Saturday, March 17, 2007

Bordeaux Day Three (our last day boo hoo!)

I woke up early (despite the offer of a lie in) and took a wander around the vineyards in the early morning mist, before settling down for the traditional French breakfast. We were all still a bit full from the night before, but after our daily dose of caffiene and croissants, we were ready for our last visit of the trip - Chateau Coutet. Maria and Damien had both done stages there while studying Oenology and so they had a connection to the estate. Not to mention the fact that Chateau Manos, the Cadillac they produce is owned by Monsieur Niotout, who for twenty years was the Maitre de Chai (Cellarmaster) at Coutet. Manos was his hobby vineyard, and he has consequently turned over the management of the vineyards and wines to the Lamothe team on a long term contract.

Coutet is a lovely little Chateau in the Barsac region of Sauternes, which like so many estates we had passed over the last two days was undergoing some serious renovations and building works. We were shown round by the wife of the current Maitre de Chai, Mademoiselle Constantin.

It was interesting to hear about their wood management program for the casks. They buy 30% from Demptos, 30% from Seguin Moreau, 30% from another major producer, then they play around with the next 10% buying from smaller coopers to try out the wood and see how it affects the wines. The last few days have really altered my persective of how the wood influences the wines. In the past, I had always considered (or been led to believe) that the choice of wood was crucial to the further development of the wines. To the extent that the exact forest the oak came from being a critical factor. However as was pointed out to us at Demptos, each forest is different, the trees are all different, so to say that Alliers oak is the best, or Troncais oak is, is kind of a falacy.

From the barrel store we went through to the pressing room, where the grapes are recieved during the harvest. Coutet has the original wooden troughs that the grapes were first pressed in, by the feet of the labourers no less. Nowadays they use basket presses with pnuematic lifts.

There are little railway tracks in the cellar floor to move the trolleys that hold the baskets around. The juice is squeezed from the grapes and runs though the little spigot in the side of the trolley and down into a steel vat. From there it is pumped into barrels for fermentation. We were treated to a taste of the 2005 from cask, and although Im not really into sweet wine, it was a very nice wine, rich without being cloying, still fairly sharp with acidity and a lovely long fruity finish - golden raisins, a touch of mango and tropical fruit flavours.

It was all over. Time to head back to Lamothe for a spot of lunch before heading of to Bordeaux airport and back to Blighty. Damien took us on a slight diversion so we could see Chateau d'Yquem.

And so our trip came to an end. I would like to thank Damien, Maria and Anne for their fabulous hospitality and for opening their home to us and looking after us so very well. Thanks also to Nige from Rodney Densem wines for inviting me along. I plan to list a few of the wines that we tasted on the trip, so more about them later.

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