I thought it would be fun to create a Twelve Days of Christmas for Bordeaux and its wines in celebration of all the diversity they have to offer. I have used a little creative licence but hope you enjoy my efforts!
On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me . . .
This estate is owned by none other than Bernard Magrez and its origins lie back in the Middle Ages. It’s famous for its impressive medieval tower that rises in the axis of a monumental gate. If the thick enclosure walls could talk they would tell tales of the rich historical past of this ancient feudal castle. Rather fittingly drums would be beaten from the safety of its walls to announce the grape harvest and to ward off wolves and wild boar!
Back in the day the Pipers Piping would have been playing flutes, hence the cryptic link. Les Cordeliers is made in the cloisters of Saint Emilion and you’d surprised how many ties Bordeaux has with sparkling wine producers. Over the years Champagne Houses have owned quite a few Saint Emilion Chateaux, currently Chateau Cheval Blanc springs to mind, (owned by Bernard Arnault and LVMH whose Champagne brands encompass Moet et Chandon, Dom Perignon, Krug, Veuve Cliquot and Mercier).
Both are owned by Domaines Barons de Rothschild. In fact there are many chateaux throughout Bordeaux that have been owned by Lords (seigneurs), Barons and Earls (comtes) but Lafite and Latour are probably the most famous.
La Dame de Montrose is the Second Wine of Chateau Montrose and is named after the lady of the estate, Yvonne Charmolüe (1944 to 1960). Widowed young, Yvonne brought up her young children and struggled to look after the property through difficult times. Under her care Montrose gained strength and she is responsible for sowing the seeds for Montrose’s renaissance.
Chateau Larrivet Haut Brion has been owned by the the Gervoson family since 1987 and they named their Second Wine, Les Demoiselles Larrivet Haut Brion (The Damsels of Larrivet Haut Brion) in honour of their 3 daughters: Emily, Charlotte and Valentine. The daughters and their namesake wine recently had a rose named in their honour and it is grown in the chateau’s rose garden.
Fonreaud is so named as it means ‘Royal Fountain’ and legend has it that in the 12th century the King of England and husband of Eleanor of Aquitaine, stopped at the chateau to drink from its cold spring water. The spring still exists in the chateau’s park today. Le Cygne de Chateau Fonreaud (the Swan of Chateau Fonreaud) is their white wine.
Chateau Cheval Blanc is the estate that literally laid the golden egg (another cryptic link!). The estate produced a faulty wine in 1947 that turned out to be legendary. It’s been described as magical and mythical and it sends wine lovers and collectors alike into a frenzy. It is also one of the most sought after and most expensive wines in the world.
The great sweet whites of Sauternes and Barsac used to be known as Vins d’Or de Bordeaux (The Gold Wines of Bordeaux). Chateau Coutet’s Cuvee Madame is made from 100% Semillon and is only made during exceptional years – as a result this special cuvee has only been produced 13 times since its inaugural vintage of 1943.
Originally the Calling Birds in the song were known as Colley Birds and some say that this refers to blackbirds. The Merlot grape takes its name from the French regional patois word “merlot” which means young blackbird – either because of the grape’s beautiful dark blue colour or due to blackbird’s fondness for grapes. Although d’Armailhac is currently owned by the Rothschilds in the mid 1850s it belonged to Armand d’Armailhacq, who was an agricultural engineer and a member of the Academy of Science. Some sources credit Armand as actually introducing Merlot to the Médoc.
Please grant me a little creative licence here – after all it is Christmas. There is no chateau in Bordeaux that is named after a chicken (unsurprisingly) BUT as it is the festive season lets consider the turkey instead. To my mind the best wines to accompany your Christmas turkey are Bordeaux Rosés. Chateau Lamothe Vincent Bordeaux Rosé is bursting with the flavours of redcurrants and cranberries – a superb choice!
Chateau Colombes (Chateau of the Doves) lies in Canon Fronsac – an appellation that is less well known than its famous neighbours. Smaller than Fronsac, the Canon Fronsac Appellation occupies higher and steeper terrain. The resulting wines are stronger and more substantial. Fronsac and Canon Fronsac sit side by side with Saint Emilion and Pomerol and are bordered by the Rivers Isle and Dordogne. The wines here are excellent and undervalued so its a wine producing area that is well worth hunting down. Several of the Canon Fronsac chateaux are owned by the Moueix family, who also own Petrus, need I say more?
Partridge translates as ‘Perdrix’ in French and Chateau Troplong Mondot in Saint Emilion has a wonderful restaurant and guest house named Les Belles Perdrix. Troplong Mondot has gone on from strength to strength in recent years and the quality of the wines has just kept on improving. Troplong Mondot was bought by Parisian vintner Alexandre Valette in 1936 and is now run by his very charming great granddaughter Christine Valette. Having met her on a few occasions she really is the perfect hostess – always making you feel welcome with a big smile and lovely traditional Bordelaise cuisine. Her wine is one of my favourites too!