Friday, 25 July 2008

May - June - Mark Hoddy

16th, 17th & 18th - Shop Festivals ...
What a 3 day tour that was! Off to Laithwaites shops to present our Chai Au Quai wines at "mini" wine festivals.
The shops visited in order were:
The Coppid Beach hotel, Binfield
Theale shop
Surbiton shop
High Elms Golf Club, Locksbottom
Park Hotel and Golf Club, Croydon

The tastings were a huge success and I met some great customers all well equipped with their keen palates.

I presented five Chai Au Quai wines: VO 2007, GG 2007, L'Ambassade 2005 Sauternes, Grand Chai Margaux 2005 and the Grand Chai Médoc 2005

Everything was tasting great but the stars of the show for the Chai au Quai were the GG 2007 and the L'Ambassde 2005 Sauternes. Both wines made lots of new friends.

Some other Laithwaites wines on show that stood out for me were the Wrangles 2006 Chardonnay/Viognier/Riesling blend and the Bodegas Primicia Rioja Resevea 2003. I recommend you try them!

After a very busy but fun three days I arrived in London at 9:30 p.m to meet some old Aussie winemaking pals who are here for the London Wine Trade Fair. Tomorrow to recover (!) and then it's an early start at the London Excel centre in Docklands on Tuesday.

Tuesday 20th-21st - London Wine Trade Fair ...
The wine fair is the one of the biggest in the world along with Hong Kong and Bordeaux. There are some 20,000 wines available to taste from every wine producing region in the world. All the winemakers, producer, owners and buyers are present, tasting spitting, bargaining and discovering. The fair allows me to compare and look for new things for our customers.

Have to eat a big breakfast this morning as its going to be a long day's tasting. Tasting on an empty stomach is no fun.

Arrive at show about 9 a.m and the tasting begins.

I have a meeting with Jean-Marc Sauboua at 11a.m at The Wine Challenge stand to browse over our wine medals. Of course, being British, I am there on time, forgetting Jean-Marc is French and therefore consistently late. Finally he arrives and we go and have a look at the listings. Very pleased to see we again have a lot medals, so many in fact that if Jean-Marc put them all around his neck he would look like Mr.T.
It was a really good show and lots of exciting wines around for us winemakers to taste.

Friday 23rd ...
Back in Bordeaux and straight into the Chai au Quai cellar for 7a.m as we are earth filtering the Margaux 2006 ready for next week's bottling. Earth filtering is a natural and delicate way of removing the natural haziness in unfinished wine. The reason this done is so that we can finally get to show off the true complex colours of the wine that we have worked so hard to achieve since the day the grapes were picked.

The principle is very basic. Firstly a small quantity of fine diatomaceous earth is continuously mixed into the wine. The wine is sucked through a stainless steel mesh and the earth forms a cake/filter bed on the mesh. The wine is then sucked through this earth cake and the sediment that forms the haze is stopped by the cake. The result from the other side of the cake is the same wine but clear and bright.

When the finished wine is tilted in a tasting glass, we can now see the deep colour what is called the core of the wine and the young bright edge or rim around it. This is used to show the quality of the wine, the deeper the core and thinner the edge the better … and the Margaux 2006 has the perfect balance.

Monday 26th ...
For one time only it is a bank holiday in UK but not in France!
The week starts back in cellar for a full tasting of all the barrels. I have not done the rounds since the 12th but the wines have been in the safe hands of our Cellar Master Denis. He has been looking after the cellar and staying contact with me whilst I have been away.

Wednesday 28th ...
Today I pick up Jean-Marc from the airport then we head off towards Saint-Emilion and take the Château Pavie road to stop off at Château Rozier (opposite Château Belfont Belcier) to see Monsieur Saby. The Saby family are old friends of ours. They own 60ha in total with vineyards located in the famous Saint-Emilion areas such as Châteaux Grace Dieu, Figeac, Corbin and at the foot of the limestone hill of Château Fonplégade. We're hoping to get some top quality grapes from them next year!

We arrive back at the Chai at 7pm and I have to check the 2006 Margaux to ensure it is ready for tomorrow's bottling.

Thursday 29th ...
Today we are bottling the Margaux 2006 so I am at the Chai at just before 7a.m. I make sure everything is ok and stay until the bottling gets under way. I then leave the rest of the day in the capable hands of our Cellar Master as Jean-Marc and I have a meeting with Phillipe Bourlon, who's agreed to share his extensive knowledge of local vineyards to help us hunt out some new parcels of wine.

I am rather nervous as we have a lot to visit today and Phillipe does have a slight Frenchness to drive fast. First we go to see his family property Château Guibeau in Puisseguin St.Emilion where we have a quick look and a shake hands with his father Henri. Then suddenly we were off towards Bordeaux (direction lunch) via Ch.Gachon in Montagne, Ch.Haut Pourrett in St.Emilion and then Château Vieux Maillet opposite Château Le Bon Pasteur in Pomerol.

After a relatively quick lunch (1hr 54mins!) in the centre of Bordeaux we head for Château Mancedre in Pessac-Leognan. This is a lovely small property situated next to the world famous Château Fizeul. The wines are just amazing and we quickly make a deal to get this wine into the Chai as soon as possible. This will be our brand new Chai Au Quai release the 'Grand Chai Pessac'.

Last stop for me is the Chai to wrap up the bottling of the Grand Chai Margaux 2006 but it will only be a week until we have the 2007 in cellar. It will be a tough week without any Margaux barrels to care for!

Friday 30th ...
Today is a very important day for us in the cellar as everything (tanks, floor, hoses, pumps) has to be cleaned and put in order after the hectic week and to be ready for Monday morning.

Monday 2nd ...
Today I am in the South of France in the village of Maury home to the GG and XV du Président XV wines and tonight I am meeting up Tony Laithwaite for a bite to eat in the heart of the Maury village.

Tuesday 3rd ...
Up early as I want to visit some new Grenache Gris vineyards I heard about yesterday. After a good look at the vineyards I meet up with Tony and we go to see Monsieur Cazach at the Cave CoOperative of Maury. We have good chat and look round the cellar, tasting and checking all of our 2007 XV du Président tanks.

We then take a trip up to the tiny village of Lesquerde (5mins from Maury) to see some of Elsa Lejeune's vineyards of Domaine Eternel (one to look out for), we taste the wines and then have a good lunch.

Tony continued his travels deeper into the Roussillon but I have to leave for Bordeaux this afternoon as I have a meeting in Bordeaux tomorrow.

Wednesday 4th ...
A whistle-stop tour around Bordeaux to taste more potential Chai wines and see if any growers are prepared to share their grapes.

First visit is to the small Medoc appellation of Listrac which is sandwiched between Margaux to the South and St. Julien to the North. Listrac has an unusually high proportion of Merlot grown and the wines are therefore some of the softest in the whole of the Medoc region.

We visit Château Donissan Veyron a 300 year old Cru Bourgeois family estate. Like Château Margaux it is one of the rare Medoc Châteaux to give its name to the village in which it is situated. Some of its neighbours are Ch.Clarke and Ch. Chasse Spleen. The wines were just phenomenal!

We then made our way up to the far north of the Medoc (the Haut-Medoc) past Pauillac to Château L'Inclassable (that really is its name!) in the village of Priegnac.

Here we are greeted by Remy Fauchey who is the 5th generation owner/winemaker of the Château. We had been invited to lunch but politely declined as last time we accepted we were at lunch for 3 hours. We tasted all his charming wines and after we finished he said even though we had declined lunch he had prepared to what he referred to as 'some nibbles' for us anyway! I would be interested to see what a full meal would be like!

After quick evening stop in St.Emilion and then at the Chai it was time to head home and to sleep off the cheese/ham/bread/pate/salade/coffee/chocolate lunch.

Thursday 5th ...
Today is our very important 2-monthly meeting and tasting. A sample of all our wines from France, Italy, Spain, Moldova etc are sent to the Chai. The entire wine production team fly out to Bordeaux and we taste through everything very carefully to check progress and make further decisions.

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