Thursday, June 10, 2010

Château Margaux

One of the most amazing days of our trip to Bordeaux was a "gourmand" trip (it's should be noted that the word gourmand which today means someone who appreciates fine food, etc., used to mean glutton!) to the Margeaux wine growing region just a short 30 minute drive outside of the city of Bordeaux and home to the famed Château Margaux pictured above and below. It is a premier cru first growth château, which we did not tour, but we were allowed to get out and have a photo op with.
Just to prove I was actually there. Our tour guide warned us about touching the grape vines, so I just took a picture.
In all we visited 4 vineyards, Château Rauzan-Gassies, Château Prieuré-Lichine, Château Tour de Bessan and Château Kirwan. At each one we were given a full tour of the grounds and the cellars, each wine maker speaking on a specific aspect of the wine making process. In between the third and fourth vineyard we had a delightful lunch (Duck, the French love their Canard!) in the town of Margaux.

Château Kirwan had my favorite grounds, just love the rose tunnel!

Now that I have lulled you into a pastoral bliss let's go inside and see what is happening in the cellars of these beautiful buildings.
Every château ages their best wines in oak barrels, mostly this is French oak which is more refined and in parts a different flavor to the more rugged American Oak, only one of the 4 vineyards used American Oak barrels and then only a very small percentage, they believed that the use of a very small amount of American oak added to the complexity of the flavor of the wine.
Wine stain abstraction, or me being arty (it looked really cool in person!) Used barrel corks.
The modern age comes to wine making.
The interior of a stainless steel wine vat.
Stainless has in many instance replace cement vats for the first stages of maturation of the wine, they are easy to clean and in general just more efficient, although two of the 4 wineries still use cement vats. Only inferior wine is aged totally in stainless steel, all the good stuff has to spend some time in oak.

I'm not sure I can explain what all this machinery is, some of these machines press the grapes some of them de-stem the bunches. The grapes, for the most part, are picked in part by hand and in part by machine. If memory serves me Château Rauzan-Gassies picks everything by hand. One of the reasons given for using machinery to pick was that when the grapes are ripe they need to be picked that instance and with human help you can very well ask them to pick all night or on the weekend or make them work some insanely long shift. It occurs to me now that even if you do pick by machine you'd need someone to run it...

This was a fascinating and very educational day, if you are ever planning a trip to Bordeaux I highly recommend you check out the Bordeaux tourism site, they offer a wide range of day trips and general information that is very valuable. Our hosts paid for this trip which was very generous of them, it cost 90 Euro which given it starts at 9:30 and ends at 6 includes lunch a lot of wine tasty often with snacks it was, I thought a wonderful value.

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