Nikki at Le Chai – Bordeaux 2015 – Part 2

Friday 2nd October

Tour of Ste Colombe and its two oldest buildings
Tony and Barbara Laithwaite bought Château du Bourg in 1999 from the old local fishmonger with a van, Monsieur Barthoumeyroux. In fact, the house had once been three dwellings and didn’t look quite as it does now, for sure. A few more dilapidated old barns, a concrete-clad façade on one side and so on. What they didn’t realize was that behind that particular façade lay a building as old as the original church, dating back to the 11th century. Fascinating stuff. They restored with patience, half removing floors so there was light and a view of the height of the building. They have made wine in there once, but with no electricity in that part, it’s all manual and very hard work.

The Laithwaites have done an amazing story of carefully restoring the buildings and making it into a warm, welcoming home.

Harvest lunch
Ok, we hadn’t picked any grapes, but as Tony wasn’t able to stay for Saturday, our first lunch was on Friday, arranged by JMS (how many hats does he wear?!) and Rose, partner to James Luckie at Le Chai. A delicious spread of salamis, salads and bread to start; a hefty fish pie for the main course; and cheese as the finale. No cholesterol involved at all!

Our first harvest lunch – quite a spread, but certainly worth pacing yourself – accompanied by six interesting wines including very tasty 1999 and 2001 Château La Clarière, of course

Our first harvest lunch – quite a spread, but certainly worth pacing yourself – accompanied by six interesting wines including very tasty 1999 and 2001 Château La Clarière, of course

Saturday 3rd October

The first grapes came in yesterday around 5pm and the new cellar and new home of Château La Clarière kicked into action.

The main crop of Merlot, however, was scheduled to come in on Saturday and Sunday. We got up early. Then we heard the torrential rain, sheet lightning closely followed by heavy thunder. Dramatic stuff. JMS got up – no way can we harvest ‘til it stops. Short delay and at 8.30 we all got going.

Rain that near the time for picking – not such good news, but JMS was sure it would be fine as long as we got that fruit in over the weekend, so the fruit didn’t have too long to draw in the moisture. We couldn’t have worked much harder.

By Sunday 2pm all the Merlot was in. Most of it had excellent colour. A little bit was lighter and that will be tip-top for a drop of clairet (deeply coloured rosé).

Jean-Marc is proud of the new cellar facility for Château La Clarière

Jean-Marc is proud of the new cellar facility for Château La Clarière

Pumping over the cap of skins is essential to prevent reduction and volatility once a wine has started fermenting

Pumping over the cap of skins is essential to prevent reduction and volatility once a wine has started fermenting

The grapes ascend along the little conveyor belt, then drop onto the sorting table, that bobbles them along getting rid of any underpar berries and those with stalks attached

The grapes ascend along the little conveyor belt, then drop onto the sorting table, that bobbles them along getting rid of any underpar berries and those with stalks attached

Now that Merlot is well underway in its ferment, it’s smelling delicious too. Great news.

About Laithwaites Wine

Laithwaite's began in 1969, when Tony Laithwaite took a job washing bottles in Bordeaux... and fell in love with real wine and the people who make it. When he borrowed a van to share these delicious wines with friends and neighbours at home, things went so well that boutique wineries were soon queuing to take part. Today we're the UK's No.1 home-delivery wine merchant, with over 1,500 wines to choose from... including red, white and rosé, plus Champagne and sparkling, beer and cider.