St Emilion, Bordeaux
Château Cos d'Estournel
Château Haut-Brion, Graves
Great Bordeaux: A Merchant's View
Nicola Arcedeckne-Butler M.W. a highly respected wine merchant, leads this tour. The theme is about how Bordeaux works from the merchant’s perspective. How the merchants interact with importers, style gurus and chateaux, how vintages get judged, priced and sold. Nicola is selecting a series of chateaux that she has worked with throughout her career to date and will augment the chateaux visits by hosting a tasting to further educate and entertain us.
We start on the Right Bank with Château Tertre Roteboeuf near St Emilion, where François Mitjavile presides over one of the most remarkable terroirs in the region. We stay in the best 5* hotel in St Emilion. We’ll lunch and dine at Nicola’s choice of 1er Grand Cru Classé chateaux in St Émilion which includes La Gaffelière, where vines have been grown here since Gallo-Roman times and the Malet de Roqufeort family have owned and managed La Gaffelière for 4 centuries. They have a longer history than any other vinegrowers in Saint Emilion. The wine has a rich, complex bouquet and is powerful yet soft and lasting on the palate.
In the Médoc, we are based at a beautiful private wine chateau in Margaux. From here visits, amongst others, will include Cos D’Estournel, whose pagoda-like facade provides a well-known landmark, situated on a hill overlooking Lafite. The Prats family owned the chateau until 1998 and it was Bruno Prats who was responsible for making Cos the leading St Estèphe property and one of the top second growths, whose wine has wonderful finesse combined with great ageing potential. Jean-Guillaume Prats took over from his father as General Manager in 1998, under the new ownership of M Reynier a Swiss food magnate and has continued to produce wine of the same class. The cellars underwent major refurbishment in 2008 to become the most technically advanced in the region.
We continue to lunch at Château Pichon Comtesse de Lalande, whose wines have always had great finesse and breed. The fact that part of the vineyard lies in St Julien helps to give the wine a special character, more opulent and feminine than a Pauillac but richer than a St Julien. The introduction of the Réserve de Comtesse has led to a more rigorous selection and a corresponding rise in quality. This is now one of the most prized wines in the Médoc after the firsts.
We continue with our visits in the illustrious commune of Pauillac to Château Lafite-Rothschild, which is a picture-postcard chateau with a beautiful garden and mirror lake, an ideal setting for tasting these first class wines rated amongst the best for quality in the world. Listed at the top of the 1855 First Growth classification, the name comes from the local dialect word “fite” (mound) and indeed at 27 metres a.s.l it is one of the highest placed vineyards in Pauillac. If one were to choose one adjective for the wines of Lafite, it would surely be elegant. Our afternoon visit is to the ‘super-second’ Ducru Beaucaillou.
For dinner we head to the St Julien classification, where we’ll meet the charming Anthony Barton over dinner and taste the superb wines from Chateau Léoville-Barton. The Barton Family has been in Bordeaux since the arrival of Thomas Barton from Ireland in 1725 and Hugh Barton purchased the château at Langoa in 1821 and part of the Léoville estate was added in 1826. Châteaux Léoville and Langoa-Barton are the only châteaux from the 1855 classification of the Médoc that are still owned by the original family.
On route to Bordeaux we stop in the Pessac-Léognan appellation in Graves for the great Château Haut-Brion, where we will taste their wines and those of sister chateau, La Mission. This is the only estate outside the Médoc to feature in the 1855 classification of red wines and is undoubtedly one of the oldest wine-producing châteaux in the entire region, which has been exporting to the UK since the 15th century. For our final lunch we will be hosted by a Bordelaise wine-merchant for a final discussion about the merchant process over a delightful lunch with wines from a further selection of properties.
If you are interested in this tour, do register your interest. For 2013, we are also offering our Bordeaux First Growths tour.