We are often asked if we do trips abroad to buy wines and the normal comment that accompanies the enquiry is usually jocular and refers to how hard life can be, but someone has to do the job! I am sure you get the picture!
In reality, we can and do select a lot of wines in this country where we go to trade shows, specialist shows or tastings organised by UK based shippers. However, we can make wines better value to our customers by buying direct from Europe, so occasional field trips are a necessity, but again, in most cases we are going to large trade fairs in order to meet as many suppliers as possible in as short a time span as possible.
Sometimes trade organisations offer trips to wine areas as part educational and part promotional activity and I did one to Bordeaux in early May. It is a long way to go for a glass of wine, but it was very worthwhile indeed!
Well, in my case, it all started by having to endure a dinner and a night’s stay at the Premier Inn at Gatwick. It was actually ok, but having to get up at 4.30 to make the airport by 5.30 was a tough start to the day. Having left my paper file lying on the desk in my room, I then had to walk back to the hotel from the terminal in order to find my booking reference!
We arrived in a dry and sunny Bordeaux mid-morning and having dropped off our bags at the hotel, were whisked straight off to the CIVB where our tutor for the week, Alexander Hall, took us through a presentation on Bordeaux Basics. First wine we tasted was a good reminder of how good Bordeaux white wines can be. Château Cantelaudette, Graves de Vayres 2009 was rich in Sauvignon with added floral notes from Muscatelle and citrus freshness from the Semillon. Absolutely delicious! I will try to get some of this style onto our list in the next year!
After lunch with a couple of white wine makers, we drove deep into the Entre Deux Mers to visit Château Turcaud, a postcard pretty farm, with around 50 hectares of vines, with a growing percentage in white grape types. We tasted both the 2009 vintage and the very new 2010 vintage, both mainly Sauvignon, Semillon with about 2% Muscatelle. Within the Sauvignon, about 20% is Sauvignon Gris, rather than Blanc, which brings a touch more aromatics to the wine. These Entre Deux Mers wines are light and full of character. We then tasted the Cuvee Majeure Blanc (AOC Bordeaux Blanc) which is barrel fermented for 8 months. The as yet unreleased 2010 was still showing a heavy lingering oakiness, but, if the 2009 is anything to go by, this mellows considerably and the blend of aromatics is fantastic. Again, I will try to source this or a similar wine through our negociants in Bordeaux.
A long drive then ensued as we made our way to Bourg to meet up with Didier Gonthier at La Maison du Vin des Côtes de Bourg, who explained to us in great details the history and current approach to wine making in the Côtes de Bordeaux.
I was not entirely impressed by the quality of the wines they showed us at the Maison du Vin, but we were all impressed by the amount of work being done in the area to support smaller farmers and generally improve quality.
More to follow…..