Friday, 7 January 2011

A Happy New to all from Le Chai Au Quai

After a well-earned Christmas break from what was a very long harvest period, it’s full steam ahead once again at the Chai. The wines also seemed to enjoy the break and on tasting all the barrels earlier this week, certain white wines are starting to resemble the finished article. Now for the big bottling plan!

Jean-Marc flew in very early this morning and we spent the morning at the Chai catching up and making the vital bottling plans for 2011. After a good French lunch we headed to the tiny village of Saint Leger in the Entre-Deux-Mers to see an old friend Philippe Cazade at his 80ha family property Chateau Roc De Cazade.

Philippe is an extremely passionate wine guy and has lots of experience in all aspects of the wine trade, but has returned to his roots and is once again working alongside his mother and father to push the estate into a more modern era. However, he is still very old-fashioned when it comes to hosting people for tastings!

On arrival, the different samples from the vats and barrels were laid out with tasting glasses as is the norm, but Philippe does it the old way, and the open fire is soon blazing away burning with vine trunks and three large duck breasts are rapidly placed on the grill as soon as the coals turn white – even though we tried to explain that we had already eaten! Mother Cazade then suddenly appeared with a dish of prepared cepes that Papa Cazade had found that morning and before we knew it we were well into lunch number two!

Watercress salad (the lightest thing on the table) and an array of ripe cheeses followed just because it is. During the second lunch we tasted through his beautifully made white and red wines from 2009 and 2010. Philippe’s philosophy is not to make tiers of quality but to make simply one excellent red and white from his vineyards situated at the highest point of the Entre-Deux-Mers region.

It is an interesting view on making wine as many winemakers feel the need to make a ‘super cuvee’ but this almost often results in a fall of quality in the now ‘second’ wine due to the most complex and concentrated element having been removed to create the ‘super cuvee’. The result here however is a modern stylish Bordeaux that tastes way above the price it is sold at so if you like a true bargain keep an eye open for the 2009 Chateau Roc De Cazade.

After a quick tour around the cellars bumping into mother and father Cazade busy on the bottling line along the way!

We finally left (albeit a bit full) from chez Philippe and took the road out towards Langon and into sweet wine country. At Langon, just before Sauternes, we turned to head back towards Bordeaux along the east side of the Garonne, passing through Saint Croix de Mont, Loupiac and Cadiallac – every village peered down upon by a spectacular Chateau. We were here however to find not sweet wines and with a sudden turn inland and into higher ground we were back in red wine country.

Jean-Marc’s usual “I know a short cut because I am French” soon got us lost, but eventually we were back on track towards Chateau Camail, and another twist in the terroir creating not only new scenery but a change in soil. Those who think generic Bordeaux is all the same are very wrong indeed, as at every corner I turn there is a different soil and an individual micro climate, with new wine waiting to be discovered. I can assure sure there is plenty of life outside of the Grand and Premier Cru wines!

Chateau Camail is another ‘Petit Bordeaux Chateau’ (a term widely used for non classe chateaux found outside the famous appellations). It is certainly not a ‘Petit Chateau’ in physical terms as can be seen in the photo! The Chateau stands high on the ridge of the Premier Cotes de Bordeaux appellation where Florence and Francois run their family owned estate.

We tasted the 2009 and 2010’s (fortunately not accompanied by grilled duck) and Jean-Marc and I made a lovely 2009 blend from the different elements available. Once again, a ‘petit Bordeaux chateau’ proving to have an individual style, and another real gem to add to a range that is fast becoming a superb representation of the forgotten Bordeaux region.

I drove back across the Entre-Deux-Mers back to St.Colombe to pick up Tony and Henry for dinner at the Comptoir de St.Genes, where we were joined by Libby, Jeremy (our wine writer) and the Todeschini brothers Karl and Yann of Chateau La Brande. Remy the chef was in fine form as always and my palombe (white wood pigeon) salad was exquisite. We played the usual game of decanting some local wines and tasting them blind and a relieved Tony, Henry and Todeschini’s managing well to spot their own wines!

All tasting beautifully, the wines we tasted blind were:
Château La Brande 05
Presbytère 04
Château Verniotte 08

A long day and so much for the after Christmas diet, JMS and I decide we will start the diet next week!


No comments: