Wednesday, 14 February 2007

Off to Spain and back again.....

It was raining today, a torrential downpour with no sign of ever ending. So as we have always wanted to visit the Guggenheim in Bilbao we threw some clothes in a bag, packed the pups in the car and set off into the sodden beyond to Spain. First stop Royan at the furthest most tip of the Gironde, north of Bordeaux. A hidden seaside resort town with beautiful beachside properties. Houses from the Belle Epoque line the beach intermingled with contemporary dwellings straight out of Architectural Digest. Onwards to Pauillac on the “BAC” a sort of roll on slide off type of ferry that crosses the Gironde in high winds and removes the parting from your hair. Mission to taste the “enchantillon” (work in progress) vintage 2005 at Chateau Mouton Rothschild a 1er Grand Cru Classe.

Stunningly clear blue skies and Bacchus ready to greet us at the entrance.

At Chateau Mouton Rothschild and a peak at the Baroness’es Private Cellars – of which there are several. One for every bottle of Mouton Rothschild produced since 1859. This vinoteque contains, for each year of growth, 24 bottles, 6 magnums and 3 jeroboams – never to be drunk but kept as a historical record forever! The second cellar contains 60,000 bottles of 1er Grand Cru Bordeaux the oldest being an 1897 Haut Brion. The final cellar contains 30,000 bottles of wines from all over the world. The Museum- an astounding private collection in a hidden gallery underneath the winery. You are greeted by an enormous tapestry depicting the friendship between Queen Victoria and Napoleon (The Treaty of Commerce – A further proof of our friendship it states). Certainly helped the Bordeaux wine trade grow with the UK. It is here that the original Picasso is also housed. Painted on 22/12/59 to be precise it was used on the 1973 label which was also the year of Picasso’s death. No photo of this one as it is INTERDIT!

The Labels – now it here that the love of art and wine truly mingles. I won’t list all the artists and the stories behind each label here but if you come to La Grande Maison ask and we will show you our own collection! The first label in 1924 sadly failed to sell the wine as it was far too controversial and too futuristic for its time. So from then on until 1945 the estate used a very traditional sit up straight type of label until 1945 when the first artist was commissioned. Prince Charle’s is the most recent artist to be selected for the 2004 (just released!) but in between artists such as Miro, Dali, Warhol, Picasso, Klee have graced the bottles each contributing their work in exchange for a few cases of their vintage. The Tasting – if you want to know exactly what is meant by structure and complexity in a wine then go no further. We tasted three of the 2005 sample vintages still in the barrel. I was prepared to be impressed but not to have my socks blown off at this early stage in it’s production!
The Chateau d’Armailhac 2005 is to be bottled in April. Harvested between late September – early October, dry harvest giving good concentration. A blend of 60% cabernet sauvignon, 29% merlot, 10% cabernet franc and 1% petit verdot. Powerful nose red fruits, spicy and peppery, soft and elegant smooth tanins and good length. Can be drunk in 5–6 years or kept for 15 years. Already delicious.

The Chateau Clerc Milon 2005 is to be bottled in May. A blend of 48% cabernet sauvignon, 40% merlot, 10% cabernet franc and 1% petit verdot, 1% carmenere. Nose still closed tobacco on the palate from the barrels. Good length chewy tanins black fruits, ruby red. Can be drunk in 7 – 8 years or kept for 25 years. Big structure, long legs and high alcohol. One to keep a while.

The Chateau Mouton Rothschild 2005 is to be bottled in June. A blend of 85% cabernet sauvignon, 14% merlot, 1% cabernet franc and produced in 94% new french oak. Open fresh nose of blackfruits and black pepper, tobacoo and licquoirce. Deep ruby red, soft tannins, powerful and spicy. Can be drunk in 15 years or kept for 40 years. 13% alcohol with great length. The yield 45 hectolitres per hectare. WOW – need I say more.

I now also know why the wine is so expensive. So much care and attention is given to the prodution. All grapes are hand picked and sorted. New French oak barrels are used from a range of tonneliers (barrel makers) each giving it’s own special characteristic to the wine which are then blended together adding complexity and depth to the wine. Each barrel is fined using 4 fresh egg whites and fining is still done by holding a sample glass of wine up to a candlelight to check for it’s clarity.

We didn’t want to leave but our travels beckoned and the pups needed a good walk.


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