Firstly you are greeted by piles and piles of wood, sitting in the open air to season. We discovered during the morning that the wood sits outside for a period between 2 years and 34 months. Each palate of staves contains enough oak to make ten barriques. Each barrique sells for roughly 600 euros. So each palate is worth roughly 6,000 euros. There were loads of palates, easily several hundred if not thousand. Our rough working outs (we were all slightly hungover after all!!) reckoned on a value in the region of 20,000,000 euros all sitting there in the yard. And thats just one cooperage. The place was a hive of activity, and it was really quite cool to watch the craftmanship that goes into making the barrels that shape the character of Bordeaux most famous wines.
After our visit to Demptos we set off for St Estephe where we were to dine at Chateau Pomys. They apparently opened especially for us, which was very good, because the food was outstanding. We had a set menu of Scallops in a vermouth sauce followed by a breast of chicken on a tranche of duck foie gras with grape sauce reduction, and chips!! Dessert was a fabulous creme caramel parfait with dark chocolate mousse. All washed down with a very very good bottle of Cos Labory 1998.
We set off refreshed and pleasantly sated for out appointment at Lafite. The omens were not good, with the snotty email Nige had recieved from them dictating the timing. " A tour has been (reluctantly) arranged for you, not at 1pm, not 1:30 but 2pm (Sharp!)" It was very interesting, and while our tour guide perhaps lacked charm, at least he was full of information about Lafite and the history of the cellars. Our tour ended in a cavernous circular "temple" under the vineyards, that wouldnt have looked out of place in an Indiana Jones film. We were given a meagre sample of 1994 Lafite while we watched the cellar team racking the barrels of 2005, prior to being bottled in the immediate future. We all thought perhaps we might have been allowed to sample this, but it was not to be. After watching them rack a couple of barrels we were escorted out the cellar and into the harsh, but glorious sunlight of the vineyard and it turned out, the end of our tour. 40 minutes. Apparently that was the VIP tour, so I would hate to see what the plebs get!
So it seemed we had plenty of time to kill, so we set off touring the region, visiting Mouton (also couldnt get on a tour, but they did let us watch a film about Mouton), Palmer, Cos d'Estournel and Pichon Lalande. It seems our luck was out, as we couldnt get a visit anywhere. So after the obligatory poses for photos we set off for Bordeaux and a cool demi of French beer in a cafe on the street.
(Bless, it all got a bit much for our Nige, who took the chance for 40 winks!)
We hit the streets of Bordeaux and managed to get a bit of retail therapy in before settling in for the night at the CIVB headquarters where they have set up a tasting bar to sample a selection of wines. We all started off with a Cremant de Bordeaux, made from semillon, which was interesting. Before making our own way down the wine-list. I chose a 2005 Chateau La Freynelle bordeaux blanc, lovely and fresh with crisp acidity and a lingering fruityness. Andy decided to hit the hard stuff and went for a 2004 Pomerol, while Nige and Paul opted for a St Estephe red that the sommelier recommended. If you are ever in Bordeaux I would really recommend going there. The pours are 15oz which is enough to get a decent taste, but not too much to limit your tasting options. The prices were really good too, my La Freynelle was only e3.00.
Suitably lubricated we were ready for dinner at La Tupina. Nige had been raving all week about this place, and it sure lived up to the hype. Rustic inside with a large open range where they spit-roast chickens and the meat is all cooked on a griddle over a roaring fire. The portions were huge, I opted for the chicken and must have been given half a large bird with a platter of chips big enought to feed my family. Damien chose a fillet steak and was presented with what must have been a full 20oz barrel fillet. By the time it came to dessert we were all stuffed to the gills, but we just had to see what they were. It was like a scene from Monty Python at the end, all we needed was for a waiter to come and ask us if we wanted a "teeny weeny wafer thin mint?"
And so our second day came to and end, one short drive back to Lamothe (and Nigels persistant Curiousity about the Red Light district and "ladies of negiotable affection") and we were all ready for an early night.