Saturday, 11 September 2010

Day 39 - Graves

Nothing to do with cemeteries... Rather the area south of Bordeaux, but still west of the Garonne river. I headed south to Bordeaux, to join the ring road, but as I passed west, at about the "9 o'clock" point, I headed in towards Bordeaux to Pessac, location of the 5th Premier Grand Cru Classé, Château Haut-Brion. Again, I didn't visit, but I was absolutely flabbergasted by the location... It is literally a fenced off vineyard in the middle of the suburbs, with busy traffic rushing past constantly... I'm not convinced that the grapes would be unaffected by all the pollution. My picture doesn't come close to conveying how busy it is - I would have had to put my life in jeopardy to get that shot - but it goes some way!
Back onto the ringroad, and this time when I left it was outside the circle, to Léognan. All of this area falls within the Pessac-Léognan appellation and I had the opportunity to visit one of the nearby châteaux for a tasting. Again, I was fortunate to find a château which was one of a stable of a few in the area, so had the opportunity of tasting more than just this château's wine.

I have to comment, once again, on the welcome and information from the girl carrying out the tasting at Château La Louvière - she knew her wines inside out, but was also so very interesting to listen to. I really have been blessed by the tutelage I have received from the various people I have encountered in my tour of France.

So, to the wines - 3 whites, then 3 reds:
  1. AOC Entre-Deux-Mers (the area to be visited tomorrow!) Château Bonnet 2009 - A Sauvignon Blanc/Sémillon/Muscadel - These are wines that should not be kept any more than 2 years - they are made to be drunk young and fresh. This one had intense fruit aromas with hints of blossom. The flavours were intense as well - grapefruit and lemon, though not astringent, just really refreshing.
  2. AOC Pessac-Léognan - Château de Cruzeau 2007 - This 10 month barrel-aged 100% Sauvignon Blanc had a nose of raisins, confit lemon and a vanilla/wood note. To taste, it was citrus and green apples.... the wood hadn't yet reached the taste. In 2-3 years this would be fully integrated and the wood flavours would be apparent in the taste.
  3. AOC Pessac-Léognan - Château La Louvière 2004 - An 85/15 Sauvignon Blanc/Sémillon blend, aged for 10months in the barrel. This time the taste delivered what the nose promised - a nose of raisin, slight citrus, slight tropical fruit, minerality and vanilla (very complex) and equally complex flavours - citrus and apple fruits, with a hint of butter and nut - very round... Long length. Bit of a star, all told!
  4. AOC Pessac-Léognan - Château de Rochemorin 2005 - A 60/40 Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend aged for 12 months. On the nose, blackberry and black cherry and caramel. On the palate, blackcurrant, sweet spice a slightly astringent tannins. My guide suggested that this wine should be kept for a further 3 years, to allow the Cabernet Sauvignon flavours to open... A lovely way of phrasing and in french it conjured up the image of a flower opening. One of the other guides I encountered (I think it was the lady in Margaux) also described tannins as blue and becoming more orange as time progressed.... The blue describes the young astringent tannins, the orange, the mellow rounder tannins... But again, another lovely phrase as there is a french verb "to orange"!
  5. AOC Pessac-Léognan - Château Couhins-Lurton 2006 - A 23/77 Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend. On the nose, vibrant red fruits - cherries, raspberries, maybe a hint of blackberry. On the palate, a light elegant wine, delivering flavours of red and black cherries. It is nonetheless complex with vanilla notes. This would be a good wine for dark chocolate!
  6. AOC Pessac-Léognan - Château La Louvière 2002 - A 60/37/3 Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Petit Verdot blend with really intense aromas of plums and damson jam, sweet spice and leather. The flavours on the palate were equally intense - blackberry/blackcurrant jam, slight leather, but perfectly rounded, wonderful tannins and finish... Just a beautifully integrated wine.
I continued my journey south into the heart of Graves and stopped at the town of Podensac and the Maison des Vins de Graves where I was once more illuminated by the information and explanation on offer. There are a great deal of oyster shells found in the soils of the region and this is due to the area being a sea 20 million years ago (sorry - I didn't note the timescale and I'm rubbish at that sort of thing, so apologies if it's completely wrong!). Anyway, after the explanation, we got down to some tasting... Ooh, and I was given a little notepad, about the size of the palm of my hand for tasting notes... Very cool (you know me - easily delighted by little things!)
So let me just flick to my notes... won't be a moment... 3 whites, 4 reds and 2 sweet whites at the end:
1. AOC Graves – Château du Mayne 2008 – A 40/60 Sauvignon Blanc/Sémillon blend, aged in stainless steel with a gooseberry and elderflower nose and a refreshing, crisp gooseberry and citrus flavour in the mouth. Notes of minerality were also present.

2. AOC Graves – Château de Chantegrive 2008 – Cuvée Caroline - A 50/50 Sauvignon Blanc/Sémillon blend, aged in oak for 9 months. The nose was vanilla, apple blossom and citrus. The palate was sweet apple, raisin, melon, vanilla and citrus.

3. AOC Pessac-Léognan – Château de Rochemorin 2007 - 100% Sauvignon Blanc, aged in oak for 10 months with a gooseberry and vegetal smell (maybe asparagus), with a smokey note. On the palate, grapefruit, gooseberry and vanilla.

4. AOC Graves – Château de l’Hermitage 2007 – A 60/10/30 Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc blend aged in oak for 12 months. On the nose, cherries, sweet spice and vanilla; on the palate, a light fruity wine – red and black cherries, with mild tannins.

5. AOC Graves – Château de l’Hospital 2005 - A 90/10 Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon blend aged in oak for 16 months. Cherries and sweet spice on the nose; Red and black cherry, raspberry and vanilla flavours on the palate.

6. AOC Graves – Villa Bel-Air 2005 (Grand Vain de Bordeaux) - A 50/40/10 Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc blend aged in oak. This one was a strange one – the nose was Worcestershire Sauce… Couldn’t get anything but that! To taste, thankfully not the same, fruity cherries, sweet spices and a little coffee.

7. AOC Pessac-Léognan – Château Haut-Bacalan 2007 - An 80/15/5 Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon/Petit Verdot blend aged in new oak for 16 months. On the nose, cherries, vanilla and violets. In the mouth, cherries, plums, vanilla and a touch of tobacco. Very long length.

8. AOC Graves Supérieures – Château la Fleur des Pins 2009 - A 10/80/10 Sauvignon Blanc/Sémillon/Muscadelle blend, aged in oak for 10 months. On the nose, sweet apple, blossom, raisin and pine (unsurprisingly). To taste, honey, apricots and cooked apples.

9. AOC Graves Supérieures – Château de Budos 2003 – Cuvée Clémentine – An 80/20 Sémillon/Muscadelle blend, aged in oak for 12 months. The nose was raisins, apricots and sweet apples and to taste: honey, apricots and orange blossom.

It was a god way to end the tasting, as it put me on the road to Barsac and Sauternes ready for some sweet wines. I passed through Barsac without stopping as I was keen to get to Sauternes... A little tricky to get to, but then I climbed a hill and...
I parked at the bottom of the village and walked up through its charming streets to the Maison du Sauternes where I tasted 3 of the dessert wine. They were described to me as a basic Sauternes, a more citrus flavoured Sauternes and then a more richly fruity/citrus Sauternes:

1. AOC Sauternes – Duc de Sauternes 2006 – A 15/80/5 Sauvignon Blanc/Sémillon/Muscadelle blend with an apple and raisin nose and apple, raisin and apricot flavours on the palate.

2. AOC Sauternes – Château de Moumic 2004 – Délices d’automne – A 15/80/5 Sauvignon Blanc/Sémillon /Muscadelle blend again. This time the maturity of this wine yielded a nose of confit lemon, pink grapefruit and orange blossom. To taste, it was sweet lemon, blood orange, honey and raisin.

3. AOC Sauternes – Château Filhot 1998 – Same blend and a nose of confit lemon and apricot. To taste, it was sweet citrus. Forgive me, but as a child I was given warmed honey and lemon juice mixed and I loved it and this tasted very like that, with the heat coming from the alcohol!

Today had been quite packed with the travelling, the 18 tastings, so I made my way across the Garonne to Sainte-Croix-du-Mont, a tiny village, also making sweet wines, but to a little house owned by Madame Chassagnol. She was a sweet little lady, about 70, who welcomed me warmly.

There is no website for her house, and she doesn't really advertise, but if you are passing that way and need a little haven for the night, hers is a great place to rest a weary head.
She took me into her garden and pointed up to the château and church looking down on her
I decided I would walk up to them and she explained I could cut through her garden and find a little trail, rather than walking in a great loop along the road and up, so that's what I did...

I had also hoped to visit a cave, paved with fossilised oyster shells which glowed in the dark (all naturally occurring!), but alas, it was closed.

Nevertheless, the views across the Garonne (including to Sauternes) were stunning, so I made the most of them before climbing back down to bed.

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