the images as surprising as they are breath-taking. You can see more of his beautiful work on this web site.

The Club of Nine is the term used for and by what are considered, by most, to be the nine top properties of the region: The five Red first growths of the 1855 classification; Haut Brion, Margaux, Latour, Lafite Rothschild and Mouton Rothschild. (Although technically Mouton only became a 1st growth in 1973.) Then there are the original two First Growths A from Saint Emilion, Château Cheval Blanc and Château Ausone and the neighbouring Chateau Petrus from Pomerol. Although the Pomerol appellation has never ‘benefited’ from a classification, received wisdom and market prices concur that Petrus is the leading light of the appellation. Finally there is Chateau d’Yquem. Yquem was granted the highest accolade of Premier Grand Cru Classé Supérieur in 1855, outranking them all, such were the heady days of the 19th century for the sweet wines of Bordeaux.

This is more than a ‘nickname’ for a group of top terroir wineries, but also a forum where the technical directors of each property regularly meet to discuss and share, technical issues, research and the challenges their properties and the region face.

The question now raised is that, based on these selection criteria of classification, should we talk of a Club of 11? Both Chateau Angelus and Chateau Pavie were promoted up to Premier Grand Cru Classé A in the last, Saint Emilion Classification. But then again that was in 2012, so let’s not rush things!

There’s a lot of history surrounding the properties mentioned above and Bordeaux history is intimately linked with that of England, right back to Eleanor of Aquitaine, in the 12th century. Eleanor is one of the many British, influences mentioned in recently published Empire of Booze a humorous look at the history of booze and the role the British empire has, and continues to, play. Written by wine and spirits journalist, Henry Jeffreys and published through the website unbound, it’s a read that will take you backwards and forwards through time but also from London, to France, Portugal, Spain, Scotland and as far as Australia – a terrific read.

Empire of Booze by Henry Jefferies

Empire of Booze by Henry Jefferys

For some lighter reading, perhaps as a gift to those not quite so far down the wine geek road, Jancis Robinson‘s recently published The 24-Hour Wine Expert, is a cracking introduction to the wine world. Covering everything from tasting to serving from geography to varietals and much more. Just enough to get any beginner through the first steps of wine appreciation and perhaps start them on the road to wine ‘geekdom’ – you have been warned.

Become a 24-Hour Wine Expert with Jancis Robinson

Become a 24-Hour Wine Expert with Jancis Robinson

And for a completely different take, try Jo Malone My Story. It has nothing to do with wine, but interesting for tasters as it is all based around her acute sense of smell, such an important part of tasting. So much so that the very opening pages of the book are scented with her signature scent Pomelo – a Sauvignon Blanc with that perhaps?

A great sense of smell - Jo Malone's Story

A great sense of smell – Jo Malone’s Story 

How authentic is your bottle?

Between the conviction of infamous wine fraud Rudy Kurniawan and the growing market for wines in Asia where counterfeiting seems to be national sport (and not just in wine), authentication of wine has become more and more important.

A recent contribution to the Jancis Robinson blog was an intriguing insight into an affordable way to verify the authenticity of your wine bottle, based on the ‘bobbles’ and other manufacturer markers along the bottom of the bottle. But many Chateaux in Bordeaux and elsewhere have introduced a more secure and personalised approach.

Most bottling lines now include laser engraving with dates and code numbers that allow chateaux to trace their bottles. This offers many advantages; as well as being reassuring for clients, it allows the chateaux traceability in case of quality problems and allows them to trace how their wines got to market.
70% of Bordeaux wine is sold through ‘La Place’, the brokers and negociants. Chateaux do not always know or have contact with the final customer. It is not unusual for Chateaux to work with several different Bordeaux negociant houses, choosing them because of their expertise in particular markets, either geographical or by market sector. They may try and offer semi exclusivities in certain markets and also sometimes qualifying sales with conditions such as not selling to supermarkets.

This is difficult to police in an open market and some markets such as the UK are considered platforms with a lot of the wine being moved on to other markets Asia being a typical destination.
In recent years, undercutting sales prices by some struggling negociants have also perturbed the market,  be damaging to the brand image as well as upsetting other clients who are not happy when their final clients boast about finding certain wines on the market place at process lower than they have paid the property. These traceability tools allow the chateau a greater control and understanding of where their bottles are ending up and how they got there. The wine market is not as nebulous as it used to be.

Classified growths are the most likely to be subject to fraud and counterfeiting and they have perfected techniques with a mix of Q codes, authentication codes and special labels. Most Chateaux have a web page where alphanumeric codes from the label can be entered or Q codes can be scanned.

The authentication label on the Château Margaux bottle.

The authentication label on the Château Margaux bottle.

Chateau Margaux even has an app for the authentication and  as of 1st January 2013, all bottles leaving the cellar of Chateau Latour have a bubble tag on the bottle with a unique identification.

Latour bubble tags ready to   be added to the bottles.

Latour bubble tags ready to be added to the bottles.

There are also more traditional, non-digital ways of protecting themselves and their customers against fraud. Château d’Yquem uses a unique paper made by the Banque de France bank note suppliers for their labels that are water marked in a way that cannot be copied.

Printing roll for Yquem label paper

Printing roll for Chateau d’Yquem label paper

First growths are not the only properties investing in high tech authentication. Other Chateaux, such as biodynamic producer Chateau Le Puy in the Cotes de Francs, use the same Prooftag bubble system as Chateau Latour mentioned above.

And it’s not just the chateaux; vintner groups, such as the Cru Bourgeois, issue a defined number of bottle stickers complete with hologram at certification with a unique number that can be typed into the web site or the Q code can be scanned with the app.

The Cru Bourgeois Flash Sticker can be scanned on the smart phone app.

The Cru Bourgeois Flash Sticker can be scanned on the smart phone app.

You can now drink younger vintages with confidence. For older vintages however you will still need to rely on a close and trusting relationship with your wine merchant – something always worth cultivating.

Bordeaux women welcome the Napa women in Wine

Last January Napa Women in Wine invited their Bordeaux counterparts to discover the Napa Vineyard. This year was the return match.

From the 11th to 15th January, The 16 ladies from Napa travelled the length and breadth of Bordeaux from Pomerol to the Medoc, Saint Emilion to Sauternes and Pessac Leognan visint gproperties where women plys a major role either as wine makers, owners or managers. Included on the itinerary were Château La Lagune, Château la Tour Bessan, Château Margaux, Château kirwan, Château Paloumey, Château Franc Mayne, Château Teyssier, Château Troplong Mondot, Château Sigalas Rabaud, Château Yquem, Château Haut Bailly and Château de Seuil.
It was not just tourism; several conferences on themes including marketing, understanding Bordeaux, a presentation on the role of the negociant by Paz Espero and ‘Tasting Terroir’ by Nicole Croft.

The participants from both sides of the Atlantic were

From California 
Jane Ballentine – William Cole
Pavi Lawson – Pavi Wines
Heidi Barrett – La Sirena
Cherie Melka – Melka Wines
Sandy Blecher – Arns Family Winery Beth Milliken – Spottswood
Carissa Chappellet – Chappellet Winery
Mary Novak – Spottswood
Carolyn Duryea Smith – Hourglass Suzanne Pavitt – Phifer Pavitt Wines
Ursula Hermacinski – Screaming Eagle
Pam Starr – Crocker & Starr
Sharon Harris – AmiCellars
Pierette Titus – Titus Vineyards,
Erin Lail – LailVineyard
Michele Torres – Trincharo Family Vineyards

And from Bordeaux 
Sandrine Garbay, Wine Maker – Château d’Yquem- AOC Sauternes.
Laure Compeyrot, propriétaire – Château Sigalas Rabaud – AOC Sauternes.
Myriam Ruer, négociant propriétaire de Vinprod
Nicola Allison, propriétaire – Château du Seuil – AOC Graves
Griet Laviale, propriétaire & Laurence Ters, Wine Maker : Château Franc Mayne, AOC saint Emilion Château de Lussac, AOC Lussac Saint Emilion – Château Vieux Mallet – AOC Pomerol
Caroline Frey, propriétaire – Château La Lagune , AOC Haut-Médoc
Sophie Thierry, propriétaire – Château Kirwan, AOC Margaux
Martine Cazeneuve propriétaire & Babara Engerer, RP Château Paloumey, AOC Haut-Médoc
Marie-Laure Lurton, propriétaire – Château de Villegeorge , AOC Haut-Médoc- Château Duplessis, AOC Moulis – Château La Tour Bessan, AOC Margaux.
Lyn Maltus, propriétaire Château Teyssier, AOC Saint Emilion Grand cru
and my good self !