… flash, bang, wallop; stones, is it, pinging on the metal table in the garden? No; hail! At first light – heart in mouth – out to check the vines. Very, very wet BUT … no damage I could see.
It’s so obvious now how Greeks, Romans etc could believe in angry gods up there in the clouds with thunderbolts, punishing presumptuous men.
So … Day 2. Our group of 24 sets off, over the ‘seas’ (rivers) for Pauillac in the Médoc, and a producer who perfectly exemplifies what our Company is all about. Yesterday was mostly about the wines we make in Castillon and where Laithwaite’s began. Today it’s about the sort of producer we love to work with.
Pascale Peyronie and her 88-year-old father have 20 super-prime hectares in Pauillac. They are not super-wealthy like their neighbours and last month Pascale herself loaded our order on to the lorry. In her big heels, probably. Grandfather managed the estate for the Rothschilds of Mouton and kept the estate going through the war. (So guess he was in charge of making the legendary Mouton 1945)!!!
He invested his salary in the small bits of ‘workers’ or Crus Artisans vineyard that lie in and around the greats; Mouton, Lafite, Latour and the others. Today Pascale’s vines are not just near those of Mouton they are actually intermingled. She takes us to see some frequently confused rows up to the great gravel plateau of Pouyalet to the north of Pauillac.
Her property here is called Château de Roque Milon, it covers 14 hectares of prime land. There is no finer wine terroir. Period. This is where Mouton has bought several bungalows just to demolish and plant vines. Crazy? Not when Mouton is £600 a bottle. We sell Pascale’s Roque Milon for a twentieth of that. I’m not knocking Mouton and the others. Without their efforts wine would just not be what it is today. They invented ‘Fine Wine’ for the world. I just feel its a pity they are now ‘Millionaires and Investors Only’. Who can open a £600 bottle of wine? I certainly couldn’t. Just couldn’t. So I must be mean? What I open and pour a lot are wines like Pascale’s ‘The unknown wines from next door, the Cleverer Buys’ are my obsession. Thankfully our customers like them too. You just have to spend your life out there tracking them down. But there are worse jobs.
This wine makes total sense. Not all wine makes sense. Across the road the ex-property developer new owner of Château Pedesclaux is busy encasing his Château in a big glass box. I haven’t quite got my head round … why the … That makes better wine?
Back to Pascale’s other Château; Fonbadet, for a tour and tasting. She’s so lovely and straight and open. Everyone falls for her. Especially the girls. She’s a star, their heroine. No Bull at all. She will soon come over to Theale and Glos – then Connecticut – to talk to all who can’t come here.
Finally to Rauzan Segla the other ‘Chanel’ Château for final tour and tasting. Very excellent and reasonably affordable Grand Vin. Another brilliant new cellar design; both functional and beautiful by my old mate John Kolassa who, like me, came out to Bordeaux from Britain as a student in the 60’s and like me got hooked. Stop talking retirement John. It’s not possible. But … a tip … I just wouldn’t let Karl Lagerfeld design any more ‘special’ wine labels. Stick to the frocks, Karl.
Grand final dinner/reward for all my lovely young people is at La Tupina; Jean-Pierre Xiradakis’ (that’s Basque not Greek) unique temple to traditional Gascon country cooking. Lotsa meat, blood, guts and stuff. Glorious megacalories … but scary for some. The sight that greets you on arrival reminds me so much of Madame Cassin’s kitchen where I was taught all about traditional French country food for over thirty years. The fireplace and all.
The group were surprised to see me embraced and kissed on both cheeks by Le Patron … he’d seen my French TV debut last night!! Je suis un star!
He put out the bottles of his Blanc Limé for all. When I was a penniless cellarhand “un blanc limé, SVP” was what I bought in bars; 20 centimes or 2p, white wine and lemonade. Sort of a Bordeaux spritzer. Done right, lovely on a hot night like tonight.
Then ‘Pacherenc de Vic Bilh’ unpronounceable delicious slightly sweet white from deepest Gascony. Good with duck. And then Domaine de Chevalier 2011. Great Graves. Good with duck. Not much point ordering anything not good with duck round here.
Riotous round a big table. Noisy crowd are we. Anne given flowers. These staff trips were Anne’s idea. She invented them and has led them all for decades. She was our head buyer for many years and so has the contacts that get us into châteaux no-one else can. She also gives up a helluva lot of her time. Great night. Great trip. Hope we manage to catch the plane home.