Sunday, 26 June 2016

CIVB L'Ecole du Vin- Bordeaux

Me, second from right. Hugo, third from
 left at Chateau Margaux
Last week, myself and fellow Vinspire blogger Hugo Fountain were lucky enough to go on a three day trade trip to Bordeaux thanks to the Le Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux (a.k.a CIVB) and the L'ecole du Vin. With this, we were treated to three days of fabulous vineyard tours, incredible meals and almost as much wine as you could shake a vine at. It was a chance to experience the region first hand and visit some of the top wine making talents that the region has to offer. As well as this, we travelled extensively throughout Bordeaux most famous (and most expensive) areas and caught a glimpse at some of the most well renowned and jaw-droppingly stunning Chateau including Margaux, Palmer, Petrus and Pichon-Longueville.

Having sampled close to a hundred wines and feasted on some of the finest French cuisine (sounds shit I know) there is far too much to put into a solitary blog post. So I have rounded  up some of my personal highlights for you.

Chateau Magence
On our final evening in Bordeaux we arrived for a tour, tasting and dinner at the (unknown to me) Chateau Magence. A relatively unassuming winery and vineyard in the Medoc they, of course, specialised in Cabernet Sauvignon based reds and a few Sauvignon/Semillion whites. We were greeted by the owner who didn't speak a word of English but did however support a rather fetching elephant tie. Already, we were a bit worried. Having wandered to the front of the vineyard the owner's son arrived (fresh out of the shower but suited and booted none the less) to give us a full tour. Although his English was fantastic he was possibly the most nervous and awkward person I have ever met. Things were getting worse. After has of the tour, whilst looking out over his vineyard (around 30 hectares) he mentioned that they play music to the vines to help them go to sleep in the evenings. To be honest, I was close to dying after this.
View from Chateau Magence

However, once a corkscrew, bottle and a glass was put in front of him he blossomed into the most interesting, charming and friendliest man we had encountered. He took us through a tasting of eight different wines (four from his own winery)  and they were, almost without question, they best wines we tried throughout our trip. Special mention has to go to their 2005 Bordeaux blend of approximately 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. Beautifully balanced, fresh and full of Bordeaux charm. It was also the wine he served at his own wedding and (having sat opposite him at dinner) you could see on his face how proud he was of it. Perfect match for the duck served at dinner. Truly stunning and only around 15 Euro Cellar Door price.

Chateau La Clide- St. Emillion
I have to say, when I found out that I was going to be being wined and dined at wineries throughout Bordeaux, I was expecting a bunch of hired waiters in a cut off room with a stuck up, poncy winemaker that would rather pour his wine down the sink than serve it to some tweed-clad Englishman. Chateau La Clide was therefore the ultimate opposite.

The perfect BBQ
Greeted by Eduoard, a six-foot-something, shaved head, rugby playing, polo-shirt wearing Frenchman at his small but perfect formed vineyard was a surprise. Follow this up by declaring one part of his vineyard as 'shit' and 'worth f*** all'. I knew I was in for a fun lunch. After the customary tour of the vines and the winery we 'got into some barrels'. Pre-blend, we tried some beautifully rich and plummy 100% Merlot and some classy, perfumed and refined 100% Cab Franc. I was instantly impressed with the depth and flavour of his wine so I couldn't wait to explore further. Stood around the lunch table (in the middle of the winery) we were greeted with ten more wines to try (including a number of St. Emillion Premier Cru).

After a few glasses, we were confronted with two huge (and I mean, huge) plates of duck hearts. As we stood chatting and tucking into the hearts two more huge bowls of mussels arrived (possibly the best I have ever tried). Thinking this was our lunch we all dived in to the horror of the vegetarian guest with us. However, we then sat down and were treated to a SEVEN course meal including: Barbecued steak, apple tarte-tatin and cheese. All washed down with yet more wine and all before 3pm. Safe to say, we were a bit sleepy once we got back on the bus but my word was it worth it! Special mention to their '98 Merlot & Cab Franc blend.

The Haut-Medoc
Having only been in the wine industry for approximately 18 months I have had little chance to sample the splendor and extravagance of Bordeaux. It was therefore a huge treat to be driven through some of the most famous vineyards and past the most impressive Chateau the world has to offer. I was honestly like a child in a candy store.

From Jose Carlos Babo under the CCA
 (I couldn't get a decent picture!)
One thing that took my by surprise was just how close each of the (top) vineyards are from each other. Also,
how flat Bordeaux is as a whole. I was expecting rolling hills and multiple aspects but in reality, there wasn't much more than a 3-4% gradient at any of the 1st Growth Vineyards. This allowed the respective Chateau to stand out like giants among midgets (couldn't think of a better analogy). Of special mention are Margaux ( which we couldn't get very close to) and the simply incredible Pichon-Longueville (shown in picture).

All in all it was a brilliant trip around what many regard as the finest wine region in the world. I would encourage all to go there and certainly pay a visit to my new friends at Chateau Magence and La Clide.

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