January 2007


fleur-cardinale.jpgI picked up a bottle of Chateau Fleur Cardinale St-Emilion Grand Cru in the Leclerc supermarket in Saintes a few days back.  It was a 2002 vintage so I felt had just enough age to drink, which is exactly what we did last night.  It was absolutely fantastic – deliciously fruity, deep ruby red and exceptionally smooth.  If I can find some, I resolved, I’m going to get some more (the bottle I bought was unfortunately the last on the shelf).  It was also excellent value at a shade over 13 euros.

I looked the chateau up on the web today.  It’s got a nice little website and I was very pleased to see that Fleur Cardinale has been promoted to Grand Cru Classe in the recent review of the St-Emilion classification.  I’m even keener to get hold of some more now – though suspect the reason that the shelves of Leclerc were so empty was that some had heard the news before I did!  Worth a search though.

canon-de-brem.JPGA story from Decanter.com caught my eye this morning (it’s well worth subscribing to the Decanter.com news feed, by the way) relating, as it did, to a wine I bought a case of only last week – the Canon de Brem 2002 Canon-Fronsac. 

The owner of the chateau has decided to “declassify” the wine and turn it into the second wine of Chateau la Dauphine, which he also owns.  La Dauphine is in the Fronsac AC and, although obviously closely related, Canon-Fronsac is often regarded as the more prestigious of the two, so some might think it odd to declassify the Canon-Fronsac and make it the second wine of a Fronsac.

The simple answer seem to be that there’s greater awareness of La Dauphine amongst consumers.  In fact, the owner Guillaume Halley (just 29 years old) says that every year they sell out of La Dauphine but have a stock of Canon de Brem left, so it sounds like a pretty straightforward commercial decision to bring Canon de Brem under the La Dauphine banner.  He does also own supermarlets, after all, so knows how to shift stuff!

Still, after the 2006 vintage, Canon de Brem will cease to exist (as a name, at least) so there might be some rarity value in my small collection, if nothing else.

cave.JPGI thought I’d do a bit of organisation in my cave this weekend.  Obviously I’m using cave in this context as the French word for cellar, rather than having you thinking that I live in a hole in a mountainside (therefore phonetically it’s more like “carve” than “kayve”).  Anyway, I digress.  The cave here at Les Chapelles was built by the previous owner.  It’s basically a room constructed of breeze blocks within a large barn.  It works pretty well – doesn’t get too hot in the summer nor too cold in the winter.  And it’s a good size.  By my reckoning, if all the walls were filled with racking, I could get perhaps 1,200 bottles in there!  Currently, however, there’s only enough racking for about 250 (which still isn’t bad, I guess) and the rest of the space is taken up by golf clubs and other assorted junk.  So, I tidied the place up and re-carpeted with some artificial grass we had.  In fact, it now looks like the bastard child of a greengrocer’s, an off-licence and a golf shop.  (more…)

19-jan.JPGAs I mentioned before, I did pick up a bottle of wine yesterday, from Carrefour in Saintes.  I wasn’t really looking for wine (didn’t have the Oz book with me, etc) but glanced around the wine section as always.  I was taken with a wine which I (rightly, as it turns out) presumed was the second wine of the well-known Château Chasse-Spleen from the Moulis AC on the Médoc.  Though it’s not a Cru Classe, many people think it should be (including Oz – “a Classed Growth in all but name”) – this does mean, however, that it can’t demand the same price as the Médoc’s Classed Growths.  Indeed, at 9,55 euros, the second wine – l’Oratoire de Chasse-Spleen – looked good value.  It was a 2003 and, as second wines can generally be drunk that bit younger (see this previous post for more on second wines) – should be coming into its own about now.  (more…)

We needed to get yet another accessory fitted to the car today (soon it’ll be too heavy to move) which meant a trip back to the dealer in La Rochelle.  No hardship there.  La Rochelle’s a beautiful place – particularly the old town – and with both kids in school/nursery all day, Michelle and I decided to make a trip of it and go out for lunch.  We went to Les Flots, a restaurant right by the old port with an excellent reputation.  In fact, Michelle had eaten there before with her friend Emma, but it was my first time.

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I think I did a silly thing yesterday.  I picked up a couple of bottle of wine without having the Oz book with me.  I figured that I’d probably read enough to be able to pick something decent off the shelf all on my own; discarding the crutch of Oz and his chateaux write-ups.  Michelle and I had just popped into Super-U in Saujon to grab some bits and bobs and I obviously now find it impossible to spend less than 15 minutes perusing the wine section (even though this particular one was pretty small).

I wanted to buy a decent St-Émilion as I’d not really tried one since starting this little wine adventure, but have been reading the “Right Bank” section of the Oz book, which clearly covers St-Émilion in some detail.  I went for a Château Yon-Figeac 2001.  It seemed like a reasonable choice – 2001 was a good vintage and Ch. Yon-Figeac is a Grand Cru Classé (OK, so the classification system in St-Émilion is different to that in the Médoc, but that still means decent quality).  I was slightly suspicious that the château might have been playing on the name of the great Château Figeac, a St-Émilion Premier Grand Cru Classé, but this aside, everything pointed to this being a good wine – including the price at 22,05 euros. 

I also grabbed a bottle from Château Sirene, a Cru Bourgeois from St-Julien.  Crus Bourgeois was a Médoc classification established in1932 by producers who didn’t feature in the 1855 classification of the (supposedly) 61 best chateaux in the region.  It’s a bit of a messy classification and has been revised a few times over the years – there are now Crus Bourgeois Exceptionnels and Cru Bourgeois Supériors as well as standard Crus Bourgeois – so in many ways it’s a little meaningless.  Anyway, it’s worth a try and at 11,61 euros wasn’t going to break the bank.  I also picked up a bottle of Chateau Lacaussande St-Martin 2005, a white Premières Côtes de Blaye at just 7,65 euros. 

I was slightly concerned upon returning home not to find anything but the most basic mention of the Château Yon-Figeac in the Oz book!  I thought it might warrant one of his extended entries, but no.  Oh dear.  We decided to try it last night – at 2001 it was a decent age so should have given us a very good impression.  The nose was fine – a good blast of fruit with subtle tobacco and oak aromas – but I wasn’t convinced about its taste at all.  It seemed very thin to me, and quite bitter.  A bit disappointing.  Still finished it off, mind. 

I decided to do some online research this morning and, slightly confusingly, it seems to get almost exclusively positive write-ups.  I say slightly confusingly, of course, as I’m still very aware that I’m not expert and could well be missing the subtleties of the wine.  It’s obviously got a good reputation, and seems to be priced (depending on vintage) at anywhere between £20-30 in the UK.  So perhaps I am missing something?

The only solution, I’ve decided, is to try some others for comparison purposes.

I’ve started doing a bit of running again.  I figure I need to make sure I’m doing some exercise to counter my increased wine consumption!  It’s also the handiest way for me to keep in relative shape, and running round here is a pleasure – it’s fairly flat and the roads are pretty quiet.  A couple of years ago I got quite keen and entered a few local races – not because I thought I had a hope of winning any of them, but simply because I’m much more likely to get out and train if I have a clear target.  I even took part in the 2005 half marathon in Bordeaux.  I figured it would be a great way to see the city.  As it turned out, after about the first 8km I spent all my time staring at my feet plodding their way to the finish!  I saw a lot of Bordeaux’s tarmac and not a lot else.  I then picked up a knee injury later that year and have only recently felt comfortable enough to start again. “But what,” I hear you cry, “has this got to do with a blog about wine?” 

Well, I’ll tell you.  I was reminded last night, while watching a programme on the Wine TV channel (honestly, there is – it’s about channel 276 on Sky) that every year there’s the Marathon du Médoc.  It takes place in early September and the course is designed to pass through 59 vineyards throughout its 26 mile journey, including such greats as Château Latour, Lafite-Rothschild, Mouton-Rothschild, Pichon Longueville and Lynch-Bages.  Though it’s very much a “proper” marathon, it’s run in something of a carnival atmosphere, with many of the 8,000 or so runners doing it in costume.  The brilliant thing is that there’s wine tasting along the way, with most of the châteaux en route laying out tables of some of their finest vintages for the runners to taste as they pass! So now I’m thinking that perhaps – if I manage to stay uninjured this year – I might fancy having a crack at it.  Running a marathon has always, I guess, been one of those things that I’ve secretly had ambitions to achieve and what better marathon to run than one through the Médoc? 

Any other running wine enthusiasts out there that might want to join me?

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