Thursday, 31 May 2012

Château Toutigiac

Yet again for me, I’ve discovered a new little micro climate of Bordeaux. I was visiting Château Toutigiac just south of the village Targon in the Entre-deux-mers.  Toutigeac is actually a tiny hamlet founded by the monks of Saint Gerard who came from the nearby Abbey in La Sauve, once housing more than 200 monks.

It was St.Gerard who founded the Abbey of La Sauve in 1039. The story says he was travelling the old pilgrimage route in a search for a migraine cure and met the Duke of Aquitaine. The duke gave him some land where he settled, starting the small community by planting vines … good way to cure a migraine! A stone cross of Christ from this era still stands today in front of the Château!

One hundred years later, the Commanderie Montarouch in Targon was founded by the Knights Templar. There are, however no more monks or knights here … just the Mazeau family who are now the entire population and own, live and work there. The area is very picturesque with the Hamlet and 17th century Château sitting high above the rolling hills of vines and forests below. 

The soils are clay limestone and planted on south-facing slopes giving lovely ripe and very perfumed red wines.  I met up with the current owner, Monsiuer Mazeau and his winemaker daughter Oriane Mazeau who were keen to share the history of their family … and what a history it is!

Orianne’s great, great grandfather was Charles Mallet, once the owner of the reputed Château Lascombes in Marguax. He was a very successful negociant after the first world war and the biggest supplier of wine to the French capital. Incredibly I learnt his negociant cellar or chai was in Castillon La Bataille!

Tony had told me there used to be two chais in Castillon; the one by the quay (hence our Le Chai au Quai) and one up in the village. I now know that was Monsieur Charles Mallet’s and I was now wine tasting with his great, great granddaughter. It’s a small world.

We knew nothing of the history or the Castillon connection when we tasted the wine blind at Le Chai and selected the wine purely on quality.  It’s a lovely example of the 2009 Bordeaux vintage and –even more exciting – it’s yet another individual micro-terroir of the Bordeaux region. Try some for yourself.
M. Mallet purchased Château Toutigiac in 1928 and Oriane has continued the family tradition since obtaining her qualifications in both viticulture and oenology and gaining wine making experience working in Rioja.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Just had a little holiday …

… after the mammoth (but still unfinished!) bottling marathon we've been running since January! So I spent a week in Dorset and Devon going to farmers’ markets and a great food festival run by the National Trust in Burton Bradstock at the Hive restaurant. If you’re in the area it serves fantastic fresh fish with no fuss.

 I also made a quick stop at the Garden House (best B&B in Exeter) to see an old rock star turn 60. He's on the drums.

I even got a beautiful Dorset sunshine walk along the Jurassic coast. Then did a Voyageur-inspired BBQ for my sister who also fondly remembers the restaurant. Duck heart skewers and bavette (beef skirt) steak, all delicious, helped along with my personal-best wine since 2002: Un Vent de Folie 2010, pure Grenache.

Anyway, the week came to an end and it was the ferry back to St Malo from Poole via Guernsey (I didn't get off, I'm a Jerseyman) and my home island of Jersey. In Jersey, I had a lovely fresh Jersey Plaice and of course REAL jersey new potatoes with REAL Jersey butter! And a very nice local La Mare dry white (I actually started work here aged 12 and finally left in 1997 for the wine harvest in South Africa!) So I got a few bottles for the harvest blind tastings … that will definitely get the Aussies and Kiwis!

A good time was had and I left with the car fridge loaded with Jersey milk (my staple diet from age 0-18yrs) and a copy of the riveting Jersey Evening Post. It’s 'branchage' season (that's the cutting back of the hedgerows of your property that encroaches onto the road) so I wonder who’s been fined this year? I once heard about someone in the west of the island being fined 50p twice!? There's also a great local language page written in Jerais.

I left on the late ferry to Saint Malo in beautiful sunshine, arriving to much the same in France (well, it’s not that far). Destination Bordeaux, good drive down through Normandy and Brittany, passing Rennes and into Muscadet country. Here it quite literally went dark and a hard drizzle began to fall which was then my company all the way to Bordeaux; nice.

I arrived at 3am and turning into the drive the vines in the headlights seem to have GROWN about 50 inches since last week! I wanted to have a closer look but, decided for bed as I had a 7am start at Le Chai. Only away a week, but so much to sort out. Actually hate leaving the vines and wines too long, no lunch (no Voyageur), emptied my suitcase re filled it and left for the Midi.

I have 3 tankers planned and eight wines to pick up, ranging from the north of Montpellier down to deepest darkest Roussillon. Hurtling towards the T-junction at Narbonne (left goes to Montpellier and right to Catalonia and Spain) with no idea which truck would get where first. I was informed 2kms before Narbonne that first truck would be in Fitou first so a very sharp auto route exit and direction Perpignan for the night, I'll phone vent de Folie grower 'JC' for a bed and a bite to eat!