My wine world: France!

So here I am again back to a regular hobby of mine for my entire life. True do not write too much on it,but there are several posts about wine in my blog and from different regions of our world. Today is cloudy temps in 16C or about 63F in my neck of the woods, while in our eternal Paris is 55F or maybe 13C and sunny oh well. This is always important as the weather plays a crucial role in how well the wines will be made.

Now lets get to the meat of the matter and tell you about the latest news in the wines of France especially the less famous crus bourgeois of the Médoc!

From one vintage to another  to be or not to be considered Cru Bourgeois. The handicap is more or less important according to the notoriety of the property. It’s a bit complicated to understand.  A  Cru Bourgeois can be a year and not be the next one, to appear or not in the official selection for a given vintage, the following or the preceding one. Either because it chose not to compete at all and did not submit samples in year N, but may review its choice the following year; either because the samples presented did not convince the jury on this vintage; either because it has unfortunately not disposed of the volume required to compete (harvest amputated by frost or hail …). Life is never so simple even in the wine business!

Thus, for example , Gressier Grand Poujeaux is not part of the official selection 2019: its 2017 vintage was devastated by frost, the château did not compete;  for the 2018 vintage, the fault of late blight. Nevertheless, their 2015 and 2016 vintages have earned the Cru Bourgeois label and are currently on the market. The rule will therefore change with the next classification since the label will be issued for 5 years. To be or not to be considered  Cru Bourgeois from one vintage to the next, the handicap is more or less important according to the notoriety of the château. Gressier Grand Poujeaux, draws its pin of the game by playing thoroughly the card of Chasse-Spleen. Historically, both properties come from the same domaine, Gressier. In the 19C and according to the legacy, part became Gressier Grand Poujeaux, the other Chasse-Spleen. Céline Villars-Foubet inherited Chasse-Spleen but it is she who recreated the old estate Gressier in its entirety by buying in 2003  Gressier Grand Poujeaux, a jewel of 25 hectares.

Initially, she thought to enlarge Chasse-Spleen with Gressier Grand Poujeaux. But everything tasted in the old vintages of this wine was excellent. Gressier Grand Poujeaux being the oldest brand of the Moulis appellation, was decided to keep it. In 2003, Chasse-Spleen was distinguished “cru bourgeois exceptionnel” and Gressier Grand Poujeaux “cru bourgeois superiéur”. The classification was split in 2007. Result, Chasse-Spleen has slammed the door of the crus bourgeois, Gressier Grand Poujeaux remained … but not for all vintages. Now presented as the wine produced by Chasse-Spleen,  the cuvée  sold directly by the property and online via the market place, it does not really need the umbrella “cru bourgeois”.

From Saint-Estèphe to Margaux, an oenological stroll through some of the finest Bordeaux vineyards labeled Crus Bourgeois. These are just some of my favorites ok.

CHÂTEAU LE CROCK (Saint-Estèphe): This is the other nugget of the Cuvelier family, owner of the grand cru classé Léoville Poyferré and Moulin Riche (AOC Saint-Julien). Crock joined the family of Crus Bourgeois in 1932. In 1855, it had missed the classification because George Merman, the owner at the time, had not, as a member of the selection committee, presented his wine, while critics gave him every chance to access it. The connoisseurs have never lost sight of this vintage though. Didier Cuvelier, after forty years of good and loyal services, has retired (between consulting and promotional trips), Olivier is at the head of the trading division of the family and chairs the Alliance des Crus Bourgeois. The soil of Garonne gravel and surface sand, clay in the subsoil, is planted in Cabernet Sauvignon and cabernet Franc, with a third of Merlot and 5% of Petit Verdot. The property has made the choice of reasoned culture. The 18-month aging benefits from 30% new French oak barrels.

CHÄTEAU LILIAN LADOUYS (Saint-Estèphe) Lilian Ladouys was the first acquisition of Jacky and Françoise Lorenzetti, in 2008. The goal has been to place the wine among the best of its appellation and the Alliance of Cru Bourgeois. The vineyard has been regrouped, refocused on the good terroirs of the heart of the appellation, in gravel (80% of the area now) and sandy-clay colluviums. Of the 75 hectares in production, it  tend towards a grape variety of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon , merlots (45% of all, grown on clay-limestone soils), 4% Cabernet Franc and 4% of Petit Verdot. In 2009, the first Lorenzetti vintage was rated by The Wine Spectator magazine as one of the top four Saint-Estèphe, alongside three classified growths, Cos d’Estournel, Calon-Ségur and Montrose. The 2011 vintage ranked in the top 100 of the magazine, the Coupe des Crus Bourgeois for 2012.

CHÂTEAU PALOUMEY: (Haut-Médoc) “Paloumey “ is the place where the pigeons go. It is restructure vineyards of 35 ha of cabernet sauvignon (55%) and merlot (45%).The 2018 vintage three Stockinger barrels (medium heat) of Tronçay oak, one of 500 liters, two in 228 liters of which one was made according to the principles of biodynamics, with an expected effect on the aromatic expression. They had the energy needed to tackle several projects at the same time, like taking care of La Garricq, 3 hectares of AOC Moulis (ex-cru bourgeois), La Bessane, 3 hectares in Margaux, while developing wine tourism in Paloumey , with multiple visits, educational workshops and a shop that achieves nearly 20% of sales.

CHÄTEAU DE TAILLAN (Haut-Médoc). They mark the border between Médoc and Graves where the property was located when the ancestor Henri Cruse (Amélie Cruse current owner) acquired it, in 1896. The wines represent today 60% turnover, wine tourism and property sales, 40%. The property comprises 32 hectares, 30 hectares in AOC Haut-Médoc red (70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Cabernet Franc) and, unusually, 2 hectares in Bordeaux whites (Château La Dame Blanche, 100 % Sauvignon Blanc). The vaulted cellars of the 16C are unique in the Médoc, tasting and thematic visits, and open its park with century-old trees for walks and picnics. One twenty thousand bottles of this soft, greedy, suave cru bourgeois vintage and on the fruit, aged 12 months in barrels (20% new, 50% of older wine) are produced each year and sold half for export (and on the very chic Singapore Airlines) With his daughter Margot Falcy, designer, she opened a mini-concept store in the shop, where you can find Margot’s jewels and a line of objects with Taillan and La Dame Blanche logos.The black cocker and mascot of the castle is at the top of the list. In 2005, Armelle was the founder of the Médocaines association, bringing together Paloumey, Loudenne and La Tour de Bessan, to boost wine tourism, and there are still some joint visits with Paloumey, a property in contrast. with the Taillan.

CHÂTEAU BEL AIR GLORIA: (Haut-Médoc) .Of all the properties of the domains Henri-Martin, it is the only one that is not in AOC Saint-Julien and it is without doubt the least known. But like Château Saint-Pierre (4th Grand Cru Classé in 1855), Château Gloria (created piece by piece by the founder Henri Martin between the 1930s and 1970s), Château Peymartin, his second wine, and finally Château Haut- Beychevelle Gloria (the historical heritage of the family), Bel Air Gloria enjoys the same care, the same technical facilities, the same consultant , Éric Boissenot. Formerly called Bel Air, it had developed and attached clearly to their properties by adding, since the 2014 vintage, the famous “Gloria”. The vineyard today extends over 34 hectares very qualitative, divided into three blocks: on the banks of the river on clayey gravels, conducive to merlot; around the village, on sandy gravels, favorable to Cabernet Sauvignon (75% majority); on the plateau at the border of Saint-Julien, the best part, on sandy clay and limestone. As in Saint-Julien, the vineyards of Bel Air Gloria are worked in organic and bio-control. The château is considered cru bourgeois since 2003, the property has been nominated for the additional mention” cru bourgeois supérieur “.even aspire to the exceptionnel label as for the wine itself, but some criteria, concerning the history or the architectural heritage of the property (Bel Air Gloria is a castle without castle), did not allow it. The cru bourgeois vintage is distributed exclusively  in supermarkets, but obviously better valued for export according to the attractiveness of the vintage. This is a Médoc wine, therefore with a potential for aging, but, aged one year in 25% new barrels to preserve the fruit with a discreet woody, it is also accessible young.

CHÂTEAU LAMOTHE-BERGERON (Haut-Médoc): The vineyard of 67 hectares of beautiful Garonne gravel that look at the river, as they say in the Médoc of the best terroirs, and the technical facilities are in good condition. The vines (52% merlot, 44% cabernet sauvignon,  2% petit verdot, 2% cabernet franc), while crunching the berries of the different grape varieties. The property (cru bourgeois superieur in 2003) has been nominated for the distinction cru bourgeois exceptionnel, which would crown ten years of work. The wine is marketed at 60% in France (wine shops and wine fairs), the rest for export in 60 countries. Cherry on the cork, the premium Nove, less than 6,000 bottles, combines Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot with three dedicated plots and offers a more fleshy wine.

CHÂTEAU MALESCASSE (Haut-Médoc).  They are nominated for the “cru bourgeois exceptionnel” mention for the next ranking of the Crus Bourgeois, in 2020. The priority was to restructure the vineyard of 40 hectares in one piece, planted on a poor sandy stony soil on a limestone substrate. In seven years, it has been almost entirely restructured for the benefit of Cabernet Sauvignon (49%), with a majority of Merlot (45%) and Petit Verdot (6%). Remain 2 hectares to complete in two years the replanting program, mainly in Cabernet Sauvignon. Merlots were replanted in the lower parts of the estate, cabernet sauvignons moved to the top of the gravelly crest, the density increased to 10,000 feet per hectare. On 32 hectares in production, 31 hectares are planted between the rows of cereals and 9 hectares of grass, so as to decomposet the soil and bring them back to life while controlling the vigor of the vine. 8 hectares are in organic trials. The cellar is painted in black, velvety setting for the 400 oak barrels, and a sculpture of Bernar Venet sits in front of the château. The malolactic fermentations take place in 30% of new wood, the wines are aged 14 months in oak barrels (35% new). Most of the bourgeois crop (45% of the production, the rest in the Moulin Rose Malescasse goes to export. From the oldest vines, it has gained in power of expression and, since the vintage 2015, it is proposed en primeur. Finally, the chartreuse 18C, became a château d’hôtes or guest castle house, punctuated with works of art and objects design, which is rented in full and offers two suites and two rooms. Lunches, dinners and tastings are ordered à la carte.

CHÂTEAU FOURCAS-BORIE (listrac-médoc) . A mansion ennobled by a cedar and a majestic chestnut tree, nothing to do however with the architectural splendor pure 18C on the edge of the Garonne river and Château Ducru Beaucaillou, the classified gem of Saint-Julien, flagship of Bruno Borie. Here, you are a hundred meters from the church of the modest town of Listrac. Bruno Borie is viscerally attached to this appellation of Listrac-Médoc, where he also owns Château Ducluzeau, who is in his mother’s family since the 18C. Bruno Borie acquired in 2009 Fourcas-Dumont, which he renamed to his name and revival: clay-limestone soils in majority, and serious in the east and the south, planted with 70% of merlot, 20% of cabernet franc, 10% of petit verdot, in reasoned culture, for the terroir, they are aged 12 months in 20% new oak and 80% of older  wine barrel in French oak, the wood is very discreet. The 4 000 boxes a year are mainly exported to the United States and Asia, the candidate for the “cru bourgeois exceptionnel” mention in the next classification of 2020.The very original label of the wine, dark red and lace of vine leaves, seems to be designated for.

CHÄTEAU HAUT BRETON LARIGAUDIÈRE (Margaux) . The new installations of Haut Breton Larigaudière, under construction, will make as much talk as in its time the futuristic winery of La Croizille, another family property in Saint-Émilion. The De Schepper family is actually five castles right and left bank. These Belgian merchants from Ghent, originally manufacturers of gengiévre and liqueurs, began production in 1950 with the acquisition of Tour Baladoz in Saint-Emilion. Then, in 1964, Haut Breton Larigaudière, the cru bourgeois in AOC Margaux; in 1994, Château Tayet (formerly Les Charmilles) in AOC Bordeaux; in 1996, La Croizille, a Saint-Emilion Grand Cru next to Tour Baladoz; and finally, in 2004, Lacombe Cadiot in AOC Bordeaux. Today, this property constitute of 15 hectares, divided into twenty plots with very different soils, deep and sandy on Arsac (3.5 hectares), and serious clay on Soussans (11.5 hectares). Cabernet Sauvignon accounts for 70 per cent of the total, followed by Merlot (25 per cent) and Petit Verdot (5 per cent), planted at 10,000 pied per hectare. It took twenty years of effort to ensure that the vineyard, in sustainable agriculture, certified ISO 14001 and HVE3, gives its best. After pre-fermentation cold maceration, 15 to 30 days in vats, concrete and stainless steel, parcel vinification, limiting pumping and racking, the great wine is aged in barrels for 15 to 20 months in French oak barrels, of which 50 to 100% new barrels. The trading activities of the De Schepper family, 70% for export, 30% in France excluding large retailers.

And something I wrote some before in my previous post Some News from France CCXLVI.

The official selection 2019 has just dedicated 226 châteaux on the 2017 vintage. Two hundred and twenty-six castles in seven Médoc appellations (Médoc, Haut-Médoc, Listrac-Médoc, Moulis, Margaux, Pauillac, Saint-Estèphe). A significant decrease compared to last year’s selection. It can be explained by the fact that the frost has strongly impacted the harvests, some châteaux have not even harvested anything or too little to present themselves to the selection. Almost 79% belong to the first two and less than 14% to the three most prestigious.

Until this selection in 2019, for those who remained in the Alliance des Crus Bourgeois Médoc and for the merchants, the process was to validate annually the quality of a wine on a vintage for a given volume guaranteed to the consumer. Each chateaux and each stage of the labeling is controlled by the Alliance and an independent verification body. The procedure, rigorous, ended up being criticized. Another reason for discomfort: the annual review, the same chateaux can be believed cru bourgeois on such a vintage, but not to be the next year. Not conceivable for the consumer and too difficult to sell for traders … Markets do not like uncertainty. The Alliance des Crus Bourgeois, chaired by Olivier Cuvelier, has therefore prepared for its revolution.

And yes France is moving ahead into the modern world of winemaking at last. After been so far ahead and bringing their grapes , production, know how to all over the world; it is time they modernized in house too to keep up with the changing markets. There will be pleny of French wine around for everybody! Enjoy it!!! In vino veritas!!!

And if you missed the last wine post here is the official site of the Cru Bourgeois du Médoc with annual selections: Official Cru Bourgeois Médoc in French

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all !!!

2 Comments to “My wine world: France!”

  1. Such a wealth of information here. You should submit it to a publication that deals with wine so more people can read this. Are you sure you’re not 110? I just don’t know how you have such varied knowledge of so many things!

    Liked by 1 person

    • hahaha well I was in travel forums before and folks will tell me to write a book I did a blog instead. But just touching the surface there is so much unseen out there. Thanks for the comments very kind.

      Liked by 1 person

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