puente1The Wine Merchant in Bordeaux. Castillon, June 2009.

Wine fairs are definitely “passé”. They turned into a boring platform where producers rent a boring stand and feel bored all the time. We need this platform to be able to meet importers, show our wines and negotiate sales. But does it has to be boring?

No!

Everyday I went in at VinExpo to the ICEX reunion point where I had my scheduled meetings with clients from Belgium, Sweden, Finland, Holland, UK and Austria, and then out again, as quick as I could!

Together with Malena I worked on an off-programme and visited ‘1 ère rencontre “off” des vignerons Blogueurs’ at the Château Luchely-Halde and ‘Haut les Vins’ at Château de Cujac. At the ‘off bloggers’ I came across some very interesting wines. Ivo Pagès showed some fine wines from the hills of Cadaquès: a young style, easy drinking grenache, carignan, monastrell, syrah and macabeo ‘Pirata’ and a beautiful equilibrated grenache, carignan, petit verdot and macabeo ‘S’Alqueria’. In both red wines Ivo Pagès uses the white varietal macabeo, why not? The carignan is 80 years old, and I’m discovering the old carignan brings a lot of structure, glycerine and smoothness to the wine. The same I find in the Priorat ‘Lo Givot’.a-la-mesaThe big surprise though came with the acquaintance of two ‘crazy’ wine makers: Laureano Serres Montagut and Joan Ramon Escoda. Els Bassots 2007 from Conca de Barberà, Chenin blanc, a rather confusing nose, dazzling from green grass to wet earth with some ‘after the rain’ aroma that Malena loves (I found that out when we arrived in Barcelona on the wet streets just after the rain). The ‘Mendall’ of carignan, cabernet and merlot from Terra Alta blasted me out. I’m still wondering what I exactly tasted, this wine produced me instant memory loss, I couldn’t and still can’t define this very concentrated wine. I have to visit him to find out more.

The first ‘quality’ Pinot Noir I came across in Spain comes from the hand of Joan Ramon: La Llopetera. I tasted 2006, 10 months barril, 14,50% alc. Only Mark Hoddy, who I showed the wine, was capable of recognizing blind the variety. I definitely will visit ‘Celler Escoda-Sanahuja’ to check out Les Paradetes. These guys were so interesting and we talked away so I forgot to make my notes seriously.

tarlant1In both occasions of the ‘off-wine’ happenings we drove the winding Bordeaux roads to arrive in plain nature at the very well kept Châteaux that create the right atmosphere for a wine tasting. Still the tables with names once inside seemed boring to me. Both in the Château Luchely-Halde and Cujac I came across the first cava I ever drunk labelled under the name ‘Champagne’: Tarlant. A Brut Nature in not confusing Penedès style. It seems the climate change provokes earlier harvests (october in stead of november) when the plant still keeps on growing and sucks energy, which provokes a later sprouting of the vines in spring. Well done! And great news for the cava sector. Let’s hope Champagne doesn’t get to sell expensive Cava before we do. Come on cava producers, show the world our fine bubbles!

brun

Jean-Paul Brun, who I met at the Boundary restaurant in london with our importer OW Loeb, was presenting beautiful velvety wines from Beaujolais: Domaine des Terres Dorées. Only fermenting with natural ‘mother’ yeast his wines are very inspiring and a ‘must’ for new, uncomplicated wine lovers.

I was guest during my stay at the ‘gite’ where Mark Hoddy lives the story of his life: wine, wine and wine. The bucolic environment of Sainte Colombe, just at the border of the Saint-Émilion appellation, shows green extensions running over hills of vines and fresh cut grass. The vineyards look like garden architecture and make you feel rich only by looking at them, a joy for the eye. The French chanson sings through my head and makes the picture of the French romance complete, c’est une belle histoire indeed.

Mark showed me the winery ‘La Clairiere Laithwaite’, where he runs the wine making. Les Confreres De La Clairiere is a select club of members that guarantee their wooden case for every year they live, when one dies the first on the waiting list gets in. The cellar is built on a stone mine, where each and every stone you see in the aristocratic houses of the area was caved. A ‘caracole’ step brings you down to the mine where 25.000 liters are aged on Allier oak.markThen we headed for ‘Le Chai au Quai’, where Mark elaborates about one (Sainte) million bottles a year. Lejeune tanks and oak barrels in the smart oxo system with wine from Maury and Bordeaux: grenache, syrah, carignan, cabernet franc, sauvignon, and who knows what more, in the enormous old cooperative of Castillon. The building is an impressive piece of architecture along the Dordogne river, a warehouse of about 300 m where barrels used to be rolled down a ramp to the key and shipped into the world. ‘Le Chai au Quai’ is today’s testimony of those days, but this time run by the ‘smart’ Laithwaite family. I envy Mark, driving his British wrong side Peugeot every day through the back vineyards of Bordeaux, producing wines that are direct exported to the UK. Castillon is a dream, a life movie, from La Plage’s entrecôte to Les Voyageurs’s andouilette and some foie gras de la Dordogne on Mark’s woodstock carbon grill, all sauced in exciting wines. This is the life the young Old Jersey boy shared with me for a few days.

Mark, be aware, I will be back.