Bordeaux beyond the châteaux
Wednesday 29 July
I’m on a research trip to Bordeaux this week but there are no barrel room tours involved. Instead of writing about the intricacies of claret I’m researching what the region has to offer tourists beyond the wineries.
It turns out the region is a golfing hub. I’ve always thought golf spoiled a good walk but I’m slowly coming round to the idea it might be enjoyable. I had my first-ever golf lesson yesterday and while I probably won’t be taking up the sport after my abysmal performance on the driving range (my putting was a little more respectable), the Golf du Médoc complex has plenty to offer the wine lover who needs time out from all the eating and drinking. It’s got 72 holes of golf action, each named after a Médoc chateau. Apparently the par 3 on the 5th, otherwise known as Château Pontet Canet sorts out the men from the boys. As I struggled to hit the ball, I’m unlikely to make it past the first hole let alone make it to the fifth.
Plastic penguins and pit bulls
Bordeaux has been seen as a region that is impenetrable to tourists without an appointment or a contact in the wine trade. Two years ago, France’s equivalent of Tony Laithwaite, Philippe Raoux, opened a free visitor centre and wine shop to make the region more people-friendly complete with plastic red penguins at the entrance. La Winery may not be imaginatively named and the huge complex may look like a cross between a greenhouse and a warehouse but it’s a great place for those who know little about wine to start with an introductory video and a 4x4 Land Rover vineyard tour. There’s a sculpture park to walk around with four-foot high blue plastic pitbull terriers, which is a bit off-putting, but you can’t fault their originality!
Ok, so you can’t come to Bordeaux without talking a little bit about wine. Gavin Quinney is an Englishman who owns Château Bauduc in Entre-deux-Mers. Unfortunately his tenth year at the property has proved to be difficult with severe hailstorms wiping out 80% of his crop in May. He’s even kept some of the hailstones in his freezer and they’re the size of golf balls. No wonder the grapes didn’t survive. Individual properties from St Emilion to Graves experienced similar devastation, which must be a major blow in such difficult economic times.
Lanson, ‘99 claret and a pint of beer
Tuesday 23 June
I’m having a couple of days off after a 14-day working marathon but there’s still time to update my blog…
Champagne Lanson launched its new Extra Age Brut at Vinexpo and Wimbledon this week
The new blend has been release ahead of the company’s 250th anniversary in 2010 and, in keeping with the house style, hasn’t undergone any malolactic fermentation. It’s a blend of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay from Grand Cru and Premier Cru vineyards, and takes parcels from the 1999, 2002 and 2003 vintages. All the wines in the blend have undergone at least five years on lees and it’s incredibly yeasty, almost mushroomy.
My tasting notes said: “Round and developed. Baked apple, Christmas cake fruit, and almonds on the nose. Lovely concentration and definition in the mouth with fresh acidity.”
It’ll set you back fifty of your finest English pounds but I think that’s fair. I’ve been watching Lanson closely for the past year and they’ve been steadily upping their profile and have just launched a major consumer campaign. We’ll see if that translates into sales.
On a completely different theme…Here’s a quick update from the 1999 Bordeaux tasting on my last post. All participants were asked to mark their favourites with Ch. Latour, Lafite, Palmer and Lafleur coming out victorious with Ausone and Vieux Chateau Certan runners up.
Interestingly, two wines that were, in my opinion, spoiled by brettanomyces made it into the best value category (Gruaud-Larose and Haut Bailly). It seems that other people like that farmyardy aroma it gives off but it was way too overpowering for me. Perhaps I’m getting too pernickety – I blame this darn Master of Wine course.
Now, back to wee break: mostly getting sunburnt in Greenwich Park and drinking Deuchar’s IPA. Life is good.
1999 Bordeaux: Ten years on
Friday 19 June
London-based merchant Bordeaux Index put its-first ever ‘Ten years on (1999) Claret Tasting’ yesterday for the press and customers. As I couldn’t make it to the press tasting, I ended up tasting with the customers. The clientele were immaculately turned out: suited and booted which, made a nice change to us scruffy journos drinking fine wine in our t-shirt and jeans.
I confess I’m no Bordeaux expert but I’ll give you my opinion on the duff wines and stars of the show: the Right Bank was largely disappointing yesterday and they’re not holding up well. The best wine, Ch. Angelus (£850 In Bond) was in magnum, and was unsurprisingly much fresher and alive than the rest in 75cl. Many are past their best with tannins starting to dry out and, there were still some green underripe notes on a couple including Gazin and La Grave a Pomerol.
On the Left Bank, the first growths were the stars - quel surprise – but Palmer was stonking too. Having only ever tried one first growth – Ch. Margaux – this was a real treat. I was blown away by Mouton-Rothschild. It had incredible aromatics of rosemary, black pepper and roast lamb. My notes read ‘AMAZING!!!! Delicate, elegant, silky, with lots of fresh acidity. Unique.’ Not bad hey. And, I quite liked the label too. Each year, Mouton has a different label design and in ’99 it was a ram: I’m an Aries so I guess I’m biased. If anyone fancies buying my case, do send an email!
Approving murmurs surrounded third growth Palmer and at £850 a case In Bond compared to the first growths ranging from £1650-£3500, I’d rather have a few cases of that.
You might’ve head of brettanomyces: a spoilage yeast that produces aromas of manure or elastoplasts. I’m sorry to say second-growths Ch. Rauzan Segla and Gruaud-Larose (at more than £300 a case In Bond) were offenders on the brett front, as well as Haut Bailly. Come on guys, if we’re paying that much for your wine, we don’t expect faults.
Thanks to Bordeaux Index for a treat of a tasting though.