Thursday, 15 July 2010


The Chai is buzzing, the new offices are buzzing, I am buzzing, Libby, Clare, Ayme… The whole team are buzzing!

Why? Last Thursday we had the long awaited opening party for the Chai Au Quai, and what a night it was. To be honest I haven’t done a lot of winemaking this week! We spent most of the week, mainly cleaning, tidying, shovelling gravel and helping Libby the event organiser to make her vision come alive, and it certainly did!

The heat was unbearable on Thursday evening but the jeroboams of Champagne were perfectly chilled for the 6 o’clock reception. My glass of Champagne went flat and warm as I was so busy greeting, kissing cheeks and shaking hands of the arriving Chai family and friends!

Sitting to dinner with 100 people you personally know, live and work alongside was like what I imagine it being at your own wedding… this was certainly my happiest moment to date!

After the Champagne everyone went outside and walked the length of the Chai on the lovely new gravel to the new Dordogne cellar where Tony, Monsiueur le Maire, ribbon and a pair of scissors were waiting to officially open the new cellar. As soon as the ribbon had been cut everyone with tasting glasses in hand eagerly filed though the OxO line barrel tunnel and into the cellar where our new NASA-like rocket wine vat illuminated with blue neon lights took centre stage.

Around the cellar the Chai team were proudly pouring our range of Chai white wines and my word the wines were being well received! I still had my glass of flat Champagne as I was constantly talking, listening and answering questions from inquisitive winemakers, vineyard growers, barrel makers, vat builders and staff. The local caterers who had discreetly set up outside in front of the Chai began to effortlessly roll out trays of perfect canapés and, now that everyone was finally eating, I managed to taste my now very warm and very flat Champagne!

The winemaker’s office, lab and tasting room was open to all and we had a few special surprise wines on offer to taste. Everyone walked through the office that connects the Dordogne Cellar and the Grand Chai to a magnificent banquet that was ready and waiting!

I was sat on the Midi table with Midi buyer Becca, JC and Celine Duran (owners of the Vent de Folie vineyards), Aussie winemaker Richard Osborne, barrel makers Marc Le Grand and Jose Alcaide and winemakers Guilhem Marty and Laurent Mingaud from Limoux. The steak was melt in the mouth and the topping of fois gras divine; the cheeses were trying to run out the door but were of superb quality and went very well with the choice of Chai reds and Sauternes. The evening meal finished with my 2005 Font Del Bosc Maury nicely chilled.

Then the Grand Chai doors were finally opened to reveal the Dordogne and the deep blue sky was suddenly filled with spectacular fireworks, the river seemed to stop on purpose to reflect the colours! The coach then arrived and whisked everyone away to St.Emilion where I am sure a good night’s sleep was had by all! Quite an evening and thank you to everyone involved.

The following morning Libby was busy organising the clean up, and by midday I had the cellar back and it was winemaking business as usual.

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