By Paige Donner
For most of us wine lovers, the word Bordeaux evokes Mecca-like dreams and memories of some of the world’s best and most prestigious wines.
For the Bordelais, there is a pronounced distinction between “Left Bank” and “Right Bank,” each with their own Bordeaux sub-cultures and each laying claim to world-renowned chateaux. The Left Bank and its famous Médoc region boast Mouton Rothschild, Margaux and Pichon Comtesse Lalande, while the Right Bank with its idyllic St. Emilion and Pomerol lays claim to Petrus and Cheval Blanc.
As a Californian, I thoroughly understand this West Coast/ East Coast kind of cultural divide. Californians and New Yorkers rarely have much in common except that they both, technically, belong to the United States. But rather than try to explain what the difference between Left Bank and Right Bank Bordeaux is, I captured these two back-to-back events in photos.
Well, have a look for yourself… ♥Chérie Du Vin
Alongside these major groups, large numbers of vigorous companies are also lining up: Symington Family Estates, Maison Louis Latour, Camus, Angus Dundee Distillers and many more.
Italy, France and Spain, which together account for nearly half the world’s production andexport more than 6 billion bottles of still light wines, are again very widely represented at thisVinexpo with national pavilions but also through well-known companies, such as Luigi Cecchi & Figli, Casa Vinicola Zonin and Gonzalez-Byass, as well as Hugel & Fils, Georges Duboeuf and Castel Frères.
The other leading producer countries have also reserved space for their national pavilions: Germany, Chile, the U.S., Austria, Portugal, Hungary, Greece, Brazil, etc.
New At Vinexpo, Bordeaux 2011
What Vinexpo visitors and exhibitors will find new this year is the promotion of a number of tasting areas branded “TASTINGS BY VINEXPO.” These unparalleled facilities are designed to really enhance all the wine and spirits tastings and presentations organised in these areas.
Thus in 2011, together with the rooms in Halls 2 and 3, the Convention Center becomes a state-of-the-art platform for high profile tastings and professional presentations with options for organising seated tastings, reception areas and conference halls. Of course, all these events are perfectly complementary with the many events and meetings organised directly on the different stands.
by Paige Donner
La Table du Lavoir is built on the 19th c. site of an old vineyard wash house the wives of the vineyard workmen would use on laundry days. It has been re-built, just across the road from Château Smith Haut Lafitte, stone by stone. Its roof beams are recovered from the 18th c. cellars of Château Lafite-Rothschild.
Its lovely glass doors – “French Doors” – are opened during the warmer Spring and Summer months to accommodate terrace dining overlooking the famous Bordeaux vineyards. During the colder months, or on rainy nights/days, the roaring period fireplace serves two functions: to heat the room and to roast the delicious-smelling meats.
This is the “Bistro” restaurant of Hotel Les Sources de Caudalie and is run by Michelin starred Nicolas Masse. When he joined the team in 2010, on the 10th anniversary of the Small Luxury Hotel, he brought with him his philosophy of focusing on flavors concentrated in the local specialties of the region. For this, Bordeaux offers a range of both meats and seafoods, because of its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean as well as its country terrain. And, in addition, of course all the fresh produce and miraculous cheeses that the Gironde region, France is known for.
The menus, printed on antique wooden laundry beaters, hold delights such as Roasted Duck with Stewed Apples and Red Cabbage, a feather-light Cauliflower Puree Soup, Home Made Lemon Tart – whose meringue topping is so picture perfect that your tastebuds can’t believe that it can also taste so good! Chef Masse practices seasonality in his cuisine which allows for a rich and varied menu at any time of the year.
For Local Food And Wine lovers – Two Saturdays a month Chef Masse offers cooking classes at the restaurant. And every Saturday night, Head Sommelier Aurélien Farrouil hosts Wine Tasting Courses in the on-premise La Tour Degustation or Wine Tasting Tower. The Tower that has a part Cuban, with rich latte colored leather chairs, and part English feel to it, drawing on the Aquitaine’s regal heritage, overlooks the vineyards.
The French Paradox Bar is a cozy place to enjoy your pre-dinner (or pre-lunch) aperitif, either facing the 1200 bottle cellar that opens up from the bar or facing out towards the terrace that overlooks the delightful pond, inhabited by swans, and the vast vineyards in the background. The bar serves white and red AOC Graves by the glass which gives you a good opportunity to taste some of the appellation’s prestigious wines before continuing on with your Oenotourism. La Table du Lavoir
|“It is always the adventurous who accomplish great things”|
|Charles de Montesquieu|
By Paige Donner
One early Spring afternoon on a recent trip to the Pessac-Leognan region of Bordeaux, I set off from my hotel on a bicycle in the sunshine. I had not gotten 10 minutes down the pretty grapevine-trimmed country road when the blue sky turned to gray and a drizzle suddenly manifested.
Leaving myself completely in the hands of nature in Montesquieu’s childhood region, I took the first gravel-lined road that seemed to lead up to one of the wineries that appeared to have people present. Not a moment too soon, someone spotted me just as the heavens poured forth the fresh Spring rain and ushered me into the vineyard warehouse where there was some serious bottling underway.
Once they perceived that I spoke English, the lady from the office was called over to welcome me. Her name ended up being Sandrine and she told me that I had wandered onto the Château Haut-Lagrange. Once I explained to her that I had just been out for an afternoon bike ride, she, with all manner of warmth and graciousness, offered to take me on a tour of the winery and allowed me to take pictures. Her English was impressive and she told me that with her husband she spoke Spanish.
She is the Château Haut-Lagrange co-manager and is the kind of person, that when you get the chance to speak with them, like on a rainstorm-Spring-afternoon, you really must count your blessings because not only did she tell me all about the vineyard, she also mentioned her favorite regional delicacy which are “acacia Beignets” or acacia doughnuts that you must eat fresh and which only come around once a year, in early May, when the acacia are in bloom.
Château Haut-Lagrange is nestled right in with all the other AOC Graves wineries that are so close you can, and ought to, bicycle to them. Though it is one of the newer wineries in this prestigious Bordeaux region, it being the life-long ambition and family-run enterprise of Francis Boutemy, whose grandparents were once winemakers of Bordeaux.
Graves is the only AOC to take its name from the soil. The soil is a mixture of gravel, pebbles, flint and other stony debris deposited by the Garonne River over the millennia. Pessac-Leognan is part of the Graves area and is the region where Château Haut-Lagrange is (also, Château Haut-Brion) but, technically, the vineyard is not AOC Pessac-Leognan since it was established in 1989, after the 1987 classification.
This is where it comes in handy to know your detailed geography of Bordeaux. If you only looked at the label of this fine wine that sells for about 14 – 20 Euro the bottle, white and red, you might miss the significance of the fact that it shares the same climate, terroir and soil as its neighbors such as Château Haut Bailly and Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte.
If there is a winery in Bordeaux that is high on my list of participating in a harvest, it is this one. Mr. Boutemy has engineered a grape-picking vehicle that allows the pickers to sit as it travels up and down the rows of vines. [Pictured Below].
The white wine is lovely and not afraid to show its fruit. Its top note is acacia. Yes, add that one to your tasting library. Its strong minerality comes through fully in the mouth and the winemakers here do not subscribe to overly oaking their whites. Only 6,000 bottles of this lovely 50% Sauvignon, 50% Sémillon produced. You must buy a bottle to taste it as they don’t have much stock left.
The red is cultivated from 7.5 hectares of Merlot (45%) and Cabernet-Sauvignon (55%). They lay a tier of the juice in new barrels, the rest they leave in the tank. Batonnage is in the barrel. Bottling comes 18 months after the harvest. The vintages available for tasting today are the ’06 and ’07. It is balanced, elegant, a good wine to accompany with raclettes, Indian food or spicy Antilles cuisine. 50,000 bottles. A good wine to keep for 3 – 10 years, depending on the vintage. It is a great buy. You are getting top Pessac-Leognan wine for about 1/3 of what most of the other bottles in the area sell for.
This winery is a must stop on your Bordeaux wine travels. Friendly, forthcoming Bordelaise wine folk, excellent wines and great prices. They want to talk wine with you.
Château Haut-Lagrange 89, Avenue de La Brède
Bar á Vin, THE wine bar in Bordeaux, is shamelessly easy to find and as user-friendly as an iPod app.
If you’re even a little bit like me, Bordeaux is, well, it’s intimidating. It is the heart and epicenter of W I N E. In La France. Are there any regions in the world that really compare to Bordeaux? Its history, its tradition, its majesty and in simple plainspeak, its damned good wines!
So it’s with true and deeply felt gratitude to the winemakers of Bordeaux, and, more specifically to the Conseil Interprofessionnel Du Vin De Bordeaux (C.I.V.B.), that they’ve established this winetasting bar right across the street from the Tourist Office and just across the tramway tracks from the main Quinconces Square. In other words, you can’t miss it.
The Maison du Vin de Bordeaux is the building that houses the Bar á Vin and it is shaped like the prow of a ship. This is fitting because it’s the boats who started their voyage on the river just down the street from the bar that headed out to the Atlantic and up to England that brought the fame, and its accompanying wealth, to the Gironde a few centuries ago.
Ok, so all this is great but get this…Glasses of some of Bordeaux’s best start at 2 Euro! And the pours are very generous. So you can hang out from 11 in the morning until 10 p.m. tasting wonderful glasses of reds, whites, cremant and roses’ and spend no more than 5 Euro for a glass.
Or, if you’re a lightweight, like me, ask for the “flight” and the very cute and kind waiters will bring you half the pour…and charge you half-price. This way you can taste more. Plates of delightful cured meats and AOC cheeses with slices of fig and walnut bread or bread baked with olives are available to help you wash it all down. They range from 4 – 6 Euro and even the plate of fine chocolates is only 5 Euro.
There are no spitoons. So, sadly, you must drink what you taste. And the menu changes every week. The wines of the entire region are rotated on and off the menu as they get their turn for tasting.
The Maison also offers a Wine School or l’Ecole Du Vin. You have the option of doing a 2-hour “summer course” that teaches you about the grape varieties of Bordeaux and other essentials. For the more serious, you can spend 350 Euro and do an entire weekend that culminates in a tasting dinner on a local vineyard.
This Bar á Vin is definitely not to be missed and I am tempted to say it is the best Wine Bar in all of France (though I’ve only been to a dozen or so all told). It is the very first place I will always go on any future trips to Bordeaux. Even before I check into my hotel! http://baravin.bordeaux.com
Bar á Vin 3, cours du XXX Juillet, Bordeaux
by Paige Donner
- Max Bordeaux Wine Gallery & Cellar, Bordeaux, Photo by Paige Donner for Local Food And Wine
When your wine tastes will be satisfied only by the best, Bordeaux has another top wine bar for you. Fittingly, it, too, is right across the street from a Tourist Office, Tourisme Gironde. In the center of Bordeaux, it it is right on the tramline and just up from the Opera, though if you don’t ask for it, you might not find it on your first trip.
Luckily – for me! – I had come across a great Guide Book to The Gironde that I was determined to get a copy of. I had seen that it was published by the Tourism Office but didn’t find a copy of it until I wound my way to the Gironde Tourism Office. I guess it’s sort of a test of how serious you are about your wine explorations.
Anyway, just across the street is Max Bordeaux, Wine Gallery & Cellar. I literally just wandered in and couldn’t believe my eyes. It was one of those moments when I had to blink several times. Was I dreaming? I could hardly believe what I was seeing. For laid out all in front of me were rows of the world’s most legendary wines – on tap!
And this is a tasting bar! So they have the tasting “on tap” machines that I’ve written about previously for Paris. Here, however, you can do the impossible. You can actually buy a taste of Cheval Blanc.
The really nice lady who came up to me to tell me not to take too many pictures of the interior of Max Bordeaux, stayed and chatted for awhile and agreed that there are lots of people like me: Can’t really afford the 500Euro price tag on a Cheval Blanc bottle but I can afford the 25 Euro tasting.
She then went on to tell me that they have events at Max Bordeaux at least a few times a week where the winemaker will come in and host a tasting, talking freely about his wines. She then let me take a few pictures, posted here, of these legendary wines “on tap” in Bordeaux. And she even said “À bien tôt,” when I left, knowing perfectly well that I would be returning, and, if dreams do come true, sooner rather than later.
Max Bordeaux, Wine Gallery & Cellar, 14, cours de l’Intendance
by Paige Donner
Bordeaux is the ideal-sized city to just wander around. In this sense, it is a bite-sized city that still offers enough funky and charming little neighborhoods to give you the feeling that you are exploring.
Chartrons is the traditional wine district of Bordeaux where, during the city’s height of its centuries of wine trade with England, the wines were warehoused before being shipped out via La Garonne. Chartrons is now a charming district known for its many antique shops, lovely cafes’ and trendy boutiques. Soon, it will sport a pedestrian zone as well.
Central now to the Chartrons District is the Chartrons Market Square and the covered market. About a 5-minute walk from the city’s expansive gardens, if you turn off the main street and wind your way along smaller, narrower ones, you will stumble onto this covered Chartrons Market made of stone, iron and glass and restored in 1998 from its 19th c. original building.
Its walls are flanked with outdoor chairs and tables to enjoy afternoon and evening drinks and its perimeter is surrounded by delightful choices of Salon de Thés and lunch restaurants, many of which serve dinner as well.
La Bocca was recommended to me and when I saw the line going out the door for its Takeaway Sandwiches, 5 Euro which included a drink, I thought that was a good sign. I ordered a marinated artichoke and “Copa” sandwich (fine italian sausage), both of which were generously heaped onto a whole half baguette. About 10 diners were enjoying their lunch on premises, which is about all this Epicerie Fine can accommodate. With the business school just around the corner from its rue Notre Dame location, it does a roaring takeaway business for lunch. I took my sandwich and soft drink and walked the block down to the riverfront where there was plenty of open space and seating to enjoy my deliciously seasoned sandwich with other brownbaggers on this particularly sunny Spring afternoon.
On Sundays, if you feel like getting some goodies from the fresh market, the Chartrons Market is closed, but just walk down to the riverfront where the Sunday Organic fresh market begins from Rue Raze and along the riverfront for a good several hundred meters. You will find the delightful French cheeses, pastries, roasted chicken and roasting pork, vegetables and crepes if you want a readymade hot lunch to eat on the spot. The other choice includes fresh oysters served with local Bordeaux white wine and crusty fresh, French bread.
The Chartrons District has lots to offer and some of the fellow American travelers I met had the notion that it was outside the city! Back in the 16th c. it was outside the walled city but it has been a bustling local neighborhood of Bordeaux for several hundred years now.
Other corners of Bordeaux city are equally as delightful and if you wander around the streets just past the Opera House you will find lots of beautiful little squares, most of which are lined with fabulous dining options. Just be sure to adjust your inner clock – after all you are now in the South of France and you are in wine country!
By Paige Donner
Bordeaux’s Musée du Vin et Du Négoce is resplendent in its devotion to the history of this region’s cause celèbre; it is humble in its presentation; and it is welcoming in the way it greets its guests.
A good combination when it comes to museums that, for many of us, can just feel stuffy. The word Wine coupled with the word Museum could simply signal Pretentious Stuffiness.
Not so with Bordeaux’s Museum of Wine and Wine Merchants. In fact, it really lays out just how formative the region’s trade with England was not just for Bordeaux but for the business of wine as we know it today.
The museum is housed in Louis XV’s former Royal Broker’s building located in Bordeaux’s Chartrons district, the city’s traditional wine district. Inside, you will discover three centuries of wine history.
For example, you will learn that it is only relatively recently that wineries began labeling and marketing their wines under their own branding. For many centuries, and certainly at the height of Bordeaux’s wine trade with England, it was the merchants, in French the “Négoces,” who bought the wine in bulk from the growers, warehoused it in barrels in these big buildings in Chartrons, and only when they deemed it ready would they put it in bottles, label it and sell it.
This is how the wine merchants traditionally had so much say and sway over the wine markets. They could say whether a vintage was good – or not. Often, too, they would sell to England directly in the barrels. This is how convenient Chartrons was for trade – from the old cobbled streets they could simply roll the barrels out of their cellars and down to the riverfront, where they would put the oak barrels on ships sailing up La Garonne, out to the Atlantic and finally to make port in England.
For three centuries Bordeaux wine had protected commercial trading rights with England. In certain instances it was against the law in England to buy or sell any wine not originating from Bordeaux. This is how a region that was originally marshland, mostly, became one of the world’s greatest wine-growing regions.
You will learn all about this, about the 1855 designation, and even see lots of cool old wine and grape harvesting paraphernalia in this museum that charges only 7 Euro as entrance fee. And that includes two complimentary tastings after your museum tour. Signs are all in English as well as in French. They even have a decent wine and gift shop on premise. A definite Local Food And Wine MUST!
Bordeaux’s Musée du Vin et Du Négoce 41 rue Borie, www.mvnb.fr
Chateau Haut-Brion – A Bordeaux First Growth Loved by Poets, Philosophers and Presidents for 350 Years
Chateau Haut-Brion, Bordeaux
Under Weller, the chai was cleaned and improved and “modern” technology was implemented. Perhaps the key stroke to restoring the estate was the hiring of George Delmas as winemaker and manager. George retired in 1961 and was succeeded by his son Jean-Bernard who invested time and effort in clonal research. It was his belief that great wine required different clones (strains) of each grape varietal. Each hectare is reputed to have 10 to 15 different clonal selections. The property is now under the direction of the third generation of Delmas, Jean-Phillipe Delmas, who has been in charge since 2003. The Dillon family still controls the estate today headed up by Prince Robert of Luxembourg, the Président Directeur Général of what is now called Domaine Clarence Dillon SA.
Prince Robert, Scion of Chateau Haut-Brion
Besides the grand vin which is labeled as Chateau Haut-Brion, they make a second wine. The second wine is called Clarence de Haut-Brion, but before 2007 it was known as Bahans Haut Brion. They also make Chateau Haut-Brion Blanc, a white wine which is a blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc and is one of the best and most expensive dry white wines in the world. Occasionally release a second white called Les Plantiers du Haut-Brion.
Grapes have undoubtedly been cultivated on this land since the 1400s. By 1700 the entire estate consisted of 650 acres and there were 94 acres under vine. Today 120 acres are planted to red grapes: 45.4% to Merlot, 43.9% to Cabernet Sauvignon, 9.7% to Cabernet Franc, and 1% to Petit Verdot. In addition, just over 7seven acres are planted with white grapes: 52.6% Semillon and 47.4% Sauvignon Blanc. The average age of the vines is 35 to 40 years with the oldest vines dating back to the 1930s. The soil is Günzian gravel with some portions of the vineyard having large amounts of clay.
After hand harvesting, the fruit is sorted in the field. The grapes are then fermented on natural yeasts in stainless steel vats. It is a special tank that allows the fermentation to take place on the top and the malolactic fermentation to happen on the bottom. These were first used in 1961, and although are very common now in Bordeaux, were quite an innovation. Chateau Haut-Brion has its own cooperage for making their barrels. The wine is then stored in barrels for two years or longer. In the past, the wine was aged in 100% new oak, but now they use 35% new oak (25% for the le Clarence). The white wine sees 45% new oak and is aged for 12 months.
Annual production is around 12,000 cases for the grand vin and 800 cases for the Blanc. Annual production for the Le Clarence is around 5,000 cases.
Haut Brion is recognizable for the shape of its bottle, in use since the 1958 vintage, which are based on an old decanter shape. The wines are made to age. While some vintages may be delicious on release the wines really need at least a decade to show their quality. The 1970 vintage of Haut-Brion ranked fourth among the ten French and California red wines in the historic 1976 Judgment of Paris wine competition. I suspect that the 1970 Haut Brion, which was never a great vintage, is still drinkable and enjoyable.
Haut-Brion has been very consistent in quality over the last fifty plus years. Like the other first growths the price has gotten silly expensive. Yet, it often remains one of the less expensive of the first growths perhaps stemming from its location in Graves and not the Medoc. In any event, the price is now over $500 per bottle in the recent stellar vintages of 2005 and 2009. Perhaps better value can be found in the 2003 or 2008 vintages where a bottle can be obtained for under $300. I have been lucky enough to try about twenty vintages of this great wine. Personally, the best two vintages of Haut-Brion I have had are the amazing 1989 and the will-probably-be-even-better-with-more-age 2000. Those wines are two of the most profound wines I have ever, and most likely will ever taste. Unfortunately, the 1989 now sells for over $1,000 a bottle while the 2000 can still be “had” for around $500.
Haut-Brion’s neighbor is Chateau La Mission Haut Brion. These two chateaus have had a historic rivalry for over 50 years. Some say the rivalry ended when Domaine Clarence Dillon purchased La Mission in 1983. I am not so sure. In fact, while there is always bottle variation on a wine that old, the 1989 La Mission Haut Brion remains the best red wine I have ever tasted. Both wines are excellent, but Haut-Brion still retains one advantage, the honor of being classified as a Premier Cru back in 1855. READ ENTIRE ARTICLE ON IntoWine.com
by: John Schreiner
Photo: Gildas d’Ollone, general manager of Château Pichon
Bordeaux’s 1975 vintage was one of the most controversial in that decade. Most of the reds were markedly tannic. Tannin will always soften with age but the question is whether there is any fruit left by that time.
I have tasted a number of 1975s over the years. A few were satisfactory but many were lean and dried out.
And then I got to taste the 1975 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande. It is a delightful wine, with mellowed tannin and with fruit still fresh and alive. The alluring bouquet shows that perfumed sweetness that happens when Cabernet Sauvignon spends a long time in the bottle.
Perhaps this is all academic. It would be a rare cellar that still has any 1975 Bordeaux, if only because the wine should have been consumed by now. In his The Great Vintage Wine Book, Michael Broadbent – having tasted the wine in 1978 – recommended drinking it between 1983 and 1995. Well-stored red Bordeaux has remarkable longevity, however.
This bottle of 1975 came directly from the cellars of Château Pichon. Gildas d’Ollone, the winery’s general manager, presented this wine plus some current vintages at a recent Vancouver tasting for members of the Guild of Sommeliers.
He was supposed to be in Vancouver this spring at the Playhouse International Wine Festival. However, he was among the number of European producers who were prevented from coming when the volcano in Iceland basically shut down Europe’s air space. His wines were at the festival, presented by Sid Cross, one of Vancouver’s super-tasters and a friend of the Pichon wines.
Gildas had a second reason for coming to Vancouver this fall. Like most leading Bordeaux producers, Château Pichon is being besieged by buyers from China who would take all of the production if allowed.
“I want to keep our wines in traditional markets,” he says. “I don’t want to have all of our wines put into one basket.”
Château Pichon is one of the second growth estates in Pauillac, a neighbour of Château Latour, a first growth. The winery has records of vineyards from the late 1600s, when it and other properties were all owned by a very large landowner. In 1700 what became the Pichon vineyards formed the dowry when the landowner sent off his daughter to marry Jacques Pichon de Longueville, the president of the Bordeaux parliament.
Ownership has changed several times, usually driven by French inheritance laws. In 2007 the winery was on the market again because the family faced payment of inheritance taxes. A number of offers were made and the winner was Roederer, the great Champagne house.
Aside from making significant investments in the vineyard, Roederer has not messed around with this great chateau. Interested in maintaining the style of the Pichon wines, Roederer kept the staff intact (other than adding to the vineyard staff). The elegant Gildas d’Ollone, a nephew of the previous owner, remains the general manager.
What is the Pichon style? “We are not a blockbuster wine,” Gildas says. “We have never been. The challenge is to get balance with finesse.”
The winemaking has changed a lot since the 1975 vintage but balance and finesse would describe that wine. That was a warm, dry growing season. By September, the grapes hanging in the vineyard were small with thick skins, little juice and green seeds, a recipe for excessive tannin. Then the weather forecast threatened rain. Many producers chose to pick. READ MORE ON John Schreiner’s Blog….