|Looking down to Saint-Michel-de-Fronsac|
AOC Fronsac - Château Barrabaque 2003 - A 70/10/20 Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc blend aged for 13 months in oak barrels. While the damson jam aromas were familiar, this also exhibited kirsch, cinnamon and star anise on the nose. On the palate, cherries and plums, a little pepper, but the tannins were rounded.
I have to say that I am a recent convert to these wines, probably only the last couple of years, but I am always pleasantly surprised by how delicious they are. It's a shame there weren't more to taste, but it seems that while accommodation prices are higher in August, it is the best time to visit France as everything is open. Since September, I have found it increasingly difficult to find exhibits, domaines, visits open. Here they seem to close at the weekend, whereas in the Loire, it was the converse!
Anyway, I mosied on down the Dordogne till I reached Saint-André-de-Cubzac - eh, where? Well, yes, there is no appellation here, but it is not too far past Fronsac and is the birthplace... and final resting place (per his request) of Commander (no, I didn't know he had this title either) Jacques Cousteau.
The house of his birth is now a chemist, but there is a plaque in his honour...
I did have quite a lengthy wander round the not especially attractive town to see if I could find a little museum or exhibit to his marine work, but alas, not a thing... That's not to say there isn't one... It just wasn't immediately obvious, but for me, it was a little disappointing as he is one of the people I remember being educated about as a child.
Anyway, I headed back towards Fronsac and stopped at Château de La Rivière, a 16th century castle sitting on a limestone quarry, which the owners cleverly used as cellars... 30 odd kilometres of them. The house and vineyard are in private hands, which is rare for a vineyard of this size.
I arrived just in time for the 2.30pm visit... except the guide was flustered as a coach party due at that time were running late, so wouldn't arrive till 3.15pm and would I wait till then? It was a glorious afternoon, and the setting was spectacular, so yes, I was happy to potter about.
The guide returned and had calmed down a little. She was a very charming woman who explained that she worked here 5 or 6 months of the year, then travelled (and worked) around the world at different things. My initial reaction was 'wow! that sounds great!' and then I thought about my case full of clothes and my constant moving and I decided that no, it would be nice to travel, but to have a home as well. She said she felt she was getting too old for this nomadic life - she is 53 and I have to confess feeling a little sadness for her... and also wondered if that would be me in another 20 years, given my inability to settle? Sorry, maybe that's a bit deep and meaningful!!
Anyway, she took me into the chapel, where the statue of Christ was not nailed to the cross, but rather lying on his mother's lap having just been taken down from the cross... It was different, but also rather moving. Separately, the stations of the cross had been depicted in glass and gold leaf by a contemporary artist - not commissioned, simply someone who visited the chapel and was moved to create something.
There was also a heraldry room, where the table was carved from one solid piece of wood from an elm tree felled in the forest within the castle's grounds.
As we continued to wait for the coach tour, my guide offered to do a little tasting as I might get lost in the crowd otherwise. The three wines were two from this castle's vineyard and one from one of the vineyards of the owner's two sons, situated in the Bordeaux region:
- AOC Bordeaux Clairet - Château de La Rivière 2009 - This is the wine I had encountered in Blaye... deeper than a rosé, and made from 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. Again the rich red fruit aromas of strawberries and raspberries and to taste strawberry and cherry flavours with slight tannins... Have to admit, I preferred the other one I tasted... It was much more refreshing.
- AOC Bordeaux-Supérieur - Blanc de Bois Noir 2009 - A 50/25/25 Sauvignon Blanc/Sémillon/Muscadelle blend with a citrus and slightly herbaceous nose ( a bit like how a wood/forest smells after rain when it's damp). On the palate, grapefruit with slight minerality.
- AOC Fronsac - Château de La Rivière 2002 - Oak aged for 16 months, this 80/15/5 Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc blend smelled of red cherries, strawberries, damsons and vanilla and to taste cherries and sweet spice. The tannins were beautiful and this was just like velvet to drink. I was told that keeping it another 7 or 8 years would make it even better!
The limestone table and stone chairs are in pitch blackness - this is only visible due to my flash. It is used to initiate new vignerons and also to celebrate the harvest... Can't say I'd like to come down here for dinner!
Before I headed back to the hotel, I wanted to stop off in Pomerol. There is a Maison du Vin, but unfortunately it is closed for renovation... I hoped to drive round to see if I could spot any of the well-known vineyards like Château Pétrus and Château Le Pin or Château LaFleur... Nope, drew a complete blank, but still, a nice bit of countryside...
It has to be said that the opportunity for wine tasting in this area is quite slim, unless you are a serious buyer and an appointment made at a particular vineyard, but I'm not altogether disappointed... I'm just so pleased to be here. Now I know what to picture in my mind's eye when I drink these wines back home... Would I have liked to taste some of them in situ? Of course, but maybe it's better I didn't - these are wines for a special occasion, to be drunk with people you love, to celebrate something important to you, in your life... Having a swill and spitting them out just wouldn't seem appropriate.