pau.jpgIt’s been a bit mad, this last week or so.  I was in Seattle (or rather Bellevue, a fairly soulless suburb) for a four-day conference.  Not a great deal to report on the wine front, I’m afraid.  I did drink some, but nothing terribly memorable and, to be honest, most was held in the tight grip of a waiter and I was unable to see the label.  Given we were being entertained and I hadn’t therefore ordered any of it, I’m not sure what it was!  I’m pretty sure Merlot featured and I’m assuming it was US wine, but other than that… 

Otherwise, it was the odd beer (and if you’re ever offered some of a local brew called Arrogant Bastard I can recommend you decline…the arrogance, I suspect, describing those who could have ever claimed they’d produced a decent beer) and an extraordinarily large shot of tequila, which was totally unnecessary (but when are they not?).

I left Seattle on Thursday evening, and a rather ridiculous journey took me to Heathrow, then a car to Stansted to catch a flight to Poitiers followed by a train to Bordeaux to meet a very good mate, Chris, who’d flown into Bordeaux earlier that afternoon.  I’d therefore avoided going home altogether between the business trip to the US and an indulgent weekend of drinking, eating and watching fantastic old cars race around the streets of Pau, in the foothills of the Pyrenees.

Given that I only arrived at about 9.00pm, Chris and I were staying in the centre of Bordeaux overnight before picking up the car and heading down to Pau.  I dumped my kit at the hotel and we ventured out into the stormy Bordeaux night to find some food and wine.  We decided on a nice little bistro, had a fantastic meal and a very nice bottle of a ’97 Pessac-Leognan (actually a recommendation of the waiter’s after our first choice, L’Abeille de Fieuzal, was unavailable). 

Unfortunately, the two Leffes that followed dinner in a nearby bar added to a bit of jet lag left me unable to remember the name of the chateau the following morning!  All Chris and I could recall was that it had a picture of a ship “like the Cutty Sark” on the label (but wasn’t Chateau Malartic-Lagraviere, another Pessac-Leognan with a ship on the label that we saw in a supermarket yesterday).  I do suspect that, given Pessac-Leognan was the first main Bordeaux wine producing area and therefore central to the start of Bordeaux’s wine trade, there might be a few chateaux from the area with ships on their labels…

The weekend in Pau, while quite wet, was thoroughly enjoyable.  It’s a lovely town and the position of the circuit allows you to watch a bit of racing and then nip off to refuel yourself at regular intervals.  We found our ideally-positioned hotel, located the circuit and then somewhere for lunch…a large, popular bistro called L’Aragon with fantastically original 70s decor (familiar, I’m sure, the anyone who’s visited Pau before).  We indulged in some traditional French fare – sharing some local ham to start, followed by duck for Chris and steak tartare for me – and accompanied it with a bottle of St-Emilion Grand Cru (again, the name escapes me!).

That evening, we found the bottle of L’Abeille de Fieuzal that had escaped us in Bordeaux in a little bar called Le Grain de Raisin.  It was a 2003 and we both agreed that it was delicious; I’m definitely going to hunt some down in a local supermarket.  Given our hearty lunch, we didn’t think about food until about 10.30pm, which turned out to be almost too late as we were turned away from a number of restaurants before finally settling in Napoli, a rather tacky pizza/pasta joint.  Still, it filled us up and fuelled a night on the town.

Sunday was inevitably a bit more subdued – more racing; less eating and drinking – though we did have some excellent seafood in the evening and a bottle of 2005 Chateau Penin, a white Bordeaux. 

I dropped Chris off at the airport yesterday after a great weekend.  He was keen to pick up a couple of bottles of wine to take back to the UK, so we popped into the fantastic wine department of the huge Leclerc supermarket in St-Medard in Bordeaux’s northern suburbs (just at the base of the Medoc, as it happens).  We spent a happy half an hour browsing, eventually selecting an ’04 Chateau Bouscaut red (Pessac-Leognan), an ’01 Chateau Belgrave (Haut Medoc) and a ’93 Chateau Potensac.  I’ve had a bit of the ’03 Potensac recently and love it, so was intrigued by the ’93 at only a few euros more (about 19). 

It was only on the way to the checkout that we realised Chris would be unable to take wine through airport security as hand luggage and that putting three bottles into his soft bag in the hold was just too risky.  So we put them all back, save one bottle of the ’93 Potensac that I fancied trying.

Of course, I checked the Oz Clarke book for details on the ’93 vintage, only to fine this simple entry:  “1993 – Rain. Rain. Rain.  The Right Bank fared best but all wines need drinking up.”

So that’s what I’ll do, I guess…