‘BORDEAUX’D ON THE FANTASTIC.
I’m on a mission; to make wine work for you.
In this case, a construction company and their clients.
I’ve just returned from accompanying twelve CEO’s on a corporate ‘jolly’, sorry ‘educational visit’ to the vineyards of Bordeaux. It was fantastic. The Bordelais have a reputation for not being visitor friendly but that was completely busted as they opened their doors and their bottles with a broad smile.
We were on the early bird 6.45 B.A. flight (oouchh) but it was worth it as we were on the magnificent lawns of Chateau Palmer near the ‘left bank’ village of Margaux by 10.30 (and we lost the hour!) Our private visit of the cellars ended with a super tasting; second label Alter Ego 2011 (£56) was followed by Chateau Palmer 2006 and 2007. The 2006, made from Cabernet Sauvignon (66%) and Merlot (34%) with its dense blackberry, friendly fine grained tannins and lingering finish was my favourite; that’s if you have a spare £175 in your back pocket.
“Left Bank?”, I hear you say. For once Wine Trade lingo is useful; guess what, the Left Bank vineyards are on your left hand side as you sail up river towards the Atlantic.
We then drove north to the village of Pauillac through rolling gravel-soil vineyards, before sweeping into the impressive, towered chateau that is Pichon Baron, (pictured above). We were greeted by Christian Seely, Managing Director of AXA Millésimes (the chateau owners) who lead us into the ‘Hollywood’ cellars for a comprehensive, nay privileged, tasting which included 2012 and 2011 (cooler years) and 2010 and 2009 (sunny years and two of the best Bordeaux vintages). My best wine? The 2010 with its ripe fruit balanced with a lovely crisp tannic edge but again, at £100 plus you need deep pockets.
After a brilliant private lunch at Pichon (more amazing wine!) we didn’t really need a slap up dinner but as dusk fell we entered one of Rick Stein’s favourite restaurants, La Tupina, overlooking the River Garonne in the heart of Bordeaux. The wine list was reasonably priced and a few bottles of Chateau La Garde (£30) from the Pessac-Leognan vineyards south of the city were well received with Tupina’s signature meat dishes.
The next morning saw us on Bordeaux’s ‘Right Bank’, an easy 45 minute drive from our luxurious city centre hotel. We arrived early to stroll around Petrus, hallowed ground indeed as these blue clay vineyards in the heart of the Pomerol plateau produce bottles with £1000 price tags!
Spot on time (great coach driver, luxury coach!) we walked up the gravel drive of Pomerol’s Vieux Chateau Certan, another highlight for the excited group. The lofty barrel filled cellar was the venue for an exceptional tasting with the winemaker. The first glass, a barrel sample of 2015 brought applause all round, (my notes were ripe, silky, balanced, long), even though it probably had another 12 months to sleep in the barrels. The team had picked up the softer ‘Right Bank’ style, thanks to the higher proportion of Merlot (80%) in the blend. The other grapes in the 2015 were Cabernet Franc (19%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (1%) by the way. Other vintages tasted meant VCC, little known before, is now gracing a few more south of England cellars.
We then drove the short distance to Pomerol’s world famous Le Pin vineyard; at over Euro500 a bottle at the cellar (but not for sale!) the accountants in the team were quickly sharpening their pencils to calculate the annual balance sheets before realising that the production was exceptional but tiny.
Lunch beckoned but first one more private visit and tasting at St. Emilion’s Premier Grand Cru Classe Chateau Troplong-Mondot. Our lunch at Troplong-Mondot was superb which was no surprise as the restaurant boasts one Michelin Star. As we’d been drinking Bordeaux for two days we rang the changes with lunch; Puligny-Montrachet, Burgundy’s famous white (100% Chardonnay) was followed by Hermitage, the famous Syrah (100%) wine from the northern Rhone.
A relaxing beer in the afternoon sunshine that bathed St. Emilion’s famous square went down a treat before we left for the airport and our flight home. You guessed it, before we boarded we did share a top bottle of Bordeaux as our final toast to two, wonderfully vinous days spent amongst friends.