Posts Tagged ‘Bordeaux’

The History of A Fine Wine

November 21, 2014 4:08 pm - Posted by Jody in Drink

Château Haut-Brion is a French wine, rated a Premier Cru Classé (First Growth), produced in Pessac just outside the city of Bordeaux. It differs from the other wines on the list in its geographic location in the north of the wine-growing region of Graves. Graves is an important subregion of the Bordeaux wine region and is the only Bordeaux subregion which is famed for all three of Bordeaux’ three main wine types—reds, dry whites and sweet wines, although red wines dominate the total production.

Being from such an historic region Château Haut-Brion has a rich past. Last year Domaine Clarence Dillon the family-owned and managed company,which produces Château Haut-Brion launched a challenge: to discover a written mention of Haut-Brion wine prior 1660 when the wine was contained in the cellar book of King Charles II of England, the oldest known to date. This Historical Challenge was met!

From all of the submissions recorded, two authenticated mentions emerged from the past, or more precisely the beginning of the 16th century. The earliest mention discovered now dates back to 1521, in other words 139 years earlier!

The oldest text is a notarial instrument dated 21 January 15211, discovered in the Gironde Departmental Archives, which concerns a sale of a perpetual annuity in wine between Jean de Monque, a squire and lord of the locality of Monque, and Guilhem de Mailhois, bourgeois, merchant and sergeant of Bordeaux.

This sale is agreed for a sum of 400 Bordeaux francs (a sum that would be equivalent to a current purchasing power of over approximately €50,000). In repayment of this loan, Jean de Monque undertakes to deliver each year “four pipes of wine… from the place known as Aubrion” (equivalent to eight barrique casks or 1,800 l):

« quatre pipes de vin, seront du cru des vignes appartenant audit de Monque du lieu appelé Aubrion, appartenant audit vendeur. Lesquelles sont sises derrière son bourdieu assis audit lieu appelé du Brion, en la paroisse Saint-Martin de Pessac, ensemble des vignes de Pins Bouquet, de la Gravette et de Cantegrit, le tout appartenant audit seigneur de Monque, assis en Graves de Bordeaux et si cas était que ne vint aucuns fruits de raisins qui fussent pour satisfaire lesdites quatre pipes de vin de rente, bon, pur et net et marchand, le dit vendeur sera tenu lui en bailler d’autres aussi bon provenu du cru desdites vignes dessus déclarées ».

[“four pipes of wine, will be from the vineyard (cru) belonging to the said de Monque from the place known as Aubrion, belonging to the said seller. The said vines being found behind his smallholding established in the said place known as Le Brion, in the parish of Saint-Martin de Pessac, all of the vines of Pins Bouquet, la Gravette and Cantegrit, all belonging to the said lord of Monque, domiciled in Graves in Bordeaux, and if there are no grapes to fill the said four pipes of wine as an annuity – good, pure and clean and sellable, the said seller will be obliged to provide him with others that are just as good from the vineyard of the said abovementioned vines”.]

1521 document_all pagesFor the first time, Haut-Brion wine is associated with this extremely specific and prestigious term: Growth. Accordingly, from 1521, this text heralds an evolution spanning over three centuries that would take Haut-Brion to the rank of “First Growth” in the Gironde Wine Classification in 1855.

The second verified instrument is dated 1st September 15262. It is a sale of wine, made before a royal notary in Bordeaux: Esclarmonde de Lagarde, a Bordeaux woman, is selling to Pierre Gassies and Pierre Mulle, who are probably merchants, a quantity of two barrels of wine, equivalent to eight barrique casks: “two barrels of clairet or red wine from the vineyard of Haulbrion in Graves”.

On this date, the year’s grape harvest has not yet been gathered, so it therefore represents a sale on the vine. The quality of the harvest is not yet certain: if it is good, the wine will naturally be concentrated, with a red colour… if it is very average, the colour will be dark pink (clairet)… hence the possibility accepted in the contract.

The most remarkable feature of this instrument lies in the fact that in this business transaction the name of the product sold has been simplified: “wine from the vineyard of Haulbrion”. The reference to the vines and their owner is no longer even present in the trade name. From 1526, therefore, the fusion between the name of the vineyard – or terroir – and that of the wine produced there is already virtually complete. We are very close to the designation “vino de Hobbriono” in King Charles II of England’s cellar book in 1660.

This Château Haut-Brion Historical Challenge has therefore been extremely enriching for the history of this great vineyard and the wines of Bordeaux. We would like to thank and congratulate all those who researched and helped us to go back even further in time to discover evidence regarding the birth and development of what might be the oldest luxury brand in the world: Haut-Brion.


One Minute Wine – Bordeaux (Yes they do whites)

March 21, 2014 10:21 am - Posted by Jody in Drink
One Minute Wine: White Bordeaux (via Wall Street Journal Digital Network)

Bordeaux is more famous for its lush red wines but few realize that the region also produces dry, crisp, floral white wine. Wine columnist Will Lyons tracks down one of the top white wine producing estates and unearths their latest project.


Nothing is More French than a Trip to Bordeaux

February 21, 2014 2:04 pm - Posted by Jody in Travel

Insight: Bordeaux, the French Phoenix

By: The Culture-ist, By Liz Schaffer

bordeaux 2 Insight: Bordeaux, the French Phoenix

At the turn of the 21st century, Bordeaux was in trouble. Dusty and lifeless, the once majestic stone city was crumbling. So understandably, contemporary Bordeaux feels a little like a phoenix from the ashes. With eons of soot removed from its opulent medieval churches, Baroque-era facades and Art Nouveau town houses and its once questionable docklands transformed into a playground for the hip and design conscious, Bordeaux is once again a European gem.

Bordeaux architecture Insight: Bordeaux, the French Phoenix

Surrounded by the ancient vineyards of Aquitaine and one of the world’s largest UNESCO world heritage sites, Bordeaux now blends Old World elegance with cutting-edge design. It’s a classic French beauty with bite.

Timeless Bordeaux shines bright in the heart of the city. Gothic wonders sit amongst narrow streets and century old squares. There’s the St.-Andre Cathedral, which boast sword-like spires; St.-Seurin Basilica, that sits atop an ancient crypt; and the 18th century Place de la Bourse. This particular attraction comes with a modern twist. An ultra thin miroir d’eau, a haven in the heat, reflects the palace-like building, transforming traditional architecture into contemporary art.

Bordeaux food and wine Insight: Bordeaux, the French Phoenix

Tradition also reigns supreme on the food and wine front. Long famed for its culinary prowess, Bordeaux has foodie treasures aplenty. Frequented by Jacques Chirac, La Tupina, and its cuisine de terroir, is both earthy and rich. Here flavours evolve, the cellar is noble, herbs hang from the ceiling and the menu is thoroughly French ““ lamb cooked for seven hours and French fries cooked in duck fat. Similarly, Chapon Fin, one of Bordeaux’s oldest restaurants, is a Mecca for food and history lovers. Dating back to the time of the revolution in 1789, this Art Nouveau restaurant, which comes complete with a grotto, attracted the Paris elite (who were greeted by valets in period attire) and has had Clemenceau, Sarah Bernhardt and Toulouse Lautrec dine at its tables.  Accompanied by perfectly matched wine, their degustation menu is bold, inventive and blissful.

Bordeaux vineyards Insight: Bordeaux, the French Phoenix

History also runs thick in the surrounding Chateaus and vineyards. Built largely from stone and prone to glowing in the sunlight, these building, and their wineries, are both imposing and beautiful and come complete with manicured gardens and rich aromas. Wineries can only be visited by appointment so it’s best to join a tour. BordoVino offers small trips with young, wine-loving guides who know the area’s history, impart their wine tasting knowledge (one must see, smell, swirl, smell and savour) and hold rather unconventional degrees.

Bordeaux galleries Insight: Bordeaux, the French Phoenix

It’s the converted docks alone that prove Bordeaux is no longer “˜La Belle Endormie’. Here an old warehouse the once housed German submarines now hold regular art exhibitions, Le Garage Moderne, a junk filled hanger, doubles as a contemporary art gallery and Fonds Regional d’Art Contemporain, which collects the works of contemporary artists, take to heart Bordeaux’s modern sensibility. The piece de la modern resistance is Seeko’o Hotel. With a jagged white exterior that plays with light and shadow, high design décor, electric gadgetry aplenty, mirrored ceilings and a chic air, a night spent here feels like a night spent in a living art instillation. This unorthodox urban landmark proves that Bordeaux can do contemporary. And it can do it remarkably well.

liz shaffer 150x150 Insight: Bordeaux, the French PhoenixAbout the Writer

Liz Schaffer is an Australian-born freelance travel writer and photographer who set up in London hoping to live behind a blue door and fall in love with famous faces. When not pounding the pavements of Notting Hill she’s lost in Antarctica, climbing hills in Patagonia, swimming in the Adriatic and eating her way around Italy. Her work has appeared in Yen Magazine, International Traveller, Sublime, Lost in London and Australian Traveller. Read her articles on her personal blog:

Feature Photo by  Ted Drake

All other photos by Liz Schaffer

Repost.Us - Republish This Article
This article, Insight: Bordeaux, the French Phoenix, is syndicated from The Cultureist and is posted here with permission.

China’s Wine Market is Heating Up

November 1, 2013 9:50 am - Posted by Jody in Drink

Again we’re happy to have beat our friends at CNN to the story of wine in China. In 2010 we mounted 3 trips to China to explore the nascent wine scene and bring the growing Chinese wine movement to our community. And this is a story we’ve continued to follow. Now a new documentary aims to show how Chinese consumers are now the largest importer of Bordeaux wine and what this will mean for the rest of the world.

Film spotlights power shift in the wine (via CNN Video)

China has a thirst for wine and a new documentary tries to bottle that obsession. CNN’s Neil Curry reports.

read more


Q&A with Martha Stewart: Lust for Living

August 4, 2011 9:12 am - Posted by NWM in Drink, Eat

Martha Stewart dishes on kitchen design, digital publishing and her Bordeaux cellar in Maine.

Wine Portfolio Bloggers, Mike and Jeff, interviewed Martha Stewart on behalf of Wine Enthusiast:

Wine Enthusiast sat down recently with the entertaining icon and discussed her passion for the perfect pie and more.

Wine Enthusiast: If you had to pick a favorite dessert, what would it be? Any pairing suggestions?

Martha Stewart: Anything lemon. Lemon provides sort of a challenge, but I would do an Italian sparkling wine. A nice dense lemon tart, or lemon meringue, or anything lemon— with Prosecco.

WE: What are some of your favorite wine regions that you have visited?

MS: My first trip to France was to Burgundy. We spent the most wonderful time there, drinking delicious white Burgundies. I’ve also visited all the Champagne houses, and their caves. I had the great fortune, in England, to drink wine at Waddesdon Manor with Jacob Rothschild. At lunch, every course was accompanied by a Mouton Rothschild from a different year, and they were all very old and very delicious. That was terrific! And I had a fantastic trip to South Africa—I got to visit quite a few vineyards. The wines there are tasty!

WE: Which wines are your favorites?

MS: I love Bordeaux. I inherited a Bordeaux wine cellar in Maine, with a lot of large bottles— Jeroboam’s, Nebuchadnezzar’s and other sizes. They are all ’82s, and to open one is a great pleasure. I had a lot of vintage Burgundies up there too, and so we had a Burgundy dinner that will be displayed in my new book, Martha Entertains, which comes out this November. I might serve French wines, or American, or even wines from Australia or New Zealand. I like not terribly well-known wines. My daughter and my friend Kevin Sharkey like me to choose the wines when we go out, because they say I always choose something good—I might like a Chassagne-Montrachet, but I will also drink an Aligoté. I talk to sommeliers and look at the list, and try to have something I haven’t had before.

WE: You are known for your strong aesthetic sense in regard to decorating, cooking and entertaining. How does that sense carry over into wine?

MS: [Laughing] I have a huge collection of glasses, as you can imagine, and I do take care to pick out a good glass, one that would go with the wine. I have a collection of old 19th-century French hand-blown bistro glasses, which are very nice, and they’re not large.

WE: With regard to your kitchen line for Home Depot: How important is kitchen design in organizing and preparing for a party?

MS: It’s terribly important—you have to have enough counter space to prepare and serve. People forget when they’re designing or building a kitchen, Thanksgiving does come, Christmas does come and you might want to have a lot of people. I think it’s very important to think about your life and your lifestyle, and then design from there.

WE: What’s next for you?

MS: I am very involved in digital publishing right now. Our magazine, Martha Stewart Living, is also available digitally now, which enhances it greatly. It’s a beautiful magazine, but it comes to life on the iPad. Besides that, I am very involved with the retail initiatives with Home Depot and Macy’s. The kitchens we’ve designed for Home Depot are really extraordinary. And we’re publishing a lot of books— we just did Power Foods. Pies & Tarts is up next, and Martha Entertains is my first entertaining book since 1982. You’re going to love it!

Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jenssen
Food, Wine and Travel Writers
Periodistas Gastronomia, Vinos y Viajes
World Wine Guys LLC


Enter the Dragon

April 24, 2011 12:38 pm - Posted by Jody in Learn, Travel

How will the emergence of China as a world player in the world of wine affect the drink we all love so much?

China has become a hot destination for global players in the wine industry with demand growing in excess of 20% annually for the past five years to around 1, 480.6 mn litres. That makes China a significant player in the wine industry.

And so with China’s elite investing in Bordeaux chateaus and setting new records for rare and collectible wines at auction, it’s no wonder that the wine industry is paying close attention to happenings in the middle kingdom. But what about wine drinkers?  Are we giving enough thought as to how the newly minted middle and wealthy classes in China will change the world of wine?  I don’t think so, but fortunately our editorial team is here to help.

First off, let’s put China’s foray into the wine industry into perspective. China is already the world’s leading market for luxury goods, and fine wines are no exception. China, including Hong Kong, became the world’s largest consumer of Bordeaux wines in 2010, importing some 33.5-million bottles at a cost of $475-million. The country now imports more than $1-billion worth of wine annually, a number that has quadrupled from about $250-million in 2004.

French wine occupies a commanding position in the Chinese market. The French have a significant market share and mind share lead over other regions. Partly this is because of their storied reputation and strong marketing, but French producers have also worked to form deep distribution partnerships since the early 1980s. And this matters since business in China is a patient endeavor and requires investing in long term relationships. This is something the French have done exceedingly well and so their dominant position isn’t likely to change anytime soon.

So with this in mind we wine drinkers can expect a few ripples on our side of the world. First off French wine and collectible wine will probably continue to set new records at auction in both Hong Kong and London. After all the industry is globally interconnected.  Next, we can expect additional Chinese investment in Bordeaux and other French regions. This will divert more French product from North American shelves onto Chinese ones and will probably result in modest price increases here at home. This will most likely lead to a small decrease in the North American market share for French wine which should open up opportunities for other producers. And that’s probably good news for Spanish, German and Austrian winemakers.

In the years to come China will continue to change the world of wine and we will continue to bring you our thoughts on how this will affect you.  We are stoked at the significant growth in the Chinese wine market and we think this is a very positive trend. So stay tuned because there’ll be more updates on this very dynamic region.

In the meantime what are your thoughts on how China will change the world of wine?

La Soirée des Grands Crus takes New York by Storm with a New Generation of Bordelais

February 4, 2011 5:47 pm - Posted by Tracy Ellen Kamens in Drink

With a vinous history stretching back to the 1700s, coupled with imposing castle-style architecture, France’s Bordeaux wine region is usually associated with the old guard and more established wine drinkers. However, a recent event in New York, La Soirée des Grands Crus, provided a glimpse into the new Bordeaux.

Held on January 27, 2011 at SoHo’s Mercer 82, La Soirée brought members of the Union des Grand Crus de Bordeaux together for a special consumer wine tasting event. These producers are responsible for only 5% of Bordeaux’s total production, yet many have become quite renowned. Among the most highly regarded in their region, these chateaux include both classed growths (those  having earned the Grand Cru Classé designation), as well as vaunted, non-classed wines. Winemakers and chateaux proprietors were on hand to pour the wines, putting faces to the bottles and permitting tasters to learn more about the wines they were drinking. These talented leaders are blending tradition with a modern sensibility as they continue to advance the wine legacy that is Bordeaux.

Looking around the room, it was obvious that the faces behind the tables were youthful and energetic, but had there been other changes in Bordeaux, aside from a shift in the average age? Jean-Jacques Dubourdieu, son of esteemed consultant Denis Dubourdieu, joined the family business, Denis Dubourdieu Domaines, in 2006, after completing graduate studies in business and marketing. He attributes two things to his fellow colleagues that differentiate them from their parents. Chief among them is the discovery of new markets, noting that, in the past, it was easy to sell Bordeaux wine at home. However, Jean-Jacques acknowledged that, today, they need to find new markets in which to sell their wines. He admitted that while the U.S. is not a new market, it is an important one and added that China is now a major market for them. A second distinguishing feature of the new generation, according to Jean-Jacques, was that they have started to simplify and demystify wine. He suggested that for their parents, wine was a bit more intellectual and feels that they lost some consumers that way. Consequently, “We are trying to make it easier to help people learn about wine” he said.

Anne Le Naour, serves as Directrice Technique (Technical Manager) for Château Grand-Puy Ducasse and has been with the chateau for approximately one year. When asked how the new generation of Bordeaux was impacting the region, she reiterated Jean-Jacques’ point of view and indicated that they are finding new ways to communicate with the consumer. Moreover, Anne asserts that her winemaking philosophy is greener than that of her parents and shows more sensibility to the environment. More specifically, Anne has stopped using pesticides and is spraying for mildew less frequently. Working for Groupe Crédit Agricole, she makes wine at four different properties and is ultimately responsible for three red wines, one dry white and one sweet white. She believes that her approach to winemaking doesn’t mean abandoning what her parents did as she remains steadfast to the tradition of the terroir. Yet, she seeks new ways to make wine that better shows off the vineyard.

Also among the changes taking place in Bordeaux is the significant investment being made by newer owners. Bruno LaPlane, of Château Malartic-Lagravière and Chateau Gazin-Rocquencourt, explained that the Bonnie family bought the former estate in 1996 and “everything has changed.” The family’s heavy investments have included the purchase of new equipment ranging from fermentation vats to oak barrels, along with wide replanting of the vineyards. Additionally, the family has increased the property’s size from its initial 19 hectares to today’s total of 53 hectares, seven of which are planted to white grapes.

Echoing the business perspectives of Jean-Jacques and Anne, Yannick Evenou, Vice President for Vignobles Clément Fayat, which owns Château La Dominique, stated that, “We [the new generation] are more open to market demands. We understand competition from other wine regions.” Yannick further points to the more recent recognition that people like to taste wines while they are young instead of cellaring them for a long time and the adaption of winemaking to meet that demand.  He also noted a willingness to share information with one another.

Similarly, Ludovic David, Directeur Général for Château Marquis de Terme, highlighted the winemaking philosophy of the younger generation, proposing that they are crafting more modern wines. He described these wines as showing more ripeness and more accessibility, permitting them to be drunk and enjoyed much earlier than the wines from the past. Overall, he affirmed that today’s winemakers are aware that there is more competition in the wine world from Chile and other New World countries and, accordingly, the younger Bordelais understand that they must improve the quality of their wines to compete in this marketplace. Ludovic also emphasized the progress made in the vineyard, a shift from the enological focus of the 1990s, and reinforced Anne’s comments, citing that there is more respect for ecology, such as the adoption of organic viticultural practices.

Finally, what makes all of this change possible is the sentiment shared by Laurence Brun, Director of Château Dassault in St.-Emilion. Laurence advised that, “It is easier now to let one’s son or daughter be in charge of the winery. It used to be that the parents would make wine until he or she died. Now it’s a real revolution with children working together with their parents – making it a true family affair.” Laurence grew up at the chateau, first working with her father and then replacing him at the chateau, becoming the fourth generation of her family in the wine business. While her daughter, aged 25, has decided that she is not quite ready to work in the winery, Laurence has encouraged her to do so.

As next generation of owners and winemakers take the helm of these storied estates, it seems clear that changes are indeed taking place in Bordeaux. The philosophies and insights held by the younger set appear to be bolstering Bordeaux’s place in the competitive market and sustaining its position as one of the world’s fine wines. In this regard, they are serving as stewards of both the Bordeaux legacy and the Bordeaux land.

Written by Tracy Ellen Kamens, Ed.D., DWS, CWE

Tracy Kamens is a Contributing Writer for Wine Portfolio and a Certified Wine Educator.  Check out her blog at