March 19th 2013, by Gavin
Chris Evans, host of BBC Radio 2’s Breakfast Show, came to Bordeaux earlier this month with his lovely wife Natasha for an extensive wine tour. We were honoured to be asked to show them around, via a friend of a friend, and here’s what we got up to, along with some holiday snaps. (To enlarge any picture, click on it.)
“I beg you, if you like wine, take a plane, hire a car and go to Bordeaux,” Chris wrote in his weekly column for The Mail on Sunday, tapped into his Blackberry at his hotel in St-Emilion after just a couple of days here. “It’s a dream trip.”
On their ’kids-free wine tour’, we visited Chateau Clinet and Le Pin in Pomerol, Chateau Haut-Brion in Pessac, Chateau Pichon Longueville Baron in Pauillac and Cos d’Estournel in St-Estephe. We also tried a few wines from around the region over dinner here at Chateau Bauduc, at restaurant La Tupina in Bordeaux and in the two restaurants at Les Sources de Caudalie, the hotel set amongst vines to the south of the city.
“Twas fanbloodytastic” he texted when he got home, before appearing on Friday evening’s The One Show on the beeb. He looked fine. I was bloody exhausted.
Then, on Monday, the reality check. “Just been to gym. Nearly died. Holidays not worth the relapse,” he announced on Twitter. (Apparently, he’d put on half a stone.) The trouble with an excursion to this corner of France is that the wine and food can be a little too tempting.
March 19th 2013, by Gavin
Chris Evans, host of BBC Radio 2’s Breakfast Show, came to Bordeaux earlier this month with his lovely wife Natasha for an extensive wine tour. Here’s what we got up to, along with some holiday snaps. (To enlarge any picture, click on it.)
Tuesday: Chateau Haut-Brion
From Libourne, it was 45 minutes to Chateau Haut Brion in Pessac. It’s a bizarre setting for one of the world’s most famous wines, first mentioned in English by Pepys in seventeenth century London. A wonderful old, gravelly vineyard, with a beautiful old chateau, set in the ugly, modern outskirts of Bordeaux, with a TGV train line cutting through the middle of it.
All visitors are greeted with a video, which is really a collection of pretty photographs, set to relaxing classical music and a voiceover by the owner, Prince Robert of Luxembourg. ’I doubt they’ll put you in front of the video,’ I said, ’but they just might.’ They did. It was dangerously soporific.
After this rather touristy introduction to such a wonderful estate, our guide Laëtitia looked after us very well.
Two of the more interesting aspects of the tour at Haut-Brion is the lab, where some returned ’corked’ bottles of wine were being analyzed, and the in-house barrel maker. Unfortunately the cooper wasn’t there, but we saw a great many of his barrels.
March 18th 2013, by Gavin
‘No further changes to alcohol duty’ is the usual line from George Osborne in his Budget speech. Don’t be fooled: with the Government’s duty escalator in place, wine duty will hit £2 a bottle, up 50% in 5 years. With 20% VAT on wine and duty, exactly 50% of a £6 bottle will be tax.
If you like wine from Europe, my little graph says it all.
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September 30th 2012, by Gavin
The sunny, dry weather carried on from August up until the last week of September, giving us the chance to harvest our Sauvignon as and when we wanted. Last year, we spent 500 hours cutting out less-than-noble rot from the bunches. This year, none. Tasty.
So we’ve been able to pick our entire crop of 2012 Sauvignon Blanc ’à la carte’. This is an expression routinely used by cocky vignerons who have had the luxury of choosing when to harvest each parcel of vines, as and when they ripen, without being inconvenienced by forecasts of rain or other such interruptions.
The weather has indeed been kind and there was an important change at just the right moment in mid-September, when the mornings became quite chilly. This allowed us to pick by machine before and just after dawn, while the grapes were cold and delicious. By starting at 5am, as we do routinely nowadays, and wrapping up each day’s harvest by around 9.30am, we brought the grapes in with minimal risk of oxidation at around 12 to 13C.
September 6th 2012, by Gavin
The 2012 white-wine harvest in Bordeaux is now under way in the early ripening vineyards of Pessac and Léognan (two towns which are clubbed together in a single appellation called, er, Pessac-Léognan). Famous châteaux like La Mission Haut-Brion and Pape-Clement, in the warm suburbs of Bordeaux, and others to the south of the city, like Smith Haut-Lafitte and Domaine de Chevalier, are starting with their Sauvignon Blanc this week.
At Château Bauduc, we are getting ready to harvest our 11 hectares (27 acres) of Sauvignon Blanc after the weekend, from Monday 10th onwards, touch wood. (Our 4 hectares of Sémillon will follow later.) We time it according to how the grapes taste on the vine and by analyzing samples of grapes from different parcels. Assessing acidity and sugar levels will give us a pretty good idea of how things are looking, and the fact that we are always about a week behind Pessac-Léognan is a useful marker. It’s safe to assume that they know what they’re doing after a few hundred years’ practice.
Let’s not forget either the small matter of the weather forecast, which is for sunshine until Monday, and possibly pants for a few days after that.
August 25th 2012, by Gavin
Last weekend, Jancis Robinson asked me for ‘a brief report on how the Bordeaux vignoble is looking so far‘ and published my reply on her website a few days later. With Jancis’s kind permission, here was my seat-of-the-pants, stat-free response:
After a long, wet spring, we’ve had a lovely summer in Bordeaux. Unlike last year, however, the owners and MDs of leading châteaux can enjoy the end of their August break on the Atlantic coast at Cap Ferret and Arcachon without feeling the need to rush back to their vines. The red-wine harvest is still some way off.
No two growing seasons are ever the same in Bordeaux but the contrast between 2011 and 2012 could not be more striking. Last year, there was an early budburst and the flying start was accelerated by a warm, dry spring. The lack of rain carried on until the second week of July, with many vines suffering in the drought-like conditions. The summer was then up and down, topped off by an early harvest of the dry whites at the end of August. Almost all the reds and sweet whites in 2011 were brought in during September, which is uncommonly early. The last time that happened was in 2003, an altogether different vintage.
August 24th 2012, by Gavin
“You don’t have to be a wine lover to enjoy a holiday in a vineyard in Europe (but it helps), says Annabelle Thorpe” in The Times (Saturday, 11 August 2012).
We were delighted to have our farmhouse at Château Bauduc included – see #6 below. Of course, we can’t repeat the whole article but for those of you who don’t subscribe to The Times, here’s the list with (1) how many each place can sleep, (2) the starting price and (3) contact and booking details. All the vineyards offer wine tasting, not surprisingly, and if you’re planning on staying in a sunny European wine region between May and September, go for a spot with a private pool. Essential after a hard day’s work tasting wines.
We’ve taken the liberty of keeping the description of the farmhouse at Bauduc (pictured) in our shortened version below. The Times website doesn’t link direct to the other websites unfortunately, so you’ll have to do a bit of copying and pasting of domain names for more info.
One final note. Only 5 out of the 20 can be booked direct, despite the time and care that goes into making each destination special. In this day and age, isn’t that a pity?
June 13th 2012, by Gavin
Congratulations to Jan Konetzki of Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in Chelsea who has won the coveted title of UK Sommelier of the Year.
Jan (pictured here with my nephew and colleague Freddie) has poured more Bauduc than he’d care to remember. Treat yourself to the lunch menu at Royal Hospital Road for terrific value – with a glass of you know what.
Victoria Moore, the Telegraph’s wine critic and one of the judges, describes how Jan scraped home in a close final here. Also worth a look, if you’re a bit nerdy like me, is the ’Sommelier of the Year: Can you spot the 10 errors on the wine list?’
May 31st 2012, by Gavin
No, we haven’t won a Silver Medal for our wine – which doesn’t really come as a shock as we haven’t entered any competitions for a few years, rightly or wrongly.
But I’m chuffed to have won a brand new Kindle and a year’s subscription to jancisrobinson.com for coming in as ’1st Runner-up’ in the 2012 Born Digital Wine Awards in the Best Winery Content category. Much of this chuffness stems from there being such a stellar bunch of wine writers on the judging panel, including Jancis Robinson, Tim Atkin, Elin McCoy, Wink Lorch and Richard Ross.
(As you can see, the section is actually called Best Winery Self-Produced Content, as opposed to stuff put out by PR firms and third-parties, I suppose. But it is the only ‘Winery’ section.)
May 10th 2012, by Gavin
Toot toot. We’re chuffed that an article from this blog has been shortlisted in the 2012 Born Digital Wine Awards, in the Best Winery Content section.
The piece in question was a rant about a pet hate of mine: the excessive and unfair tax on wine in the UK. It was called ‘13 Unpalatable Truths about UK Wine Duty‘. That was from last year – the follow-up post, with updated numbers and charts, is called ‘UK Duty on Wine up 46% in 4 years.’
The winners will be announced at the London International Wine Fair on 23 May. Fingers crossed.
Congratulations on reaching the shortlist to fellow dribblers and scribblers Ryan O’Connell, Chris Kissack, Louise Hurren, Quentin Sadler and Jim Budd.
— Gavin Quinney (@GavinQuinney) May 10, 2012