Monday, 29 November 2010

Tapas, Tapas and More Tapas!

Bordeaux is a great location, and we made the most of this with a quick drive south along the coast to nip over the border into Spain to spend Saturday night in the beautiful Basque town of San Sebastián. San Sebastián is the home of tapas and the vibrant energetic bars are teaming with incredible smells and flavours. Using some inside knowledge acquired from our Chai 2010 vintage winemaker and San Sebastián native Maitena Barrero Libby and I were in the best and most lively tapas bars in no time!

The fabulous beach front Londres Hotel is a favourite of Tony’s and I now know why: magnificent beach views, large grand immaculate rooms and great a great bar just as it would have been 60 years ago!

We moved from tapas bar to tapas bar, tasting some exquisite seafood and in-season dishes, such as langoustines and cepe mushrooms. Small tumblers of the txakoli dry wine of the region is a perfect accompaniment and poured into the glass from arm’s length, splashing in the glass and realising a lively fizz!

The evening we were booked into the Juanito Kojua Restaurant, and fortunately Spanish dinner time is 10pm as we slightly over indulged on the tapas! We had wonderful fish including fried hake and a dish of Mero de Anzuelo. Chose a lovely white Albarino from Rias Baxias called Terras Gauda.


Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Back From the UK

I arrived back in France today to a rather wintery scene here in Castillon!

I have been for a wonderful weekend in London helping out on Le Chai stand at the new Laithwaites wine show, held for the first time at Vinopolis in Borough Market.

And what a show it was, modern, exciting, colourful, informative, interactive and in a great location! Thanks to everyone who made the show possible and of course the customers who came along.

It was a fast and furious show but some of my favourites were:

Gunboat Pinot Noir 2009
Madame F Minervois 2009
André Dupuis 'Le Merrandier' Pinot Noir 2009
Andresen Colheita Port 1982

And my own little Font Del Bosc Maury 2005 which won a bronze trophy and stood up against the big Aussie boys! But Clare has to take the credit for a cracking pitch on the day!

I also must mention the great restaurant that I went to with Libby and our good friend Rioja winemaker Javier Murua, called St. John. Well worth a try if you are in town, and I also recommend the 2007 Savigny Les Beaune 1er Cru from Louis Chenu.


Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Rain Rain Go Away!

In Bordeaux when it rains, it pours and pours and pours, and then just when you can’t take any more, it pours! Today started with pressing the last of the Cabernets, and the machinery wasn’t enjoying the rain either - but with enormous determination the day finally got underway thanks to Petit Denis, who got down to the basics and was ‘legs on’ in the winery!

Meanwhile I left for Chateau La Brande in Castillon to meet the tanker to load the first part of the 2009 Grand Chai Castillon. The rain followed me but was now joined by severe winds and the tanker was late but apparently lost. Finally a very grumpy driver, and an obviously hungry one at that as he turned up bang on time, just after lunch!

Finally we started the loading and then the thunder and the lightning began which was rather worrying when standing on top of a huge metallic tanker overseeing the careful filling of compartments 4 and 6! Once loaded we were off to our next Chateau just round the corner in St.Genes where I was greeted by a very wet berry wearing duo, Vincent Galineau and his father.

A small comedy moment lifted everyone as the now very wet and now even grumpier truck driver slipped and fell over in the rain and the skins from the wine press, fortunately not hurting himself but amusing the sniggering cellar hands pressing off the reds! We soon got down to business though and the tanker pockets 1 and 2 were filled.

Next stop was our very own Chai to pick up the final third of the blend that was racked from barrel early only yesterday by Petit Denis. Maitena was also back from the Midi and straight onto the job of loading compartment 6 whilst I made a warm cup of coffee for the driver that, now he stopped moaning, was actually a very nice man, and I now felt rather sorry for him!

Once the tanker was loaded we headed along the riverside to the bottling plant round the corner in Lamothe-Montravel and the rain continued to pour down. By now it was rather dark and cold as we started to unload the day’s collection into the safety of the stainless steel vats. I left Maitena in charge of finishing the unloading as I needed to meet James back at the Chai to taste and blend all the whites he had been sourcing all day in the Entre-Deux-Mers.


Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Open Doors in Sauternes

This weekend was the turn of the famous region of Sauternes to have their ‘portes ouvertes’, which is when all the chateaux of the region participate in receiving the public through the open doors for tastings without the usual pre reserved and sometimes difficult ‘rendez vous’.

The region of Sauternes is only an hour away from Castillon, but the terroir, wines and countryside is very different indeed, so Libby and I decided to take a trip to out to see what was going on the other side!

As we entered the region, many Chateaux were still harvesting so we couldn’t resist stopping to taste the noble rot berries still on the vine.

Although the extraordinary Baguette vending machine we came across in the village was tempting it wasn’t enough to entice us and we headed to the reputed Le Saprien restaurant in the centre of Sauternes village instead!

A nice glass of Domaine Monteils 2005 and a 2003 Chateau Arche whilst sat in the sunny conservatory looking out over the vineyards started the lunch perfectly! Sauternes is actually a very versatile wine and certainly should not be drank as just a dessert wine. The rule is once you start with Sauternes you should continue with Sauternes and the veal with morilles mushrooms and scallops for Libby were very diverse dishes, but both a very good match indeed.

After lunch we wandered up the Maison de Sauternes, tasted a few more wines and treated ourselves to a 1998 Chateau Caillou, I like this wine as it is made in the very traditional style with a lot of acidity perfect for savoury food matching, try out our 2006 Grand Chai Sauternes as it is made in this style.

Before heading on we stopped at a few of the top Chateaux including Château Rieussec where they were busy harvesting, Château Rayne Vigneau, Château Filhot and finally Château Yquem.

The gastronomic weekend continued, and there are not many things better than eating the oysters of the Bassin d’Archachon whilst in Arcachon! The best months to eat oysters are those ending in ‘r’ (or ‘e’ in French). The November oysters are small fine, and crystal clear. To burn off the over indulgence of quite a few oysters we climbed the magnificent dune de Pyla that rises spectacularly to 110m up from the Domaniale de la Teste Forest.

Once again it was back to the Chai in the evening to check on the young wines, after which James kindly brought a 2006 Cloudy Bay Te Koko Sauvignon Blanc to go with our organic chicken. It’s been a while since I tasted it but was soon reminded what a wine, explosive aromas and balanced palate – fresh as daisy too, I love screw caps!


Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Honey, Just Allow Me One More Chance!

On Friday the Marsanne finished fermentation and confirmed by our Foss analysis machine to be 0g/l sugar – bone dry.

This leaves only the Limoux chardonnay, which is slowly fermenting, to go. It was 7.7g/l residual sugar last Thursday, 7.1g/l on Saturday and today 6.7g/l. The fermentation is very slow and activity is disappearing. I will warm the wine to 19ºC and stir up the lees where the yeasts have settled, but this is the last chance, and if no signs of life by tomorrow we are going to do what we call in France a ‘pied de cuve’, which is a rescue yeast culture to kick start the ferment again.

A rescue culture is not easy, especially at the 7g/l sugar level, as the alcohol already in the wine kills off the new yeasts before they become strong enough to resist. The wine is also currently without sulphur, so open to the other worries of oxidation and volatile acidity during the movement of the un-sulphured wine.

It is Cepe season at the moment and we managed to get hold of some of these magnificent mushrooms to cook up.

I used the classic Bordeaux recipe of butter, garlic and parsley matched with a lovely simple half bottle of 2007 Graves from Chateau Lehoul.