Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Day 43 - Saint-Émilion and its satellites

These are not heavenly bodies orbiting the earth... No, these are four villages where the vineyard owners of Saint-Émilion historically had their second vineyards giving rise to the four Appellations of:
Saint Georges-Saint-Émilion
The villages are within a very short distance of Saint-Émilion and very much share the same terroir, grape varieties and vinification processes (though not the price!).
I drove to Lussac where I stopped at the Château Haut Piquat... A beautiful setting.... I walked through an archway to be greeted with row upon row of vines stretching away from the vineyard as far as the eye could see.

The gentleman who took me round was not the owner, but rather in charge of the growing of the vines... not the making of the wines. I say this because as the explanations continued, he basically tried to bullsh*t me and while I have pretty good radar for this sort of thing, (a) I didn't want to be rude, and (b) I was getting a free tasting out of this and didn't want to jeopardise my chances.
So, anyway, he showed me where the wine was held for 1st fermentation... in concrete tanks...

I later discovered these were quite normal around Saint-Émilion...

So, the owner of this vineyard has 2 others; one in Montagne and one in Lalande de Pomerol. My guide tried to tell me that the blend was exactly the same in all three, but when he presented me with the price-list at the end, the blends were also described... and funnily enough weren't identical, though all were aged in oak barrels for 18 months!
  1. AOC Lussac-Saint-Émilion - Château Haut Piquat 2003 - An 80/15/5 blend of Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignan/Cabernet Franc with a subtle cherry nose and flavours of plums and cherries, a bit peppery and the tannins still very astringent. Can be kept for 15 years.
  2. AOC Montagne-Saint-Émilion - Château de Beaulieu 2005 - A 40/30/30 blend of Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignan/Cabernet Franc with a nose of cherries and plums and a light fresh and fruity taste of strawberries and blackberries - again still a little astringent with the tannins, but better than the 1st.
  3. AOC Lalande de Pomerol (Saint-Émilion's next-door neighbour) - Château Moulin de Lavaud 2004 - A 70/30 blend of Merlot/Cabernet Franc giving a very fresh fruity nose of cherries and raspberries... and similarly on the palate, cherries, raspberries, good acidity and round tannins... Although this also could be kept for 15 years.
Now, call me petty, but after someone had tried to pull the wool over my eyes, would I really buy a wine from him?? Not on your nelly! So I drove through the other satellite villages and stopped in Saint Georges to get my bearings when a car pulled up beside me, a man jumped out, came running over and very excitedly asked me if I was part of the Barchetta club.... He apparently had the same model car as mine only in yellow! For a split second, I was really tempted to lie as he was just so excited, but I came clean and explained that the car belonged to a friend and I wasn't sure, but I didn't think he was part of the Barchetta club of France! Oh, he was so disappointed, bless him. And he went running back to his car and roared off! :-(
I must take a photo of her... I keep forgetting, but she is popular... When I first used the Autoroute, I kept getting flashed by lorry drivers (their lights, that is) and I was so terrified that something was wrong with the car and I would pull in at the next services and check her over... and invariably she would be fine, so they must just think she is as pretty as I think she is! Now I don't worry when it happens.
Anyway, I had a slight problem with my camera, so I nipped back to the hotel to sort it out and by the time I was able to leave again, it was time to go back into Saint-Émilion for my bus tour of the vineyards.
Saint-Émilion is a UNESCO World Heritage site; not just the village, but also the vineyards
So our guide, Florent, took us through the winding roads surrounding the village, into the appellations of Saint-Émilion, Saint-Émilion Grand Cru, Pomerol and the satellite villages... I even manged to see Pétrus...

Sorry, bit of reflection in the coach windows, but the building is quite understated for probably the most prestigious wine of the area.
We stopped, and got out, at a Saint-Émilion Grand Cru vineyard, Château Laroque - one of the more beautiful houses and a wonderful location
After a little more touring, we stopped at Château Cantenac, another Saint-Émilion Grand Cru vineyard where we were given a very warm reception by the owner. She told us about the history of both the house...
and the vineyard. In fact, this was my very first time, tasting one of the grapes... I had been tempted before by the vineyards literally on the side of the road, but I have developed a very peculiar sense of respect for the vines and just didn't feel right taking a berry... Also, I wasn't sure what they would be like... I really didn't expect them to taste nice.
But, I tasted a Merlot grae which was so sweet and delicious, though small, big pips and quite a thick skin.
After, the tour of the vineyard and cellars, we had a tasting of two of their wines:
  1. AOC Saint-Émilion Grand Cru - Château Cantenac 2007 - Sélection Madame - On the nose, this 90/10 Merlot/Cabernet Franc blend aged  for 12 months, had aromas of cherry and vanilla... and to taste, cherries, plums, a little toastie and vanilla. Still a little young, so should be kept for a bit longer.
  2. AOC Saint-Émilion Grand Cru - Château Cantenac 2007 - On the nose, this 80/5/15 Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc blend aged  for 12 months in new oak, had aromas of cherry jam, vanilla and sweet cinnamon. To taste the flavours were dark cherry, dark chocolate, raspberries and blackcurrant. This wine was delicious now, but even better to keep, as long as 15 years!
We returned to Saint-Émilion and I pottered about the town - it's just so pretty, with so many streets to explore - before I headed for bed!

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