Wednesday, 23 June 2010

The next wine was loaded this morning from the tiny 3ha Dubes family property in St Emilion

Their vineyards neighbour two truly great estates Chateau Larcis Ducasse and Chateau Pavie. The magnificent vintage of 2009 certainly puts this wine up there with the best and I will ensure the Chai barrel-ageing will make this an absolute cracker!

Flowering has also finished here in St Emilion - patchy in places but looks healthy and the grapes can now be clearly seen, here we go again!

With that done I am on the road heading south to blend and finalise the 2009 Viognier in Carcassone with my old friend Richard Osborne, chief winemaker at domaines Degrote. I have never seen, smelled or tasted varietal character like this for quite some time! Luckily all was blended and decided before the French lost and were eliminated from the World Cup as at the end of the day all the cellar staff were in foul moods. Cellar master Antonio is Portuguese so at least he was happy!

Off to the Herault tomorrow to get the new Cabernet de Canet then a quick stop to make sure the 2009 Champs d'Etoile is bottled perfectly before heading back to the Chai as the La Voute Chardonnay needs me. Is this what its like having lots of demanding children I begin to wonder?


Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Back In The Chai

I am back in the Chai after a great holiday in French and Spanish Catalonia. Libby and I started our holiday in Perpignan and made our way down the coast crossing into Spain and heading inland through Figueres to Can Serola. Here we stayed at an absolutely amazing hotel lost high in the green foothills of the Spanish Pyrenees.

We visited some of the surrounding villages, one being the picturesque old town of Besalu, good tapas and good dry Xarrelo I remember well!

We sadly left the mountains after a couple of days and headed to the coast of Catalonia but stopped off first at Figueres – the birth town of artist Salvador Dali – and visited his very bizarre museum. The museum is well worth a visit even if it does leave you a bit dazed and confused afterwards!

We finally arrived in the small fishing town of Cadeques late Sunday where we took over our keys for an apartment close to the town centre and with great views from the terrace over the bay of Cadeques. That evening we sampled some local wine and discovered a very interesting white wine from Emporda made by Martin Faixo and from a rare blend of 91% Picapoll Blanc (known as Picpoul in France) and 9% Muscat.

The rest of the week the car remained stationary and we wandered in and around the village lunching on tapas. For dinner we picked up freshly caught bream, squid and sardines for the barbeque on the terrace and of course an interesting wine to go with it!

Before leaving Cadeques we stumbled on an equivalent to our ‘Voyager’ restaurant back home in Castillon. It was bustling with workers, older people there for their daily rations, the odd curious and worried looking tourist. Menus were in Catalan only, grumpy chef, efficient and pleasantly rude staff – love it!

With only a vague idea of what we ordered the food that came was superb and you could now see why the place was packed full. We had red peppers stuffed with salt cod mash, ham croquets, grilled conejo (rabbit) and whole fried baby squid, tomato bread, best chips since the voyageur and all washed down with red carafe table wine, perfect!

Some memorable wines tasted during the holiday were:

• Always good Manzanilla La Guitara
• DO Cataluyna Samso (Carignan) 09' by Ramon Roqueta
• 100% Samso Emporda 2007 Rigau Ros
• Prado Enea 2000 Gran Reserva Rioja (Muga)
• 1999 Rioja alta from Vina Ardanza
• 100% Tempranillo 2004 Ferratus Ribera del Duero from Bodegas Cuevas Jimenez
• 1995 Gran Reserva Rioja from Bodegas La Rioja Alta SA
• 'Adaia' Organic Cava (in a rather special bottle!)

Most people bring back a few bottles from their holidays but not me I came back with 30,000 litres! As soon as we crossed the border back into France there were already two trucks waiting for me in Maury – one for the 2009 Vent de Folie the other for the Syrah de Folie 09’. They were soon loaded and I was heading straight back to the Chai.

Whilst I had been away cellar master Denis had been filling the new Dordogne cellar with barrels ready for the arrival of the 2009 wines. It’s a good job he’s been busy as tomorrow I am off to St. Emilion to pick up another one of our wines for ageing in the Chai.


Monday, 7 June 2010

It's Oh So Quiet!

The Chai is finished at long last and the builders have gone. It seems very weird indeed without the banging, drilling and sawing noises and builders banter. The large office space upstairs looks incredible and is just waiting for the energy of the staff and wine sales team who move in Monday morning!

The new cellar also looks amazing and no sooner had the last electrician packed his tool box, the cellar was quickly in full work mode and our 2009 Chateau Peyrou from Castillon was already flowing into the first barrels to christen the new Dordogne Cellar!

With that done I am heading to the Midi and then into Catalonia for a well deserved weeks holiday!


Thursday, 3 June 2010

In go the barrels!

The OxO Line guys finished all the frames late yesterday evening so that first thing this morning, I could have a meeting with my cellar master Denis to go through all the barrel types to make a plan in order to allocate them for specific wines and where they will sit. By nine o’clock Denis was already placing them onto the frames!

I then rushed off to check the bottling of our superb little gold medal-winning find, Chateau Roc Pellebouc 2008 Bordeaux red. This is what we call a ‘petit chateau’ – in other words, not a famous chateau but great wine. When you have a great grape grower like Ludovic Roussillon these ‘petit chateau’ can be some of the most exciting and bargain wines of all.

Ludovic is a great winemaker too and certainly isn’t scared to risk leaving the fruit on the vine for optimum ripeness or trying innovative winemaking to make truly outstanding wines that tasted blind, can easily be confused with wines 3 times the price. I certainly will be snapping some of this up and I suggest you do too!

After lunch I headed to St. Emilion to see Stephane Dubes at his beautiful tiny family-run Chateau Rose Monturon. This 3.5ha estate with vineyards next to 1er Grand Cru Classe Chateau Pavie; the Grand Cru Classe Chateau Larcis Ducasse is a Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc blend of outstanding quality. The wine now has its appellation status and I was there to taste and check the wine ready for transport to the Chai next week for some serious barrel ageing. Another wine to keep an eye out for next year.

I was back at the Chai to check Denis’ day’s work and to see the new Dordogne cellar slowly transforming. It’s been a long 5 month wait for this and I am absolutely chuffed to bits – bring on the wine!!


Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Is it a bird ... is it a plane? No just our new UFO style vat for the Chai!

The Dordogne Chai renovation was finally finished yesterday and today I can begin to move in all my new winemaking toys! The first arrival was the new state of the art tapered stainless steel wine vat, handcrafted by the world famous but local to us ‘Lejeune’ vat makers.

Making a vat is one specialist art, but the other is delivering them! These guys are experts and the team, headed by the experienced Jean-Marie, spend their lives travelling across the European wine districts squeezing custom made vats into inaccessible hillside villages of Rioja to the prestigious Chateaux of the Medoc. Some say Jean-Marie could deliver a vat in perfect condition to the moon if needed!

The team spectacularly manoeuvred the vat from the truck into the small door of the Chai to its final position, which had to be millimetre-perfect as the OxO Line men were arriving any minute to construct the barrel support frames around the vat.

The OxO line was slowly put together piece by piece like a gigantic Meccano set. I have worked in many cellars and it is quite incredible the number of bad decisions that have been made by people who have never worked in a winemaking cellar before. So I was close on hand to ensure everything was aesthetically pleasing to the eye but remained perfectly practical for the physical winemaking. There’s nothing worse or more pointless than an expensive oak barrel you can’t fill or empty!

With all the excitement I forgot to report on my minor accident on the weekend. That’s if you haven’t heard already as a local villager seems to have spread (and exaggerate) the news further than I have managed to travel since the incident! I made my first visit to the A&E in Libourne after slicing the end of my finger off whilst making a Catalan fish stew, the skinned slippery Chorizo being the catalyst for a very painful couple of days.

No more complaints about French people being work shy (in the health department anyway) as France does has have marvellous free health system, at A&E I was whisked in and out in no time at all. The Pharmacy gave me so much free stuff that on the way out it looked like I was looting the place and if that’s not enough a daily nurse is assigned to visit wherever you are located to ensure a speedy recovery.

Vine watch

During the last week things have certainly advanced. The excess buds have been removed and the extra energy channelled into the remaining shoots, creating the large green canes that now require tucking into the wires to support the huge sunlight hungry leaves.

The flowers are now fully visible and flowering will take place very shortly, so it's fingers crossed (no jokes please) that the weather remains calm at this so crucial time for the fruit set. Remember; no flowering, no grapes and consequently no wine!