David Derby - Bordeaux Treats
by Chuck Hayward
The winemaker for Clos Fourtet is Tony Ballu, who also makes and owns a separate label Ch. Pierre de Lune, which loosely translated means: Moon Stone.
Moving along we drove around the corner about 2 kilometers (a mile) to Chateau Cote de Baleau, where we were greeted by Sophia Fourcade, who also is the proprietor at Chateau Grandes Murailles and Clos St. Martin. We all introduced ourselves before adjourning to the parlor for a tasting of the 2007 vintage of each of the Chateaus. As a palate cleanser we were served NV Pol Roger Champagne: crisp, dry and refreshing, a splendid intro to lunch. Our hosts served a trio of Chateau de Baleau from the 2000, 2001 and 2002 vintages to provide a reference of how we can anticipate their wines to develop. Over lunch we discussed the long history of Bordeaux and how it has been the standard barer of fine wine for hundreds of years. Bordeaux is the only wine region that has the quality and history to sell its product years before delivery.
A key member in this complex hierarchy is the courtier who assists with maintaining the value of the Chateau with various distributors. The name courtier dates back a long way, and refers to a merchant who works and negotiates on behalf of the court, or in this case the Chateau. This allows the Chateau to focus all of its energies on what it does best, making wine, and the merchant to do what they do best: obtain the best possible price for the Chateau. After our history/economics lesson it was back to tasting wine at Fleur Cardinal.
Most every winery you will ever visit will refer to their winery as ‘state of the art.' In the case of Fleur Cardinal it is really true. If Mom could see this place she would smile. Clean does not begin to describe how immaculate everything shines. The wine flows by force of gravity so as not to be traumatized when it is racked or moved in any way. Every year they use 100% new oak barrels. Here is a place that is making the most of what nature provides, no mistakes between the vineyard and into the bottle. This was a fine example of how good a wine can be made in 2007.
Next up is a double treat. In 1984 Chateau Pavie was my first visit in Bordeaux as an amateur, and now I was going to return as a member of the trade. I still vividly recall driving up the hill and entering the cave where they kept some barrels. There was a natural spring that flowed through the cave and provided enough humidity to coat the walls with a thick blanket of multi-colored mold, even in July. As were tasting in the new showroom I asked about this cave. It seems that the hygiene was very poor there and it had not been used in anyone’s memory. I was feeling old.
The second treat was more personal than it was wine related. The owner, Mr. Gerard Perse, is a passionate bicyclist, and in his youth was scouted by teams to race professionally. Mr. Perse had recently added another bike to his stable and I expressed an interest in seeing it. As a busy man running several companies, he wasn't present when we arrived. But there in the tasting room against the wall it rested. Walking up to the bike I noticed how Mr. Perse is able to make such wonderful wine. There was a napkin carefully placed between where the handle bars and seat would, if they could, touch the wall. It is in the details that greatness is born. No detail is to small to help improve wine. This is how great wine was made in 2007.