Posts Tagged ‘Bordeaux’

It may seem complex, but in fact the appellation system is much easier to apply in Bordeaux than in Burgundy.

The Bordeaux appellation system ( and of all France) is based on obeying fixed rules established by the Bordeaux Institut National d’Appellations d’Origine INAO.
The core of the system is rooted in the location of the vineyard and whether it complies with the INAO standards set for this specific area.

The regulations aren’t just a bunch of concepts manufactured by an obsolete organisation. On the contrary INAO employs a wide array of wine experts, oenologists, geologists and analysts carefully discussing the potentials and handicaps of designated terroirs. On the basis of their inspection together with laboratory test results they work out the rules for each appellation.

A winemaker then has to consider for example which grape variety he can grow on his vineyard, a percentage of each of them and other aspects of the terroir.

I mentioned the word TERROIR and it is worth an explanation as it is one of the most used but also the most controversial jargons used by wine makers in France.

The disputable ‘winelese’ term doesn’t have any simple definition. At L’Ecole Du Bordeaux  is taught that the terroir is made up of:

1) soil – often only this aspect is mistaken as an oversimplified definition of the terroir
4) exposure – hill, flat, …
3) climate – micro-climate specific for a vineyard or specific area, influence of the proximity of the ocean, sun exposure, rainfall, wind, intensity of sunshine, …

4) human influence – biodynamic practices, wine maker’s treatment of the soil and vines,…

There are four degrees of appellations based on the extend of adherence to the determined rules from the INAO:

AOC Graves: Château Smith Haut Lafitte

AOC Graves: Château Smith Haut Lafitte

AOC = Appellation d’Origine Controlé – wine whose quality is controlled by the specific local rules set by the INAO

VDQS = Vin Délimité Qualité Supérieur – wine of which quality doesn’t adhere to all INAO rules but it is still typical for the country and is distinguishable characteristics
VIN DE PAYS= wine typical for the country

VIN DE TABLE = table wine suitable for basic consumption and not typical of the place

Considering the terroir carefully INAO established 57 AOC’s in Bordeaux. For example: Pauliac, Margaux, Saint Emillion, Pomerol, Médoc, Haut Médoc, …

AOC wine Chateau Giscourse - Margaux

There are five levels of AOC’s:

A Communal village – Paulliac, Margaux, Saint Estephe, Saint Julien, Listrac – Médoc, …
B Haut Médoc – the proximate area around the village AOC
C Médoc – the whole area of Médoc on the left bank of the river
D Bordeaux Superieur – wine from Bordeaux near to a distinguishable AOC area
E Bordeaux – just a wine made somewhere in the region of Bordeaux not adhering to any   of the AOC rules

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Nesting in Graves between the villages of Martillac and a bit bigger Léognan you will find Châteav Smith Havt Lafitte.
Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte

Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte

The owners Florence et Daniel Cathiard

It was bought by the end of the eighties by a former French ski champions Monsieur Daniel and Madame Florence Cathiard who transformed the estate tramendously.

Today, the old marries here with the state of the art technology and wine making procedure.

The love for art of Madame Cathiard is imprinted on the surrounding vineyards. You can admire a statue of a rabbit which enchanted her tasteful eyes on an exhibition in London so she decided to put it right in the middle of the vineyard.

Rabbit sculpture in front of the Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte

Sculpture of rabbit in front of the Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte

The history of the estate reaches as far back as the 14th century. It went from one owner to the other, but it seems that it flourished the most in the hands of its present proprietors.

Their daughter even launched her own successful wine therapy centre and cosmetic line called Caudalíe known from Paris to New York. You can indulge your senses and body in their original wine based therapies in the adjoining spa which together with the five star hotel is called Les Sources de Caudalie.

Wine based cosmetics Caudalie

Smith Haut Laffite's cellars

Back to wine. The Château has 55 parcels, each the size of 1 hectar. From this 11 ha is white wine and the rest are red grapes of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot  (the so called Bordeux blend).

Châteav Smith Havt Lafitte can proudly claim that it possesses one of the biggest (if not the biggest) underground wine cellars in the whole Bordeaux area. The 2009 highly promising  vintage was just resting in the oak barrels during our visit.

We tasted two wines. One red and one white. Unusually, on the advice of the vineyards own oenologist, we drunk the red first.

The 2006 vintage resembled dark cherries and berries with slight tannins on the palette. Even though it was still quite young (7-10 years is often recommended for Bordeaux red wines) it was very drinkable and complex wine.

The white wine was a miracle. The Châteav Smith Havt Lafitte 2007 is a favourite of many ‘degustateurs’ as our friendly guide disclosed and I can confirm I am among their ranks. The fatty round body with hints of apricots, pineapple and even grapefruit with a very long aftertaste makes from it a drink of the gods. No wonder that renowned wine critic Robert Parker gave it staggering 94-96 ranking (out of 100). Jancis Robinson described it as “Sweet, rich, heady nose. Big and broad and heavy and almost sweet. Good citrus(lime) acidity too. Interesting and not just run of the mill…Massive richness – ambitious!”. She gave it 17 points (out of 20).

However, reviews are reviews and we all have distinguished and unique taste buds so you should make up your own mind by tasting it. I highly recommend it as it sparked my interest in white Bordeaux.

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Chateau in Burgundy, France

One growth or the whole chateau? Luckily, nowadays dictators can't buy chateaux in France.

Kim Jong-il, the North Korean controversial dictator bought up the entire release of 2009 Chateau Latour’s second growth wine Les Forts de Latour, revealed Decanter’s news wire today.

This quirky little man is known to wear platform shoes to make up for his height, for a hedgehog style of haircut and lavish lifestyle.

And not just sips, as the BBC wrote: “He was seen draining 10 glasses of wine during his 2000 summit with South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and is known to have a taste for Hennessy VSOP cognac.

These are some of the perks which come with a “profession” of a dictator.

I am wondering if Mussolini crawled for Bordeaux or as a nationalist drunk casks of Tuscan chianti?

And I guess that Stalin stayed with Vodka, even though many affluent Russians today are crazy about wine buying chateaux all over France.

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Last weekend the elegant premisses of the Landmark Hotel in Marylebone were swarming with wine lovers from all over the world.
A young banker from South Korea indulging in the 20th glass of Bordeaux was not a rarity and a curious wine junkie from the Czech Republic (me) could not miss this magnificent event annually organised by the UK wine magazine Decanter.

Exceptionally wide selection

From over 600 wines I managed to taste 40 and even left with three bottles as a gift from the lovely representatives of Chateau Peyrabon in Bordeaux. I tasted their wines right at the beginning of my long journey through wine regions of the world. Particularly Chateau Peyrabon 2003 with its black currant and mature taste for such a young age surprised me.

Bordeaux, Bordeaux, …

There were many other Bordeaux such as Chateau Beychevelle, Faugéres, Chauvin or the star Chateau Palmer which reshaped my conviction, that Bordeaux younger than 10 years is almost undrinkable. Their 2003 and even 2005 releases were more than pleasant!

New World wines

Another revelation was Napa Valley’s Heitz Cellars with stunning Cabernet Sauvignon, 2004 is perfect for your juicy steak. California really does not stay behind. You only need to search in the immense haystack of for me often boring wines and you discover such treasures like Seghesio’s Zinfandel from Home Ranch Alexander Valley which balanced body with light chocolate entangling your tongue was intriguing.

From the eight winemakers from South Africa I would elevate the Danie de Wet Cape Muscadet 2007 for its exotic li-chi and orange peel flavours are ideal to accompany a peach sorbet. The Decanter Gold medal winner Steytler Pinotage 2006 and Steytler Vision 2006 were fruity and quite sweet. Both are from the Kaapzicht Estate meaning “cap view” as it stems from the wonderful view over Cape Town and Table Mountain.

Fashionable wine

Finally a small revelation. Fashion designers have already made their steps into furniture, hotels, etc. But Roberto Cavalli triumphs over them all as he lets his son Tommaso manage a vineyard on his Tuscan estate Tenuta degli Dei producing Igt wine since 2006. You could buy the classic bottle for £32 at the venue or get a special limited version bottle designed by Roberto himself.

This year’s Fine Wine Encounter was amusing and enriching for me as I have learned there a lot. Furthermore, I could not resist to the special subscription offer from the Decanter magazine and got one year for £29 with a gift in the form of an internationally praised wine guide the Wine Report 2009 by Tom Stevenson (£9.99 at http://www.dk.com ).

Plenty to win

Throughout the event you could enter a draw and win a place at the WSET level 2 Intermediate Certificate in Wines & Spirits worth £355 from the largest global provider of qualifications in wines & spirits the Wine & Education Trust. What more to wish for Christmas as with their 40 years experience in the wine education your knowledge of wines can move to higher spheres. And this is not all! You could win cases of award-winning wines from Decanter and even a two-night luxury break at one of 17 historic country houses from Handpicked Hotels.

Upcoming events

To grasp all the great producers at the Landmark Hotel is impossible just here, therefore I recommend you visiting the upcoming Decanter events in 2010. The hotel will host The Great Bordeaux Fine Wine Encounter on 20 February and Great Italian Fine Wine Encounter on 15 May. For bookings call +44(0)20 31484513 or go to www. decanter.com/events

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The first time ever, the Nicolas Wine Fair at The Royal Horticultural Halls in London last weekend was a huge success.

The Royal Horticultural Halls LondonThe elegant premisses were packed with wine lovers eager to taste as much as their bodies could take in. There were many happy faces. The right to meet new friends as everyone wants to share their impressions about various wines.

Diversity of visitors
You could see couples trying to find wine they both enjoy to relish it later together while having a romantic dinner. But also loners, who bravely cruised from one stand to the other, were not rare. Nicolas wine fair London
I was one of them and as a women I stood out. Nevertheless, I was warmly welcomed by each producer I approached and my peculiar questions were answered promptly.

What you could taste

There were over 200 wines & spirits from all over the world. Majority of them from France, therefore I decided to focus my tasting on the French producers.

I started with the Famille Bougrier from Loire Valley. Loire is famous for its crisp Savignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, exotic Muscadet and red Cabernet Franc in Touraine area.

I tried their Savignon Blanc, Grand Reserve from Touraine which couldn’t disappoint anyone. It was crisp and fruity. I liked it a lot. I moved to a semi-sweet Vouvray made from Chenin blanc. Its complex and light sweetness was mouth-watering. I got a detailed explanation of all of the wines as well as information about the family’s wineries.

At just the next stand, there was an Alsace producer the Domaine Schluberger. I admit, I am a big fan of wines from Alsace as they are something in the middle road between the rich German wines and more elegant French wines. A keen producer recommended me a Riesling from a Grand Cru vineyard Kitterle 2004. “It is my favourite, he said.” More minerals than usual and its lighter body were quite interesting, though I preferred the Riesling from the late harvest in 2005 called Vendages Tardives. I was said that Riesling is not usually picked late. In the Vendages Tardives the late harvest resulted in a more sweet taste and an elderberry flower aroma. More typical for late harvest is Gewurtztraminer and Pinot Gris. The former from a Grand Cru resembled more exotic flavours such as pineapple and li-chi.
Nicolas wine fair-Correns organic winesOrganic village

Organic wines are a big hit so they could not be left out at the Nicolas wine fair.

Correns is a village in the heart of Provence Verte, in the South of France, and it is almost all organic! This tradition is nothing new for locals as 95% of the wines from there are Organic. According to their leaflet it was the first village to be designated “bio” .

I have tried a rosé, which the young women next to me considered as the best rosé she has ever had. She said: “I have never liked rosé, but this is the very first time I come to love it!” I thought that it is wonderful to see people liking something they would never have thought they might like.

There was much more to taste, you could spend an afternoon here. Hopefully, next year Nicolas will repeat the success of the Wine Fair and attracts as many producers as this year.

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