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Visit at Chateau Figeac in Saint Emilion

June 29, 2011 4 comments

I visited Chateau Figeac on THU, June 23rd. My appointment was for 10:00 and when I arrived, I was content to find a place bathed by a warm sun on a peaceful morning. It is said that the best time to taste wine is somewhere early in the morning: 10-12:00 when the taste buds are at their best, or at least this is what our host mentioned.

Chateau Figeac is rather unique for its Saint Emilion appellation. A Grand Cru, it is the biggest estate with 40 ha under vines in an appellation where the average vineyards are around 8 ha. Also, as another unique characteristic, it is among the very few, if not the only estate in Saint Emilion, that grows Cabernet Sauvignon. The usual grape varieties found in Saint Emilion are Merlot and Cabernet Franc. The reason why Figeac grows Cabernet Sauvignon is its terroir, that resembles very much the soil found on the Left Bank due to its rich gravels.

In the early 19th century, Chateau Figeac was a 175 ha property but in time, parcels were sold by different owners. Plots sold are today parts of Beauregard and La Conseillante, while a sizable part established the core of what is Chateau Cheval Blanc today. Thierry Manoncourt took control in 1947 and he was the driving force that pushed Figeac to new heights. Unfortunately Mr Manoncourt passed away about 11 months ago at the age of 93. Our host mentioned that on the day he passed away he still went on swimming and looking over the property. He managed to make wines from over 40 vintages. Now the property is managed by his daughter Laure and son-in-law Count Eric d’Aramon.

Chateau Figeac grows 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Cabernet Franc and the remaining 30% Merlot. New oak is used to age for up to 20 months the Grand Vin, whereas second year barrels are used for the second wine: La Grange Neuve de Figeac. They use up to ten different types of oak for the aging barrels. A common thing to all cellars I visited were the beautiful aromas of vanilla coming from the new oak and combined with the wine aromas it was like stepping into a perfume shop.

The plantation density is about 6000 vines per ha and yields of 35 hl/ha. The vines are on average 35 years old. The gravelly soil has an average a depth of 6-8 meters for all three mounds: Les Moulins(the most southern with 7 m depth), La Terrasse(next to the north with 6 m depth) and L’Enfer(the northern with 8 m depth).

The vegetative cycle of the vines is more advanced than usual and the proof is the green harvesting already done – when they are cutting down green bunches of grapes to ensure better concentration and fully ripeness for the remaining. Usually the green harvest takes place towards the end of July. As it looks right now there will be an early harvest for September(vs the usual October) this year in Bordeaux.

The premises and the cellars of Figeac were the most rustic compared to all the other properties visited, however everything is done with a perfectionist attention to details. In the cellar they use big oak tanks, renewed every 20 years, for the alcoholic and malolactic fermentation, while old presses, used before, are exhibited as a legacy of the past, in the same room with the new equipment.

Down in the private cellar, Mr Manoncourt left a collection of over 500,000 bottles of different wines and vintages as inheritance to his heirs.

While we were visiting, employees were preparing to bottle the 2009 wines for the next day.

A large chamber that was part of the aging cellar, now transformed, became the tasting room and it is also used for the family’s private parties. The big fireplace built on one of the walls creates a cozy atmosphere.

I tasted a 2001 Chateau Figeac. An almost opaque dark red color. A well developed but still youthful and rich nose, wtith great earthy and mineral aromas, charcoal, tobacco, ample red fruit with red currant and dark cherry. A very seductive nose. Medium plus bodied, with velvety tannins, ample mouth feel, with rich aromas of earth, sweet red fruit, plum, tobacco and a long earthy-mineral finish. Drinking very well right now. (93-94/100)

The 2001 Chateau Figeac was available for sale at the chateau for 135 Eur and they also released their 2010 price for 140 € +5% versus 2009, + 309% versus 2008 and +138% versus 2005.

See below a video of the property:

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Categories: Bordeaux, France

Visit at Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou

June 28, 2011 2 comments

The first Chateau I visited in Bordeaux was Ducru Beaucaillou on WED afternoon. The appointment was for 17:15 so I left Vinexpo around 16:00 to make sure I arrive in time. There are about 60 km from Bordeaux to Saint Julien. Our host at the Chateau, Mr Stephen Lemaitre – a gentleman from Scotland, explained thoroughly the history of the domain and shared extensive information about the vines, the works in the vineyard, the wine making process and the wines. The domain produces four wines: Ducru Beaucaillou – the grand vin(about 10-12,000 cases) and La croix de Beaucaillou – second wine both from 75 ha, Lalande de Borie from 25 ha and Ducluzeau in Listrac Medoc. Ducru Beaucaillou comes from a vineyard close to an estuary. The soil is gravelly, so the heat during the day is retained by the pebbles and liberated during night. The vines are on average 35-40 years old.

Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou is ranked as a Second Growth in the 1855 Classification.The actual name of the Chateau comes from the pebbles found into the soil: Beaucaillou translates into beautiful stone. The vines of Ducru Beaucaillou are 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot. There is a high plantation density: 10,000 vines per ha creating competition between vines that go deeper into the soil to search for the nutriments, reaching 6 meters down.

The wines have seen a sustainable progress and more consistency since 2003, however acclaimed vintages in Bordeaux produced excellent wines for Ducru Beaucaillou: 1961, 1970, 1982 are showcased in the tasting room.

Ducru Beaucaillou is aged for 18 months in 95% new Frenc oak and Croix de Beaucaillou about 12 months in 20-60% new French oak depending on the quality of vintage. The last two vintages: 2009 and 2010 produced some of the best wines this property ever made.

As we walked down the cellar to reach the tasting room, a massive white stone is showcased as a work of art. Word is: it was found in the vineyard.

On the walls there are tasting notes for the domain’s 2010 wines.

As we approach the tasting room, one can see a shrine like construction where wines in different bottle sizes and more rocks are resting as an exhibition.

We tasted the 2010 wines: Ducru Beaucaillou, La Croix de Beaucaillou and Lalande Borie. Lalande Borie is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, as opposed to the Ducru and Croix that contain only Cabernet Sauv and Merlot.

The most impressive of the wines is by far the grand vin: Ducru-Beaucaillou, however La Croix and Lalande are worth seeking out as well.

tasting room at Ducru Beaucaillou

2010 Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou

Profound dark purple color. An opulent and developing nose, with layers of black fruits and spices. Luscious but well balanced on the palate, with tremendous concentration of ripe, velvety tannins, sustainable acidity and impressive fruit. There is a very long and powerful finish with persistent spicy fruit aromas in the aftertaste. Incredible richness even at this stage.

2010 Ducru Beaucaillou in the glass

The 2010 Ducru was rated 95-100 points by most of the major wine critics and claimed to be the best wine the domain has ever made. For me, as I am fairly new to tasting en-primeurs, it feels like a 94-96 points wine, but promising more.

2010 La Croix de Beaucaillou

Dark red violet color. Less opulent than the Grand vin, but still rich aromas of black cherries and other dark fruits. More approachable, but still imposing texture on the palate, good balance and a medium plus finish. Designed to be consumed sooner, but still enough tannins and complexity to age gracefully and be a value wine. 88-91/100

Did not manage to find my tasting notes for Lalande Borie. All three wines are unquestionably good. The en-primeur releasing prices for La Croix de Beaucaillou and Ducru Beaucaillou are 33.60 Eur, respectively 150 Eur (-16.7% lower compared to the 2009) ex-negociant. Coming out with a lower price level for the Grand vin when all the other Chateau’s released higher prices for their 2010s, Mr Bruno Borie is likely to emerge as a hero, especially on the USA market, by offering a higher rated wine at a lower price compared to its 2009.

garden view

I left the Chateau with a strong desire to return soon or at least to taste more of their wines. My experiences with wines from this domain were a 1966 Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou(you can read here) and a 2005 La Croix de Beaucaillou(you can read here), none of them disappointing.

Here is a video with the property and the story of the Chateau told by Mr Bruno Borie.

Categories: Bordeaux, France

G-Day in Bordeaux

June 27, 2011 1 comment

Herve Bizeul, owner of Clos des Fees in Roussillon and Tim Atkin MW

During the Vinexpo, on TUE evening (June 21st), some producers from Languedoc, Cotes du Rhone and Chateauneuf du pape showcased their wines at the Wine More Time bar in Bordeaux for the Grenache Day titled event. I presented myself at the entrance as a wine blogger from Romania and had no problem to be accepted at the event, even though prior invitations were requested. It also helped my prior communication via email and social networks with Mr Herve Bizeul, a former wine and gastronomical critic that purchased vines in Roussillon and is now the proudly owner of Clos des Fees.

There were plenty of producers in the bar, that were gladly pouring their wines directly from Magnums to be tasted. Many foreigners were also attending the event. I had the chance to speak initially in a bad French (my bad French) to the owner of the Australian Kilikanoon winery. We did chat for 15 minutes with difficulties, and, as Mr Nathan Waks turned to speak to his wife in a perfect English, I proposed him to switch to English, a language more familiar to me and apparently to him as well. My proposal was immediately accepted with great enthusiasm. I found out that he plays the cello and he had two Romanian colleagues that he was playing with in his orchestra. He had only good words to say about Romanians and invited me to visit his booth at Vinexpo next day and taste his wines. Unfortunately I did not manage to make it, as my visit to Vinexpo lasted only a day and it was pretty hectic.

I also recognized Mr Tim Atkin, a Master of Wine and a very active wine journalist in UK that was constantly tweeting as he was tasting wines. I approached him and introduced myself and even though he did not know me, he was very friendly. He did point a few wines to me to taste during the evening.

people tasting wine

There were plenty of wines from Chateauneuf du pape to taste, a lot of 2009s and a few older vintages: 2008, 2006 and 2005. Most of the 2009s I tasted, both from Chateauneuf du pape and Cotes du Rhone are rich and fat, usually with 15-15.5% alcohol, but the concentration of the fruit and the big tannins are enough to balance the alcohol. Big wines indeed. The Cotes du Rhone are more approachable for the moment and offer amazing drinking pleasure. Some of the wines I enjoyed were: Chateauneuf du pape Chateau de la Nerthe 2005, Chateauneuf du pape Domaine Vieille Julienne 2009 and its Cotes du Rhone, Chateauneuf du pape Domaine de la Janasse Chaupin 2009, Chateauneuf du pape Domaine Pierre Usseglio 2008.

Clos des Fees Grenache Blanc VV 2010

The wines of the night for me were the white 2010 Clos des Fees Grenache Blanc Vieilles Vignes and the humongous La Petite Siberie 2008. I already had the 2007 Grenache Blanc VV from Clos des fees and liked it a lot. See the post here. The 2010 is even better: at 14.5% alcohol the wine is rich, with a fresh nose and pure flavors of yellow flowers, spice and tropical fruit, with an amazing lively acidity and an intense and long fresh finish. (92/100) Mr Herve Bizuel kindly offered me a bottle as a gift, when I asked him if I could buy a bottle.

The most interesting wine at the event was by far his 2008 La Petite Siberie Clos des fees: a predominately  Grenache Noir wine, topped with a bit of Mourvedre/Syrah, coming from old vines from a small plot of about 1.4-1.6 ha where icy North-West winds blow more than 200 day per year – hence the name La Petite Siberie. The micro-climate is extreme and so is the wine. There is incredible richness, concentration with decadent layers of spices, black fruit and cocoa, a perfect balanced wine nonetheless, with great acidity and a touch of minerality. Silky mouth-feel and completely non-aggressive tannins keep everything in place. A very long finish leaves you craving for more. Around 15% alcohol, but useless to say there is absolutely no touch of heat. (95-96/100) The wine sells for 200 Eur for a regular 0.75 cl bottle, making it the most expensive wine in the Roussillon region.

The event was a good opportunity for people to sample good Grenache based wines. Outside, the streets were full of young people celebrating Fete de la musique. Every year on June 21st, all cities in France celebrate Fete de la musique. At every corner young people were playing live music in loud speakers, drinking bear and partying. A very big antithesis of the calm and boring Bordeaux I was expecting to find. Unbelievable partying atmosphere and hundreds of young people just having fun. What a night.

(shot with my photo camera)

Thanks for reading!

O vizita in Bordeaux

June 27, 2011 10 comments

Saptamana trecuta am participat in Bordeaux la cel mai mare targ de vinuri organizat o data la fiecare doi ani in Franta. Pe durata celor 4 zile petrecute in Bordeaux am vizitat targul de vinuri, un eveniment cu vinuri din sudul Frantei si cateva dintre cele mai cunoscute si apreciate proprietati din Saint Julien, Pauillac, Saint Estephe, Saint Emilion si Pomerol.

Urmatoarele articole de pe blog vor relata cu amanunte, fiecare dintre evenimentele la care am participat si vizitele efectuate. Programul de saptamana trecuta, desi nu aceasta va fi neaparat ordinea articolelor, a fost:

– marti seara: am participat la Grenache Day – un eveniment organizat intr-un wine bar din Bordeaux unde s-au degustat vinuri pe baza de Grenache din Languedoc, Cotes du Rhone si Chateauneuf du pape. O intalnire interesanta cu proprietarul domeniului Clos des Fees – Herve Bizeul si jurnalistul de vin Tim Atkin MW

– miercuri: vizita la un negociant important de vinuri din Bordeaux, vizita la Vinexpo si vizita cu degustare la Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou – Saint Julien

– joi: vizite in Saint Emilion la Chateau Figeac cu degustare, un pranz la Chateau Cheval Blanc si vizita in Pomerol la Petrus cu degustare

– vineri: vizite cu degustare in Saint Julien la Chateau Saint Pierre, Chateau Gloria, Chateau Leoville Poyferre, in Pauillac la Chateau Pontet Canet si in Saint Estephe la impresionantul Chateau Cos d’Estournel. Seara o vizita de curtoazie la un alt negociant american de vinuri in Bordeaux.

Toate articolele vor contine poze si informatii despre vinuri si proprietati.

Fiind prima vizita in Bordeaux, expectantele mele erau sa gasesc o industrie. Am ramas surprins de cat de omogena este pasiunea pentru calitatea vinului a fiecarui Chateau in parte, dar in acelasi timp cat de diferite sunt metodele si filosofia fiecarui producator in realizarea vinului. Vinul ramane o industrie importanta pentru Bordeaux, dar factorul uman si grija pentru perfectiune trebuie luate serios in seama. Preturile vinurilor din 2009 si 2010 sunt mari, dar exista si vinuri cu un raport pret/calitate foarte bun. Bordeaux continua sa impresioneze si sa produca Vinuri Mari.

Surprinzator este cat de avansat este ciclul vegetativ al vitei de vie: este deja cam cu 3-4 saptamani mai dezvoltat decat normal. La Chateau Figeac se terminase green harvest-ul care de obicei are loc la sfarsitul lunii iulie. Conform unui negociant de vinuri, 2011 este cel mai secetos si mai calduros an din 1976 pana acum. Chiar mai secetos decat toridul 2003. Daca vremea se va mentine la fel, recoltarea va avea loc in a doua jumatate a lunii Septembrie fata de sfarsitul lui Octombrie cum era obiceiul. Strugurii arata in schimb sanatosi si bine dezvoltati la majoritatea proprietatilor vizitate. Cei mai slab dezvoltati fiind cei din Pauillac.

Mai multe informatii in articolele urmatoare.

Categories: Bordeaux, France

Stirbey, Recas and an American Zinfandel

Taking advantage of the longer weekend, numerous members of the family came over to our house and enjoyed a lovely time. Plenty of home cooking was made with freshly caught fish, lamb to match the religious celebration and complimentary wines.

Over the weekend as you can read below, I had the chance to sample two whites from Stirbey from the newly launched 2010 harvest. Based on my assessments, I can say that the 2010 was a great vintage for their whites. The wines are characterized by a charming lively acidity, great depth given by a distinguished minerality and a lower alcohol level, making them easier to drink. I also remember a tank sample of Sauvignon Blanc Vitis Vetus, offered to me by their winemaker, Oliver Bauer, while visiting them on the 1st of May, 2011. As opposed to the Feteasca Regala Genius Loci that spends time in oak barrels, the SB Vitis Vetus sees a long time aging on its lees, but only in stainless steel tanks. The 2010 SB Vitis Vetus maintains also the mark of the vintage and breathes a strong seducing chalky minerality.

Coming back to our menu, on SAT with cold tomato gazpacho, goat cheese and pies stuffed with cow cheese and green leafed vegetables we had a Cramposie Selectionata(an indigenous local white grape variety)  from Dragasani.

2010 Stirbey Cramposie Selectionata

A pale light lemon color with fizzy acidity in the glass. Fresh nose with distinguished minerality, citric notes and apricot. Lively acidity on the palate with charming minerality, lemon and grapefruit peel like flavors and a medium fresh finish. 12.5% alcohol. The wine has great freshness and minerality with welcoming low 12.5% alc making this wine a blockbuster for the hot summer. (85-86/100)

I am a big fan of the 2010 Cramposie.

For the second course: grilled turkey breast stuffed with garlic and green chilly with boiled and then roasted new potatoes we had an American Zinfandel.

2008 Dashe Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley

Dark purple-ruby red colored rim. Intense nose with plenty of raspberries, black cherry, spices – cloves and chocolate. Concentrated and fat on the palate, heady wine, showing a velvety structure with nice complexity, with great spicy red cherry flavors and a medium plus peppery finish. 14.5% alcohol. A young Zinfandel. (87/100)

On SUN with grilled fresh fish with two sauces: one made with olive oil, lemon, mint and parsley and another one made with garlic, yoghurt, dill, mint and a touch of mineral water, we had a Sauvignon Blanc also from Dragasani.

2010 Stirbey Sauvignon Blanc

Medium light yellow lemon color with fizzy like bubbles on the walls of the glass. Fresh nose with textbook Sauvignon Blanc typicality with shades of charming minerality giving a very interesting complexity. Lively acidity as well, with great minerality and citric fruit bitterness. Medium finish with great freshness in the aftertaste. 13% alcohol. (85/100)

For the second course: lamb prepared in the oven with salad, I opened a Feteasca Neagra from Recas. I received this wine exactly at the launching event that Recas organized about 1-2 years ago in order to celebrate their 2008 wines. I had this wine in my cellar ever since. As SAT we tried a 2008 Zinfandel I thought why not making a study case and open a wine from the same vintage, but from the acclaimed Romanian grape – Feteasca Neagra.

2008 Cramele Recas La Putere Feteasca Neagra

Deep dark red-purple color, very youthful. Intense nose with sweet aromas of red fruits jam, dry plums, black berry, oaky with a strong caramel with milk like flavor(probably from a higher toasted barrel). Lush sweet red and black fruit flavors, medium bodied, polished tannins and velvety mouth-feel, vanilla, with caramel and chocolate aromas in the medium aftertaste. A very aromatic, but seducing Feteasca Neagra. (86/100)

Thanks for reading!

Categories: Romania, USA

Croix de Beaucaillou 2005

June 8, 2011 3 comments

The second wine of the famous Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou that started to build momentum in the last few years with stunning scores for the 2009 and 2010 vintages, this comes in a great form for a lesser wine.

Popped and poured with aeration only in the glass. 13% alcohol and aged for 12 months in 20-40% new French oak small barrels.

2005 Croix de Beaucaillou Saint Julien

Deep dark red color, very youthful. A developed nose that started smoky initially and added further aromas of black currant buds, red currant, red cherry very well mixed with leather, dark chocolate and tobacco. Medium body, the wine gains in volume as it breaths, exhibiting ripe tannins and mocha, cigar box, subdued sweet raspberry and black currant flavors on the palate. A vibrant acidity and a very pleasant mouth-feel. Firm tannins with red fruit and dark chocolate flavors in the medium aftertaste. (88-89/100)

A wine showing a great Bordeaux typicality coming from an acclaimed 2005 vintage in France. Plenty of life ahead and good value.

Thanks for reading!

Categories: Bordeaux, France

A 2009 Blanc and a 2004 Rouge from Pessac-Leognan

I had a lovely lunch this weekend with our friends: Anne and Calin with plenty of green vegetables, steak and some surprisingly excellent Bordeaux. As summer already settled in Romania and my doctor pushes me to keep my cholesterol under the radar as it already gives some warning signs, I started to have more fresh vegetables in my diet and reduce as much as possible the consumption of meat. After a week with no meat and only fish and vegetable based dishes, a carnivore like me can only appreciate a good old fashioned juicy tender rare beef steak. If you add some good Bordeaux, the result is virtually guaranteed to be delicious.

We had two wines: a white 2009 Chateau La Garde Blanc with gratin of zucchinis and cherry tomatoes and a 2004 Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte Rouge with beef in a honey mustard sauce and a mixed salad with baby spinach, basil, mint and regular green salad.

2009 Chateau La Garde Blanc Pessac-Leognan

Medium gold color. A fresh nose with good intensity, oaky but not in excess, with tropical fruits and floral aromas. A pleasant acidity with rich tropical flavors on the palate and a medium plus long fresh finish. (88-89/100)

This wine reminded me of the 2007 Chateau Carbonnieux Blanc I had in April, however the La Garde is less concentrated and intense in its aromas.


2004 Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte Rouge Pessac-Leognan

A youthful opaque dark red color. Rich, complex and well developed on the nose, with intense aromas of smoke, black currant, red cherry, mint, graphite and nice vegetable flavors: the green bell pepper rocks. Lush and concentrated on the palate, with polished tannins and velvety mouth-feel, the wine shows a great typicality exhibiting beautiful pencil shavings, dry plums and black currant flavors. The finish is long with lingering mocha and dark chocolate flavors. What a great wine this is. (92/100)

Surprisingly approachable red Bordeaux that drinks so well already. There is potential for keeping, but this is a treat as it is today. People say the white Smith Haut Lafitte is usually better than their red and one of the best dry white Bordeaux wine. I cannot wait to try it.

Thanks for reading!

Categories: Bordeaux, France
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