Background to the Chateaux Hosting the 2013 UGCB Tastings – Chateau Gazin, Pomerol

gazin 2Hop across from the AOC of historic Saint Emilion and you will find yourself in neighbouring Pomerol, the home of Merlot in Bordeaux. Here, on the gently rolling plateau, some of the world’s most famous wines are created. However there are few grandiose estates with towering spired chateaux in Pomerol, this is a land of hamlets and heritage. Pomerol is Bordeaux’s smallest wine producing area and lies 19 miles from the city. It’s been in the news recently with First Growth Chateau Latour investing in two chateaux that lie in Pomerol and its satellite AOC Lalande de Pomerol.

gazin 66This year Chateau Gazin will be hosting the 2013 En Primeur tastings for the Pomerol and Lalande de Pomerol regions and I’m looking forward to finding some good wines. Chateau Gazin’s history is tied up with that of Pomerol itself. Pomerol was shaped by the Knights Hospitallers of the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem (now known as the Knights of Malta) in the 12th century which is partly why there are so few big estates. The Knights Hospitaller is a Christian order that provided care for poor, sick or injured pilgrims travelling to the Holy Land. After the Western Christian reconquest of Jerusalem in 1099 during the First Crusade, it became a religious military order. The Pomerol Commandery of the Knights Hospitallers is the oldest Commandery in Aquitaine.

gazinChateau Gazin is thought to have been built on the site of the Hospice of Pomerol, owned by the Knights Hospitallers which is mentioned in an old charter drawn up for King Edward I in 1289. These hospices had farming land and vineyards with which to support themselves. They were built along the main medieval pilgrimage routes leading to Santiago de Compostela and had to receive a huge number of Christian pilgrims in the distant past. Medieval archives show that Pomerol’s hospice was renowned for the warmth of its welcome, as well as for the virtues of its wines. The hospice was the inspiration for the name of Chateau Gazin’s Second Wine: l’Hospitalet de Gazin and the Grand Vin also bears the Maltese Cross on its label. This type of cross adorns boundary stones all over Pomerol marking out properties owned by the Knights (and there is a very old one on the lintel that sits over the fireplace in Gazin itself).

gazin 88In 1477 the Commander of the Order, Antoine de Murat, granted 222 acres of land to two brothers Mathelin and Michel Barraud. The land became known as Domaine de La Barrauderie and included not only Gazin but Chateaux L’Evangile (now owned by the Rothschilds), La Conseillante and Petrus as well. Over time La Barrauderie was broken up into separate properties and by 1711 Gazin had grown into a small hamlet with 22 inhabitants. Among them was Jean Doreau, a lawyer, who had the title Sieur de Gazin. However it was another lawyer 60 odd years later who really began Gazin’s wine making ‘career’.

gazin 3Antoine Feuilhade purchased the vineyards of Gazin in 1772. Not only was he a lawyer but he was also a politician and a wealthy local landowner. He had been made Mayor of Libourne in 1735 and was the Admiralty Commissioner for the area. Feuilhade took wine making seriously and pioneered the movement in Pomerol to switch from mixed farming and making white wines to focusing on red wine viticulture. He wrote an account between 1763 – 77 which was published as Livre de Raison d’Antoine Feuilhade. It has proved to be a useful reference and records the first plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon in the area. His account also lists lost or forgotten grapes once grown in Pomerol such as Béquignol Noir (now found in Argentina and known as Red Chenin). As the end of the 1700s approached Gazin was bought by the Mayor of Pomerol, Pierre Bayonne. Bayonne already owned Chateau Rouget and he built the chateau at Gazin.gazin 33

In 1917 Chateau Gazin was acquired by a wine merchant, Louis Soualle, who also bought Chateau La Dominique (which, by coincidence, is hosting the 2013 En Primeur tastings in Saint Emilion). Soualle’s daughter married into the de Bailliencourt dit Courcol family, who are descendants of the high Lords of Landas. Chateau Gazin is still owned by the family and I had the pleasure of seeing the harvest brought in under the watchful eye of Nicolas de Baillencourt de Courcol in September 2011.

gazin 5Chateau Gazin, does indeed sit on some prime land. The vineyard covers 64 acres in a single holding and the soil is a layer of gravel over blue and green clay with iron oxides. It’s worth remembering that a third of Petrus is made with Gazin’s old vines as the chateau sold Petrus 11 acres in the late sixties. Petrus is well out of the reach of most wine enthusiasts pockets but Gazin is not and if you enjoy Merlot, Gazin is well worth hunting down!

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A Little Background to the Chateaux Hosting the 2013 UGCB Tastings – La Dominique, Saint Emilion

red wine pic 11Every year certain chateaux are allotted the task of holding the En Primeur tastings for their specific AOC by the UGCB (Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux). It’s considered an honour to be chosen as a host and it’s also an ideal opportunity for each chateaux selected to promote their wines and premises. The UGCB tastings are held for the trade and last year about 6,000 wine merchants, brokers, critics, sommeliers and journalists from 67 countries descended on Bordeaux for the event. The chateaux that hosted the tastings last year registered 17,500 visits so you can imagine how hectic it can get!

The UGCB is the main association of Bordeaux’s leading chateaux, representing around 136 properties, and was established in 1973. Similar tastings are organised by various bodies across Bordeaux and I usually taste the First Growths, leading super-seconds and top chateaux by private appointment. However the UGCB tastings are the best way of getting the flavour of the AOCs and seeing how each region performed for the year. Here, I can encounter wines that are old favourites and discover new ones.

It’s a wonderful experience but very difficult to capture – there is always so much to tell and so little time! I will keep you bang up to date by posting my reports on a daily basis whilst I am at the tastings. You can also follow me on Twitter @dom 6NicksWine and Facebook but for a more detailed account it’s best to read my blog.

To set the scene I’d like to introduce the chateaux that have been chosen to host the tastings this year starting with Chateau La Dominique which is hosting the tastings for Saint Emilion.

La Dominique is a Grand Cru Classé, situated in the north west of Saint Emilion near the edge of Pomerol, neighbouring Chateau Cheval Blanc (a ditch separates the two dom 9properties). There is a lovely legend about the chateau’s name. It is supposed to have been named after the island Dominica in the Caribbean by a wealthy merchant who made his fortune there. Dominica was a French colony in 1715 and it’s quite possible that the legend is based in some truth (records for La Dominique show it marked as such on maps dating back to 1761). Dominica was named by Christopher Columbus in 1493 as he first sighted the island on a Sunday (Dominica in Latin means the Lord’s Day).

dom 3Visiting La Dominique is going to be an interesting experience as, like many top flying chateaux, it has a brand new winery. Driven by the popularity of wine tourism Bordeaux has been having a bit of a building boom with new cellars and winery buildings being designed by celebrity architects. La Dominique’s new look has been designed by Jean Nouvel (a Pritzker prize-winner) and is very futuristic with red metal plates that reflect the vineyards. Apparently the panoramic roof terrace can be used as a tasting room and a restaurant.

Photo credit:  Guy Charneau

Photo credit: Guy Charneau

Beyond the architecture, the new facility meets a real technical need. The former winery was undersized (the vineyard increased by 5 hectares in 2012) and the possibility of expanding further with new acquisitions is being considered. La Dominique’s owner, Clement Fayat, has made no secret of his desire to expand the estate. Fayat is best known as the president of civil engineering group BTP and he initially bought La Dominique in 1969 from the Baillancourt dit Courcol family (who own Chateau Gazin) as an investment. However it soon turned into a love affair and in 1975 he bought Chateau Clement Pichon in the Haut Medoc. Over the next 20 years he acquired 3 other Pomerol properties which he finally combined to create Chateau Fayat in 2009.dom 88

At the age of 81 Clement has now retired and resides at his Chateau Clement Pichon. His sons Jean Claude and Laurent have taken over the reins. Yannick Evenou is CEO and the consultant wine makers are Jean-Luc Thunevin and Michel Rolland. They have great ambitions for La Dominique and it is definitely an estate to watch out for in the future.


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Chateau Latour Invests in the Right Bank with stake in Pomerol, Lalande de Pomerol and Saint Emilion

pomerol 99The owner of First Growth Chateau Latour, Francois Pinault, has invested in Pomerol, its neighbouring AOC Lalande de Pomerol and Saint Emilion for the first time by gaining a 49% stake in the vineyards of Baron Guichard. The investment is big news in Bordeaux and a benchmark for Pomerol, which is home to some of the world’s most famous wines.

2nd cd of iiw images 010Pomerol is a tiny AOC and neighbours that of Saint Emilion (in fact it was a sub appellation of Saint Emilion until 1900). The vineyards are located 19 miles north east of Bordeaux and 2 miles from the city of Libourne on a gently rolling plateau which is renowned for its Merlot. The AOC Lalande de Pomerol is separated from Pomerol by the Barbanne stream and although it has more acreage it is not as well known. However things have been changing since the 1990s and a number of savvy estates have made significant investments in these areas – notably Hubert de Boüard de Laforest, co-owner of the First Growth Saint Emilion Chateau Angelus. Will we see more I wonder?

Pinault’s investment is a sound move and suits the owners of Baron Guichard, Aline and Paul Goldschmidt. The company represents 3 chateaux: Chateau Siaurac in Lalande de Pomerol, Chateau Vray Croix de Gay inpomerol small Pomerol and Chateau Le Prieuré, a Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé.

The Goldschmidt’s have said that the deal is a technical partnership and that they will benefit from Chateau Latour’s team of winemakers and their investment as they had been looking for an outside partner to relieve financial pressure. Aline and Paul took over the estates in 2004 and had to buy her family out to prevent the chateaux being sold thanks to French inheritance laws. They also invested heavily in modernising the estates, knowing full well the potential in their magnificent terroirs. Pinault’s investment will help them realise the potential of these sleeping beauties and give him a strong foothold on the Right Bank.siaurac 3

Goldschmidt will remain as managing director, Penelope Godefoy has been recruited as technical manager of the vineyards and Chateau Latour’s CEO Frédéric Engerer will oversee the management of the estates. 2014 will be the first full vintage under the new cooperation and, unlike Latour, it will be released after En Primeur.

siaurac 2Aline’s family have owned Chateau Siaurac since 1832 (her grandfather was Baron Guichard) and it has 120 acres in Lalande de Pomerol (it is said to be the largest estate in the AOC). It’s a beautiful chateau, set in 19th century parkland, peppered with specimen trees and wildflowers. The chateau regularly holds events, workshops and tastings and won a gold in the Best of Wine Tourism 2012.

Chateau Le Prieuré was bought in 1919 by the Baron and covers 15 acres. It sits on the sloping valley sides facing Chateau Ausonne between Chateaux Trottevieille, Troplong Mondot and Pavie Msiaurac 8acquin. The vineyard there has existed since at least 1696 and was once the property of the Franciscan monks. In the late 1800s the wine produced was known as the Cru des Cordeliers and was hailed as a First Growth in the 1893 edition of Feret. The chateau was later named Le Prieuré (the Priory) in memory of the monastery. It has retained its Grand Cru Classé status since 1955.

siaurac 7Chateau Vray Croix de Gay sits on exceptional terroir and covers 8 acres. One of the plots of vines sits behind Pétrus and the vines also neighbour Le Pin. The vineyard was bought by the family in 1949 and it takes its name from the stone cross that marks the old Pilgrim Way to Santiago de Compostella. Originally it was known as Croix de Gaye and ‘Vray’ was later added as the name Croix de Gaye was registered by another estate.

The wines vary in price – Chateau Siaurac ranges from approximately £11.50 – £15 a bottle, Chateau Vray Croix de Gay from £13 – £39.00 and Chateau Le Prieuré from £21.50 – £46.00 depending on the vintage. With Latour’s involvement in the estates from now on the prices will inevitably rise.

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Bordeaux En Primeur 2013 – What I am Tasting, and When

2nd cd of iiw images 013I thought it might be useful for those of you who are interested if I let you know my itinerary for the UGC Tastings for En Primeur 2013 in Bordeaux. It will give you an idea of what I am tasting and if you want to contact me for my opinions on the wine I’ll be pleased to give you an honest answer. The En Primeur week is always frantic and I spend a lot of my time criss crossing from one AOC to another to try and fit in as many wines as I can. I’ve never counted how many I have ended up tasting by the end of the week but it runs into hundreds.

ladies with bottle2I will be keeping my eyes peeled for a few undiscovered gems and I may end up cramming a few more tastings in here and there. I often go back to re-taste certain wines but the itinerary below is correct as of the time of publishing. If you want to contact me then you can email me at or send me a tweet at @NicksWine.

I will be tasting the following wines plus their second wines as well as wines made by their associated estates:

Monday 31st March:

Chateau Margaux
Chateau Palmer
Chateau Pichon Baron
Chateau Latour
Chateau Pichon Comtesse
Chateau Mouton Rothschild
Chateau Pontet Canet
Chateau Cos d’Estournel
Chateau Montrose
Chateau Calon Segur
Chateau Lafite Rothschild
Chateau Grand Puy Lacoste
Chateau Ducru Beacaillou
Chateau Leoville Las Cases
Chateau Leoville Poyferre

Tuesday 1st April:

Chateau Haut Brion
Chateau Troplong Mondot
Chateau Cheval Blanc
Vieux Chateau Certan
Chateau Angelus
Château Bellevue
La Fleur de Boüard
Château Daugay
Wines from the estates of Hubert de Boüard (owner of Chateau Angelus)

chardonnay4Remainder of the Week – appellations and chateaux:

Chateau La Dominique – Saint Emilion
Chateau Gazin – Pomerol
Chateau Malartic Lagraviere – Graves and Pessac
Chateau Clarke – Medoc, Haut Medoc, Moulis and Listrac
Chateau Marquis de Terme – Margaux
Chateau Lafon Rochet – Pauillac and Saint Estephe
Chateau Lagrange – Saint Julien
Chateau La Lagune – Sauternes and Barsac
Chateau d’Arsac – Crus Bourgeois


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Start Your Cheltenham Festival Week Off With An Afternoon’s Racing at Stratford Racecourse

stratford meetBordeaux Undiscovered are racing enthusiasts and support our local races at Stratford Racecourse. It’s one of the country’s leading small summer jumps racecourses and racing takes place regularly between March and October. You can see many top trainers and jockeys at Stratford Racecourse and the First Meeting to open the season will be held on the afternoon of Monday 10th March. This is the day before the racing at Cheltenham Festival Week opens and Stratford Racecourse are making this a special event with an At The Races Preview. They are offering a Carvery lunch (from the brand new Carvery in the Chaser Room) and a Cheltenham Festival Preview Talk from a star panel including At The Races presenter Robert Cooper and a leading Trainer and Jockey (yet to be agreed) with big hopes at Cheltenham. Declarations will be out for the famous Champions Day!stratford meet 1

It’s a great start to what will be a wonderful racing week. The Carvery will be available for Club/Tattersalls Ticket Holders and Annual Members at a cost of £5 if booked in advance or £9.95 on the day. The Cheltenham Festival Preview Talk is complimentary for any Tattersalls/Club Ticket Holders and Annual Members, and will take place at 1:00pm.

Bookings can be made online as well as over the phone (01789 267949) and by email

The races during the afternoon are:

14:10 Follow Attheraces On Twitter Juvenile Hurdle

14:40 Visit At The Races Virgin 354 Novices’ Handicap Chase

15:10 Try The New Carvery Selling Hurdle

15:40 At The Races Sky 415 Handicap Chase

16:10 Visit Handicap Hurdle

16:40 CGA Foxhunter Trial Novices’ Hunters’ Chase (For The Credit Call Cup)

17:10 Compare Today’s Prices At Maiden Open NH Flat Race

stratford meet 5Runners for each race can be found at

The current going is soft but the racecourse is drying out all the time. A little rain is expected Friday (3mm) but otherwise it is dry and sunny up to and beyond the raceday. Stratford Racecourse did suffer from the awful flooding that we saw earlier this year when the catchment ditch that runs through the centre field to drain the racecourse overflowed, as did the nearby River Avon. However Stratford Racecourse are well prepared for flooding being so near to the river and a pumping system was rapidly deployed to save the day!

stratford meet 6stratford meet 6stratford meet 6Bordeaux-Undiscovered not only sponsor races at Stratford Racecourse but we also supply the wines for the racecourse’s restaurants, so if you enjoy your tipple whilst dining at the new Carvery please let us know! We are also giving all visitors to Stratford Racecourse and their website a personal discount of 12.5% on our wines at our online wine shop at (excluding any current offers and promotions). Enjoy!

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Bordeaux Brandy – The Next Big Thing?

Jfine bordeaux 7ane Anson writing over at Decanter has reported that a Bordeaux wine producers’ union and several Negotiants (wine merchants) are seeking approval for new rules that would revive the almost extinct ‘Fine Bordeaux’ eaux de vie (brandy). This is welcome news to my ears. Fine Bordeaux is still made by some top ranking chateaux and has a select niche market. Apparently the ‘emergence of new markets for Bordeaux wine has prompted the desire to relaunch production of Fine Bordeaux’. For ‘new markets’ read ‘China.’ China has a growing love affair with brandy (and whiskey) and Chinese connoisseurs are interested in brands with heritage, history and craftsmanship.bordeaux fine 3

Naturally it’s not just the Chinese who appreciate a wee dram, we Brits enjoy our brandy and whiskey just as much as they do. In fact one Brit, Steve Thompson, enjoyed Fine Bordeaux so much he is now producing his own: Thompson’s. He is championing the production of Fine Bordeaux and preserving Bordeaux’s distilling heritage.

First Growths Chateaux Lafite and Mouton Rothschild both produce eaux de vie. Chateau Lafite makes both Cognac and Armagnac but Chateau Mouton makes Eau de Vie de Marc d’Aquitaine de Mouton Rothschild. (Marc is made by distilling grape marc – the pressed grapes, skins, stalks and seeds whereas Fine is made by distilling wine. Both have a loyal fan base). Jean Luc Thunevin of Chateau Valandfine bordeauxraud in Saint Emilion (recently promoted to Premier Grand Cru Classé B) also makes a Fine de Bordeaux: La Fine Bordeaux de Valandraud. Fine Bordeaux is also made by smaller producers (Petit Chateaux) and I hope to discover some when I am next in Bordeaux.

‘Eaux de Vie’ translates from the French as ‘water of life’ and ‘Fine’ is the French word meaning ‘fine’, as in ‘high quality.’ Bordeaux is not the only wine producing region in France to produce ‘Fine’ – you can also find Fine de Bourgogne (Burgundy) and Fine de la Marne (Champagne). People used to refer to having a couple of fines after their coffee but the term, though once common, is now dying out.fine bordeaux 1

France, of course, is famous for its brandy production with Cognac (just north of Bordeaux) and Armagnac (just south of Bordeaux). Fine de Bordeaux is made in a similar manner from distilled wine: using double distilled in copper pot-stills, aged in Limousin oak barrels and made with the same grapes, Ugni Blanc and Colombard. These grapes are actually among the white grapes permitted in Bordeaux for White wine production. Historically Fine Bordeaux was once produced under the name Cognac but this was no longer permitted at the beginning of the 20th century. It was made under the name Eaux de Vie d’Aquitaine from 1942 and finally Fine Bordeaux from 1974. Fine Bordeaux production declined in the late 1980s as production was phased out in favour of using the grapes for white Bordeaux White wines instead. summer

Apparently the Bordelaise proposal is that Fine Bordeaux ‘must be double distilled in alembics, aged in 600-litre oak barrels for one year and made from at least 70% Ugni Blanc, Semillon and Colombard, with the remainder from Merlot Blanc. The final alcohol level must 40% abv’.

I wish them every success and look forward to sampling some of their wares in the future!

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Chinese Make First Investment in Margaux

margauxThe Chinese have made their first investment in Margaux with the state owned Liaoning Energy Investment group’s purchase of Clos des Quatre Vents, Chateau Tayac Plaisance and Villa des Quatre Soeurs from Luc Thienpont. The group have also acquired Thienpont’s other estate Chateau Bonneau in the Haut Medoc and ‘Z’ his wine made under the Bordeaux AOC from a vineyard adjoining the Margaux appellation.

margaux aLuc is a member of the Thienpont negotiant and wine making dynasty – his brother, Jacques, is the owner of Le Pin in Pomerol. The Liaoning Energy Investment group already produce wine in China and take their name from Liaoning province in North East China (Manchuria) close to the borders of North Korea and Russia. The group specialise in energy (solar power, electricity, wind etc) and this is their first foray into Bordeaux.

Liaoning province itself is not new to the Chinese craze for all things Bordeaux; Dalian is one of its major cities and is home to wine themed parks, Bordeaux styled chateaux and wine festivals. The Dalian Haichang Group already own several Bordeaux chateaux. (See Moving Bordeaux To China.) Liaoning is also the site of the largest Ice Wine winery in the world situated near Huanlong Lake.

The properties purchased by the Liaoning Energy Investment group in Margaux are tiny vineyards and produce wines in the garagiste (micro cuvee) style. Clos des Quatre Vents is the flagship estate and has 2.9 acres (1.2 hectares) planted with very old vines (some are 80 years old). It is situated on a plateau at the entrance to the town of Margaux, overlooking Chateau Margaux and is surrounded by Grand Cru Classé vineyards.

margaux dVilla des Quatre Soeurs is a 3.7 acre (1.5 hectare) plot near the village of Soussans and Chateau Tayac Plaisance covers 7.6 acres (3.1 hectares) are sits between Soussans and Tayac. The grapes grown in all 3 vineyards are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot.

The Thienpont family wine making history goes back to the 16th century when they founded a wine merchants business at their 16th century manor house Hof te Cattebeke in Flanders (Belgium) in 1842 (which still operates today). There are at least 7 wine makers in the family, at least another 5 who trade in wine and one Master of Wine. Luc Thienpont left Belgium in 1979 to take on the management of Chateau Labegorce Zede in Margaux. margaux bThe family decided to sell the chateau in 2004, and Luc turned his full attentions to Clos des Quatre Vents. According to Vitisphere Luc, at the age of 62, decided to slow down and had been looking for the right investor to sell his properties on to, one who could ensure the continuity in the style of the wines and customer base. It seems the Liaoning Energy Investment group met the criteria. . .

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Valentine’s Day Wine: Sweets For My Sweet, Sugar For My Honey

val 5With France being the ‘home of romance’ and Paris being the ‘city of love’ it only seems natural to suggest a French wine to enjoy on Valentine’s Day. After all, the earliest Valentine verse was penned by a 15th century French Duke to his wife whilst imprisoned in the Tower of London! He was Charles of Valois, the Duke of Orleans and had only been married for 5 years before his capture at the Battle of Agincourt– to Bonne of Armagnac. He was a prisoner for 25 years and sadly Bonne died before his release in 1440 so he was never to see his sweetheart again.

So, with the immortal words of The Drifters, in mind: “Sweets For My Sweet, Sugar For My Honey” I think that one of the great sweet wines of Sautecyprnes would be highly appropriate on Valentine’s Day (as well as delicious). Chateau Climens lies in Barsac and makes a fabulous sweet wine solely from Semillon grapes – it is the only one of the First Growths to do so. Nicknamed the ‘Lord Of Barsac’ the estate dates back to 1547.

The vineyard cyp fhas remained unchanged in size since that date and there are two ideas as to how it gained its name. One is that Climens is a word for ‘ungrateful (poor) land in the local dialect (poor soil is good for grapes!) and the other is that is is the Old Gascon for the name Clement.

Back in the 15th century, there was a Jehan Climens who had the customs rights for boats on the River Garonne and he may have had a connection with the ccyp 1hateau. The little River Ciron joins the Garonne at Barsac and barrels of wines would have been shipped from the little port down this way to Bordeaux. There was an ancient tradition of giving the customs masters who held this right a branch of blue cypress to certify payment.

Cypress trees were often planted along the waterside to mark ports, locks and loading platforms. Chateau Climecyp tns produces a Second Wine, Cyprès de Climens (The Cypress of Climens) which is named after this ancient tradition and for the plot of vines bordered by cypress trees opposite the chateau. The chateau also has an emblem of the cypress branches carved into its walls.

The source of the River Ciron is a spring which has cooler waters than the River Garonne. In the autumn, when the climate is warm and dry, the different temperatures from the two rivers meet to produce mist that descends upon the vineyards. It’s this perfect partnerscyp 8hip between mist and Noble Rot that helps to create great wine. The mist helps the development of the Noble Rot which in turn makes the the grapes concentrate the flavours and sugars whilst keeping a high level of acidity. By mid day, the warm sun will help dissipate the mist and dry the grapes.

Making the wines of Climens is very much a labour of love – Semillon and Noble Rot are a demanding couple. But, as they say, ‘love conquers val 6all’ and the end result is a wine for true romantics. A wine with unique character, perfect balance and intoxicating aromas. Velvety smooth with hedonistic flavours of honey, quince, pineapple and candied fruits this is a wine which in great vintages can have a life of 50 to 100 years. Rather fittingly the cypress, the emblem of Climens, is known as the symbol of immortality . . . What better wine would you share with your Valentine?




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The Knock On Effects of Bordeaux’s 2013 Vintage – Le Pin Pulls Out of En Primeur and Malescasse Will Not Release

male cFollowing the dreadful weather that caused havoc with the growing season in 2013 Decanter have confirmed that Le Pin, in Pomerol, will not be taking part in the 2013 En Primeur campaign. It’s thought that a 2013 vintage may be released at some stage, perhaps when the wine is bottled:

“We have several barrels that we are watching very closely to see how they develop. We may end up only releasing the three barrels that we know today are good enough, so 900 bottles. But, it’s too early to say.”

maleLe Pin is one of the most expensive wines in the world and production has always been limited – only around 700 cases are produced each year.

Last week the Cru Bourgeois Chateau Malescasse hit the headlines as they have decided not to release the 2013 vintage under their label. Instead the wine (around 130,000 bottles) will be sold as generic Haut Medoc. The difference in price will be a blow to the chateau – under the Chateau Malescasse label the wine is sold at around 10 euros whereas as a generic Haut Medoc it will only fetch 2-3 euros. The decision will cost the chateau up to 800,000 euros.

Stéphane Derenoncourt, wine making consultant at Chateau Malescasse, told the newspaper Le Figaro:

“I’m not saying that the wine is bad, but it does not measure up to our ambitions. Rather than squeeze something out of a wine we don’t like, we prefer to cut off our own arm and move on.”

He predicted that other chateaux would follow his lead:

“They will have no choice. Others will go to the market with ridiculous quantities, maybe 20 to 50 per cent of what themale ay usually sell.”

All of Bordeaux is not bad. But even the top chateaux, which always make good wines, will have no great stars this year.”

Derenoncourt went on to say that he did not think the 2013 vintage would be very consistent across Bordeaux and that it would not have good aging potential. Derenoncourt is obviously being very frank but it’s wise to remember that neighbouring estates have managed to make decent wines and that all of Bordeaux should not be tarred with one brush.

Derenoncourt said that Malescasse’s owner, Philippe Austruy, had made a courageous decision. He added that Austruy was committed to the revival of Malescasse, for which he has great ambitions, and that the vintage 2013 did not allow them to achieve the goals they had set themselves.

male dAustruy purchased Malescasse in 2012 (he also owns La Commanderie Peyrassol in Provence) and hoped to raise the quality and reputation of the chateau. The chateau had previously been owned by the French telecom company Alcatel Alsthom and thanks to their investment in a new winery and cellars it is ranked one of the best Cru Bourgeois on the market. Malescasse lies in Lamarque on a gravelly ridge between Margaux and Saint Julien Beychevelle. As well as the Grand Vin a Second Wine, La Closiere de Malescasse, is produced and an unusual 100% Petit Verdot (from 2009), Le Petit Verdot Malescasse.

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A Knight’s Tale – Domaine de Chevalier and Olivier Bernard

d de c rVery few of the Bordeaux Grand Crus Classés have a blog but Olivier Bernard of Domaine de Chevalier believes in sharing the events that have left their mark on Chevalier, and indeed his own life. I consider myself fortunate in that I am able to visit the chateaux of Bordeaux and see for myself the life in the vineyards, how the great wines are made and soak up some of the atmosphere. I am also very lucky in that I have also been invited to Domaine de Chevalier to taste its wonderful wines. However most of us don’t have that opportunity and can only gain a sense of what its like via blogs. They are key to understanding the spirit of the region; which – for me – instils every sip of Bordeaux wine that I taste.

d de c jDomaine de Chevalier’s blog is brimming with news, images and videos covering everything; from the painting of the barrels, horses working in the vineyards, all the different phases of the wine making processes, the harvest (with grape pickers waving at the drone flying above them shooting the clip), En Primeur (I’m in this one for a split second tasting the wine), to dinners and discussions (Olivier is also a fan of truffles, some say even a connoisseur). It gives an insight into their world. A ‘sense of place’ if you like.

d de c lOlivier Bernard is a busy man, he is President of the UGC; manages winemaking at Domaine de la Solitude (owned by the nuns of La Congrégation de la Sainte-Famille de Bordeaux) and Chateau Lespault Martillac, is co-owner of Sauternes Chateau Guiraud and has recently acquired Clos des Lunes but Domaine de Chevalier is his home. And it’s a special place.

d de chevalierDomaine de Chevalier is often called ‘a secret garden in Graves’ and it does give the impression of being hidden away. It sits in a clearing surrounded by leafy woodland with the Landes forest of maritime pines in the far distance. Completely isolated by the trees, it has no neighbours. The country house is in the traditional Chartreuse style, dating from the 17th century, and is flanked by the wide, sweeping winery Olivier built. The buildings are long and low, hugging the ground and in front of them lie swathe upon swathe of vines. The domain lies in the commune of Leognan (AOC Graves) which is an ancient wine making region. Some say that the name Leognan refers to a Roman villa belonging to Leonius but oddly enough the old name for Leognan is Leunhan – and Leu sometimes indicated a Sacred Wood in the Old Gascon tongue. Rather apd de c ft, considering Domaine de Chevalier’s location, don’t you think?

It is also one of a very few Bordeaux estates to be named Domaine instead of Chateau The old French domaine was a little like our English ‘Manor House’ and the domaine would have had a house with land (usually fields for agriculture and woods). It’s much older than the grand chateaux (that were later usually built on them). Archives show that d de chevalier grapesDomaine de Chevalier had houses, outbuildings, gardens, grounds, vines, woods and meadows in the 1600s. Old maps record the manor as Domaine de Chivaley (chivaley is the old Gascon for ‘Knight’ – it’s where we get our word chivalry from). Over time the word changed to the modern French chevalier.

d de c sSo who was this Knight who owned the manor? Records show that in 1550 the de Lalanne family lived at the domaine and that their ‘patriarch’ was known as Chivaley. Patriarch is an odd word to use – it has religious connotations. It’s thought that he had something to do with the Pilgrims Way (the Santiago de Compostella) that runs right past the vineyard border. Not far away is the Church of Saint Martin which was originally a very ancient chapel built in the 11th century by the Knights Hospitallers of d de c iSaint John to serve pilgrims. The Knights Hospitallers were a religious order who provided charitable care for poor and sick pilgrims, often giving travellers food and shelter. They later became known as the Knights of Malta. In fact the whole region is dotted with remnants from their past, including Commanderies belonging to the military order of the Knights Templar who provided protection for pilgrims during the Crusades. Could the Knight who owned the domaine in the woods have been one of these?

domaine de chevalier (2)In one very real sense Olivier is the Knight of today. He is very attached to the past and does his best to uphold its values. It’s a way of life. He is the custodian of the land and caretaker of its heritage. He holds a deep understanding of the terroir. The vineyard sits in its own ecosystem protected bd de c rougey the woods and this creates a greenhouse effect in the summer, enhancing ripening. No herbicides are used here and any fertilisers used are organic rather than chemical. The gravelly black sand is ploughed by horses (and a mule when the horses are resting). As Olivier sees each plot of vines as a different entity – and each vine, and each grape, they are treated individually. Harvesting is done in several waves of picd de c blancking as not all grapes ripen at the same time. The results show in the wines – Domaine de Chevalier is one of the very few top class Bordeaux estates producing both first rate red and white wines.

Wine making is certainly in Olivier’s blood and it is the reason he settled at Domaine de Chevalier in 1983 at the age of 23. His family have a long history; centuries ago the House of Bernard were lords of Chateaubernard, an ancient town in the Charente, near Cognac. The Knights Templar were the first lords of d de c zChateaubernard, followed by the Knights of Malta . . . Olivier may have more in common with Domaine de Chevalier than he knows. Perhaps the ‘sense of place’ called to him? You never know.


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