Thursday, 13 December 2012

Greased Lightning!

Normally I say “what a week that was” but this time I have to say what a month that was! Needless to say, it’s been a very busy past few weeks.

 It all started way back in October with the brilliant Laithwaite’s show at Vinopolis. As usual the eager customers in the bustling, excited, mile-long queue were raring to go.

And inside it was chock-a-block on Le Chai stand with Le Chai team and I was proud to finally present the new La Voute vintage: the mind-blowing, long-awaited 2011!

After a couple of days in London and a very proud moment catching my niece Aimee (aged only 10yrs) performing in Grease at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Haymarket on the Sunday night, we managed a blurry, red-eye flight back to Bordeaux as a week of bottling lay ahead.

As harvest gets longer, so bottling seems to come earlier (no rest for the winemaker anymore!) and the first 2012 white into bottle was the highly aromatic, fresh and zesty, all-new Double Agent Sauvignon Blanc; made at the Chai with James Macdonald of New Zealand’s Hunter’s fame. A little twist of new world winemaking on old world grape growing. You’ve got to try this, perfect with oysters! 

The bottling followed with the 2011 Château du Tertre Bel-Air, a structured Merlot/Cab France from the north of Castillon and the Keep Calm and Carignan 2011. The end of the week arrived and before I knew it I was back on the early Friday BA flight to Gatwick in order to get to Manchester for the Laithwaites tasting where Libby and I would be representing the Chai. 

It’s a lovely place, Manchester, and the most northerly place where I’ve been in the British Isles! Well, I am a Jersey boy and we always head south! We visited the beautiful John Rylands Library, a fascinating place and a must-see if in Manchester, before eating at the superb Australasia restaurant (a couple of sneaky Brew Dog beers, too, at their new bar on Peter street). 

The tasting was held at the historic Old Trafford Lancashire County Cricket Ground in a big room overlooking the sacred Old Trafford pitch. No cricket on today, though, but there was plenty of wine to keep customers busy. I was once-again armed with the 2011 La Voute (becoming a La Voute road show!) which customers thoroughly enjoyed. I also had the pleasure of a couple hours help from ex England cricketer and fast bowling legend Dominic Cork. His preference? The big fast red Vent de Folie 2010!

Back again to Bordeaux and another huge week starting with the biggest winemaking exposition VINITECH taking its biennial home in Bordeaux Lac. A great couple of days visiting, chatting, learning and tasting with all the major manufacturers … from barrel makers to tractor mechanics. The Chai was busy too as we had 55 students from the English winemaking university Plumpton College arriving for an evening’s tasting and talk held by Jean-Marc and I. The students were very enthusiastic and you could see them dreaming of one day being able to work in a winery as beautiful as Le Chai (bit of hard core pruning before that me thinks!).

The end of the week saw Le Chai getting ready for the big Christmas open-doors day on Saturday. We invite the public into our cellars to taste and buy our wines, obviously not without a hot mince pie and my famous Grenache mulled wine, accompanied beautifully by the Castillon Chantamicale Choir.

Mulled Wine recipe:
1 bottle of XVdu President
110g sugar
1 vanilla pod split
1 clove
300ml of water
3/4 juice of 1 lemon
Zest of one lemon (peeled into strips with potato peeler)
1 bay leaf
1-2 juniper berries

Add all bring to boil, infuse for 10 minutes and ladle away!

With Le Chai Christmas weekend over it’s an early Sunday night as I had to leave at 6am from Bordeaux to meet Midi buyer Cat Lomax in Montpellier. We’re taking a week’s trip around the Midi to taste everything and I do mean everything!

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