Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Where did that week go?

With the Bordeaux red harvest in full swing, the atmosphere begins to buzz throughout the region. With more rain due, it’s all stations go whatever the weather!

Meanwhile, at Le Chai on Tuesday we saw the eagerly awaited, multi-medal-winning 2011 La Voúte dressed. It’s been quietly laying down in cages for a few months to recover from the bottling.

On Wednesday we bottled the all-new 2011 Les Cailloux Dorés Chardonnay; a lovely, very lightly oaked, fresh white from Carcassonne. And our first-ever screwcap Chardonnay to keep it that way!

Thursday was a big day, starting by my parents saying au revoir. They had a wonderful time and were heading north to the Loire Valley for a few days to rest those aching harvesting backs and knees!

Meanwhile, at Château La Clarière Henry Laithwaite was busy (and carefully) opening 26 vintages of Château La Clarière-Laithwaite for a historic vertical tasting from 1984 to 2010!  I was fortunate to be able to taste them all along with Tony, Justin, Clare, Henry, James, Nadja and Guy. Guy was Tony's man in the vineyard right from the start and only retired when the current vineyard manager, his son Olivier, took over!

The tasting was held down in the La Clarière barrel caves where Tony and Guy told some lovely stories of the old vintages as each wine suddenly jogged their memories. That's the beauty of wine; a living remnant from that very year, still here to remind you unlike any other artefact, painting or photograph. Nearly all the wines tasted great and those that tasted a little old were still amazing thanks to the stories and memories. A wonderful experience to taste, thank you.

Once more, a fabulous lunch was put on by Bernadette upstairs above the caves before a blind tasting of 23 wines from St. Emilion and Castillon was held. A very interesting and exciting tasting indeed, with many Castillon wines finishing way above the expensive St.Emilions. Results to be revealed in the near future

Friday morning I was up early and off to the Entre-Deux-Mers and a place called Castelviel; yet another tiny hidden village which is home to our new discovery, Château Riffaud.  I was met by the current owner Stephane Delarue, a young vigneron and third-generation winemaker of the family property.  Castelviel sits high on a mini plateau overlooking the valley towards Gornac.  Stephane has 14 hectares of Merlot, Cabernet S and Cabernet F situated around the village and the little winery sits in the heart of the village where he makes beautiful fruity reds.

The weekend was cellar work and warming the barrels for malo-lactic as the air temperatures finally started to plummet in Bordeaux. However, Nadja and I were soon back in the cellar but no blundstone boots to be seen as we were (along with Libby’s direction!) hosting a tour and tasting for BK Wine Tours who brought along some wonderful Finnish and Swedish people who really enjoyed Le Chai visit. We were also very lucky to attend lunch at the superb La Poudette restaurant in Pujols and I matched four wines to Chef Frederic's excellent dishes including:

2011 Vent de Folie Vermentino with Scallops and Parsnip Puree
2010 Grand Chai Montagne St.Emilion with Fillet of Beef and Cepes
2004 Château La Clarière with cheese

The following week started in usual madness and on Monday I was back on the road to do the rounds in the Midi. Starting in Perpignan, then to Maury, back to Perpignan, on to Narbonne, Beziers, Montpellier, Beziers again, Narbonne, Carcassonne and home for a late dinner in Bordeaux Tuesday evening …

It’s perfect mushroom season right now, so a plate of the first cepes gently cooked in butter, garlic and parsley allowed me the time to write the week’s events!

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

An update from the harvest

Quite a whirlwind couple of weeks, so here is quick round up of what’s been going on in France.

The XV du Président red harvest was in full swing in Maury and the young, partially fermented musts are already showing some stunning deep colours!  The winery was pretty busy down in the Roussillon with the spaghetti-like hoses covering the floor.

Later on in the week we pressed the Vent de Folie Grenache, Carignan and Syrah at JC’s garage winery. As usual, it’s a step back in time when Papy’s old press comes out! His son Axl also got involved, although JC doesn’t want him to follow in his and his father’s footsteps. Sad but true. Anyway, he comes back from his Pompier studies in Paris. Nice to see three generations on the old press!

Back in Bordeaux and the first staff trip was waiting for a Chai tour and tasting. Great to meet so many of our colleagues and put faces to names. It’s also a fantastic opportunity  to meet colleagues  from the international offices and we were delighted to welcome Ela from Poland and Craig from the US this time round.  We had a lovely dinner organised by Libby and cooked by our own queen of harvest lunches, Bernadette!

The red harvest has now started in Castillon and Laithwaite’s were in full force to start picking at Henry’s Château La Verniotte. My mum and dad also flew in to give a hand with the picking!

It’s not going to be the easiest of harvests this year in Bordeaux, so careful selection is needed before the berries are sent to the vat for fermentation.

With harvest also comes harvest lunches and Bernadette was in fine form making a lovely pork stew to get the ball rolling.

The second staff trip arrived and Libby put on a magnificent dinner in Le Chai Dordogne cellar.