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Bordeaux Trip Blog: 21st and 22nd September 2016

 Last week with by a group of our customers, we visited our estates in Bordeaux. Here is our blog of our trip. Most pictures were kindly taken by Giuseppe Iacona.

We met at 5.30am at Gatwick, not quite the red eye but early enough for everyone. We were promising everyone a great trip and it certainly didn’t disappoint!

We were welcomed under the sun in Bordeaux by Patrick Jestin, President of Dourthe vineyards, Frédéric Olivar, Managing Director and Nathalie Navarre, Head of Communication.

First stop, CVBG, Maison de Grands Crus. An impressive and famous warehouse, equipped with dedicated state of the art warehouse facilities.

CVBG stores amazing bottles and some very old vintages of iconic wines are kept in a special room. Pétrus, Yquem, Sassicaia and Tignanello to name just a few….

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We headed for Château Belgrave, Grand Cru Classé in Haut-Médoc. Belgrave has an exceptional terroir, deep gravel soils overlying a clay subsoil, bordering the Saint-Julien appellation (next to Ch. Lagrange), particularly suited to cultivating Cabernet-Sauvignon.

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Estate Manager, François Laura, showed us the Belgrave vineyards. The flowering started late in 2016, after a mild winter and some frost in Spring. The summer was very hot and thankfully they had some rain early September, which really helped. We tried our first grapes from the vines – of many during this trip – the grapes were ripe and delicious. As well as testing the sugar levels in the lab, they have to taste the grapes everyday to decide when it is time to harvest.

“Finding the right date for the harvest is the biggest challenge we have to make. For example the Merlot must be harvested at the right time to avoid heavy prune aromas. Michel Rolland and Frédéric Bonnaffous (Estates Director) make the final decision on the harvest date, after consulting each Estate Manager and Patrick Jestin.” François Laura

We tasted Belgrave 2011 and 2015. The second wine of Belgrave, Diane de Belgrave 2011 and Le Boscq 2011, 2015.

Belgrave stands out for its finesse and elegance and fresh mint character, typical of Saint-Julien. The 2011 is beautiful – minty character, smooth tannins, elegant and great finish. Le Boscq has always a cedar character. The 2015s are looking really promising. Still in barrel, Le Boscq has a lot of delicious, concentrated fruit, a sexy wine.

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A little story about Belgrave and how Diane came about….

They launched the second wine of Belgrave for the 1987 vintage. Merete Larsen – a Danish girl who arrived to do the harvest at Belgrave several years before – had just been appointed as the winemaker, making her the first woman and furthermore a foreign winemaker of a Cru Classé in Médoc.

The name Diane was chosen for the second wine for three reasons:

– With reference to hunting, Belgrave has been a royal hunting lodge. (Diana, goddess of the hunt in Roman mythology)

– Because the wine was made by a woman

– Because the second wine is less tannic, more feminine than the Belgrave.

Not only were Belgrave the first ones to appoint a female winemaker but they were also the first to use the pigeage method (cap punching ).

After a refreshing glass of Thiénot Brut NV in the gardens, it was time for lunch. Lunch at Dourthe Estates is always a special affair, with their trusted in house caterer, Frederic Bozzo promptly bringing great dish after dish paired beautifully with their wines. A sturgeon in Bordeaux sauce paired with Dourthe No 1 Sauvignon Blanc was a great match. The duck magret with La Garde 2010 was equally a success.

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After a memorable lunch at Belgrave, we jumped on the bus to Bordeaux and visited la Cité du Vin in central Bordeaux, which was launched a few months ago. It is a very impressive building overlooking the river and a unique place devoted to the culture of wine. A museum as well as a place of exhibitions, shows and a beautiful panoramic restaurant, le 7 on the 7th floor, where we had dinner with Frédéric Olivar. The wine shop on the ground floor is also definitely worth a visit, there are some wines there to make you dream! Dourthe is a partner of La Cité.

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We had a flute of Thiénot 2007 looking at the most amazing views of the river and Bordeaux. Great view to enjoy your aperitif! Frederic treated us to Le Boscq 02 in a magnum, Belgrave 06, La Garde 09 and Essence 08, a selection of the best Dourthe vineyards parcels. All showing really beautifully!

After dinner, our coach driver gave us a guided tour of Bordeaux by night, it’s a beautiful city!

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Day 2 of our trip to Bordeaux and another gorgeous day. We made our way to Château Grand Barrail Lamarzelle Figeac in St Emilion Grand Cru. There is a high proportion of mature Cabernet Franc vines there, which are nearly 50 years old. They impart structure, aromatic finesse and violet notes characteristic of this terroir.

GBLF is run by Estate Manager Romuald Hebrard, another charming asset to the team. Like François, Romuald showed us how to check how ripe the grapes are by examining the pips. They were very close to harvesting and the grapes were delicious!

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The winery and their wine shop are pristine and very well looked after. We had a tasting with Romuald. GBLF is a wine that stands out more for its elegance and finesse than for its robust structure. The wine is appealing for its aromatic purity, enhanced by delicate tannins and careful ageing.

We tasted the 2010/11/2 and also the 2015, still in barrel and unsure of the yet but it is showing well already. Very smooth, spicy with lovely blackberry fruit.

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After going through the picturesque countryside of Bordeaux, we arrived at Château Ricaud. The drive is amazing with the Château on the right, a fortified castle. This doesn’t get more spectacular with breathtaking views of the vineyards and surrounding areas. Seduced by the tremendous quality potential of the vineyard and the property’s stunning architecture, Alain Thiénot purchased the Château in 1980.

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Bruno Marlet was our host for our visit. Estate Manager since 2008 at Ricaud, he is also involved in the production at Château Pey La Tour.

Another tasting of great vintages. Ricaud 2011, 2012, Grand Vin 2011, 2012 and 2015. Grand Vin is only produced in great years. The 2015 is massive at the moment and it will be bottled in September 2017 but it has great potential and powerful fruit. To end the tasting a bit of sweetness with Loupiac 2013, lovely and fresh with orange and citrus fruit. This is what Bruno is after when he makes this wine, not after honey or peach. He is not making a Sauternes! This can be enjoyed on its own and is fantastic with cheeses like comté and Roquefort or seafood, scallop carpaccio in ginger and lime. Delicious!

The weather was getting hot and a welcomed glass of Canard-Duchêne Léonie was served in the gardens of the Château, followed by lunch in the château’s dungeon. Veal and mushrooms was beautifully paired with Grand Vin 2011, Grand Barrail Lamarzelle Figeac 2010 and Le Boscq 2010.

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We said our goodbyes to Bruno and headed toward our next destination, Barsac, with Château Roumieu to meet owner Vincent Craveia. Château Roumieu is a family property from the 18th century, located on the plateau of high Barsac. Vincent took over the family estate in 2008. After we visited the vineyards and tasted the grapes from the vines, we tried the Roumieu 2013, which was tasting really well. Good acidity and freshness, lush, not heavy at all, good citrus fruit.

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“My way of assembling is the same as mum, age, sensitivity, the same signature, the same type of wine but there is bound to be something of me in this wine that reflects my personality.” Vincent Craveia

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Back on the bus and a quick stop at Château Rahoul in Graves, property owned by Alain Thiénot since 1986. A rich diversity of outstanding terroirs, the vineyard is spread over 54 individual plots. The estate has been managed by Dourthe since 2007 and planting densities have been increased in the replanted plots (7,000 vines/ha v 5,000 minimum for the appellation).

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Last leg of the trip ends at Château La Garde, Pessac-Léognan. Another beautiful Estate managed by Pierre Estorge. An extremely high-quality terroir located in one of the highest areas in the Pessac-Léognan appellation and in the immediate vicinity of the grand cru classé wines.

An exceptional diversity of soils and subsoils, most significantly, a remarkable outcrop of deep gravel (extending up to 4m), and perfectly suited to the ripening potential of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot.

It was our last but not least tasting of the trip. For the whites: Rahoul 2015, La Garde 14 and 15. La Garde Blanc 2015 showed delicate oak, elegance with aromas of vanilla, lychee and pineapple. Pure elegance! For the reds: Rahoul 2010, 2011, La Garde 2010, 2011 and the 2015’s. Rahoul 2010 is such an elegant wine, intensely fruity with silky tannins. Delicious!

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Enjoying an aperitif of La Garde Blanc 2013 with tapas together on the terrace was a great moment. Chef cooked some awesome cotes de boeuf on the chimney for our last meal, served with La Garde rouge 2005. Enjoying our last moments on the terrace with the sunset, it was time to say goodbye to our great hosts and head back to London!

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