Tuesday, 10 August 2010


Not a bad way to start the week. Yesterday as we were invited after work to the magnificent 80ha Château De La Rivière in Fronsac.

Fronsac is a relatively small appellation with only 830ha of vineyards planted in total and Château De La Rivière therefore being the largest property. We crossed the Dordogne via the Pont de Pierre in Libourne, followed the river and were soon in the picturesque vineyards of Fronsac where, to our right, the Château De La Rivière suddenly popped up out of nowhere, majestically standing high in the foothills of the Fronsac plateau.

I actually bought a 1977 (my birth year) magnum of this wine whilst a winemaking student at university many moons ago. Unfortunately the 77’ magnum is long gone but although I made no tasting notes, I do remember that it was thoroughly enjoyed with friends at the time – albeit with a curry!

The empty bottle however remained on my shelf throughout my studying days and I was always in awe of the amazing Chateau that graced the distinctive gold label. I never thought I would one day be here and greeted by the owner!

We entered the Chateau by the long driveway which meandered through the 20ha of forest up to the beautiful arched entrance.

Once through the gateway we were greeted by the owner Monsieur Grégoire and his winemaker Philippe Larché and invited to sit and taste the 2009 Clairet and the delicious 2009 rose on the front terrace overlooking the vineyards.

Monsieur Grégoire explained to us that he visited the Chateau when he was just 18 years old and called it his ‘Coup de Coeur’ or ‘love at first sight’. 40 years later, after building a very successful business in vineyard machinery and equipment which he had just sold, he learned the Chateau was up for auction and instantly made a bid. He finished second in the bidding but it was surely fate as the winner pulled out later on and he became the owner of the Chateau!

Monsieur Grégoire then had a little surprise for us … a ride in his helicopter! Rather nervously Libby and I headed down to the whirring of the blades towards the discreet helipad where James was waiting in the cockpit for us. Libby and I sat in the back and Amye bravely took the front seat.

We put on our head phones and connected our microphones then gently closed the rather noticeably thin doors and within seconds we were floating up over the Chateau and speeding gracefully over the vineyards of Fronsac - what a view! Eat your heart out Airwolf!

I quickly started to recognize the vineyards of Pomerol as we followed the winding Dordogne to Libourne and we could see clearly the Chai-esque old negociant buildings skirting along the river side of the town.

Then after what seemed only like minutes, Castillon was straight ahead and there was our Le Chai in all its glory twinkling in the sunlight and reflecting off the river!

Monsieur Grégoire then swung to the right to find Ste Colombe and we could see Le Bourg and Le Presbytere (Tony’s house), the church, our house (washing spoilt the photo a bit!), Château La Clarière and the vineyards.

From up here you can really see the limestone plateau and just how close and similar the Côtes des Castillon is to the prestigious St Emilion. We then made a bee line for St Emilion, past Château La Brande (our Chai Castillon wine), Mangot, Faugeres, Pressac, Pavie, Troplong Mondot, Trotteveille, Figeac, Cheval Blanc, La Dominique, and Petrus and finally back to Fronsac for the softest and calmest of touch downs!

Wow what an experience and a huge merci to Monsieur Grégoire. It’s a great way to spot vineyards – maybe I could trade in the Chai car for a helicopter for harvest? Maybe not this year but winemakers will always dream!

Meanwhile down on the ground this morning the cool nights and hot days are speeding up the ripening here on the right bank and the trademark mists were rising from the Dordogne early this morning, soon to be burnt away by the rising sun.



Brian Morrison said...

OMG!!! Nice one I like the Air Woolf line. Most enviouse, Simon emaild me to say that he was going for a helicopter ride and I though he was pulling my leg

karl T said...

SO now we can say you're a "FLYING WINEMAKER"...
see you soon