Our journey in Bordeaux continues with more visits to wine growers across the region, and it is gratifying to meet the people and touch the soils that produce many of the wines that we import into New Zealand. After our trip to the southern part of Bordeaux we follow it up with visits to Margaux, Ladaux and St Emilion. 2017 so far, one might say it is a tale of 'Fire and Ice'...Conditions here are very hot, with June temeperature records being broken for much of Europe. It has been an extreme 37-38 degrees, which is an oven temperature as far as a Wellington boy like me is concerned, especially as our apartment has no airconitioning and the outside temperature doesn't dip below 30 until after midnight.
Margaux means a visit to Chateau Angludet, an old established family estate surrounded by gently rolling fields of vines, with deep stony soils that make the region famous. These are the types of wine that inspire Kiwi greats like Te Mata Coleraine. We are treated to a vertical tasting of 5 vintages of the flagship wine, each exhibiting their own unique style based on the year. Luxurious dark and ripe cabernet, blended with portions of Merlot and a significant percentage of Petit Verdot. We finish with a barrel sample of the 2016 vintage, looking to be an excellent year even before it is done with barrel aging.
Sadly the beginnng of the 2017 year has not been kind here, the severe frosts that largely spared the Graves region hit hard here, with more than 80% of the crop wiped out before it really had a chance to begin... and that assumes everything else goes well between now and harvest! The few vines that we found with any sign of fruit on them were few and far between. For all the glamour of the fine wine business, when mother nature deals a bad hand there is nothing to do about it... and although crying over spilt milk is frowned upon mourning a lost vintage is perfectly acceptable. Angludet is somewhat sanguine, there is still wine to be sold, and the 2015 and 2016 years both look to be excellent when they are released... though possibly at higher prices to help bridge stem the losses. (Photo, notice the tiny remaining buds on the vine compared to the ample fruit in Trebiac on the previous blog)
Off to St Emilion on the opposite side of the region, this beautiful Romanesque town from the middle ages is a magnet to wine tourists. So much so that it is alleged that few locals remain living in the town, with the likes of Airbnb doing a brisk trade in accomodation. The typical small town Boulangeries and Charcuteries are largely gone too, instead replaced with throngs of wine shops and restaurants. There are treasures here, with many of the shops holding old vintages going back decades. It is possible to buy wine here from your birth year, though no guarantees that they have lasted the distance.
Our last winery visit in the region before the wine expo we are here to attend is in the small village of Ladaux, where Vignoble Ducourt calls home. Jonathan Ducourt greets us, complete with an NZ flag flying on the grounds to welcome us. This is a serious operation, where the Ducourt family has built an impressive and end-to-end business. As well as growing the grapes and making the wines, they have their own automated bottling line, storage warehouse, and distribution onsite. This way they control and test the quality of every step of the journey.
Over multiple generations the Ducourts have acquired plots of land from struggling neighbours, no more so than in the 1950s when the region suffered four terrible vintages in a row. Jonathan's Grandfather was an astute business man too, one of the selling growers posting a sign at the vineyard of a crocodile, half as a joke, warning others that Ducourt would eat all of the neighbours up. Ducourt was delighted by this, and the croc forms a key part of the family logo to this day as a result!