If you make good wine you need to tell people about it and more often than not it is only the Grand Vins of Bordeaux that have the time, money and staff to do so. This means that there are a myriad of Petit Chateaux out there making good claret that pass quietly under the radar. This is starting to change and Regis Chaigne is one of those movers and shakers. Not only does he make some fantastic wines – award winning claret, whites, rosé and clairet – but he makes the time to interact on social media to talk about them. What’s more he is involved in several enterprises to increase awareness of good value, high quality Bordeaux.
The idea of a wine maker being as approachable as his wines is somewhat of a novel concept in Bordeaux but Regis rightly deserves praise for his passion, pure hard work and dedication to raising the image of not just his own chateaux but Petit Chateaux across Bordeaux as well.
The Chaigne family have been wine makers for several generations and their chateaux, Domaine de Ricaud, Chateau Peynaud (Bordeaux Superieur) and Chateau Ballan Larquette, are based in and around the little villages of Cantois, Saint Martial, Saint-Pierre de Bat, Gornac and St Laurent du Bois in the Entre Deux Mers. Rather aptly, St Laurent du Bois is named for St Lawrence, one of the Patron Saints of Vine Growers and Wine Making.
Regis began his career after gaining his degree in electrical engineering but turned wine maker when his parents decided to retire. I think in many respects his previous engineering experience has given him a wider outlook on life which has benefitted his wine making. Regis may have studied viticulture and oenology later in life than some but the contacts he made whilst doing so, coupled with the instincts of a skilled engineer, have paid off. This year, 2012, Vignobles Chaigne celebrate their 20th anniversary as ‘Father & Son’ and Regis has much to be proud of. Over the past 20 years the estate has developed continously, new plots have been acquired and new techniques have been brought in.
I admire his words on his website, which express his precision and attention to detail:
“I often compare the work of the winemaker to that of a chef who, after selecting the finest ingredients at the market, will bring about the changes that will delight the palate of the customer. The only differences are: our tanks are larger than the cook pots, and the time scale is spread over several months and not a few hours.
But the similarities are obvious: the need for competence and an obsessive attention, constant monitoring of the evolution of transformation by tasting, current settings and finishing process, hygiene and cleanliness, appropriate equipment. The devil is in the details, and also in the essential quality of raw materials used, it is in both cases the sequence of elementary operations which will allow to create a great dish or a great wine.
When working in the cellar, half of working time is devoted to “do the dishes”: washing and sterilization of pumps, pipes, tanks, bins, buckets, and various utensils. It’s without doubt the same in the chef’s kitchen. . . “
I have enjoyed many of Regis’ wines and reckon that they give wines from more prestigious estates a run for the money – and in many cases beat them hands down.
The Chateau Ballan Larquette 2008 claret is a little star: rounded, well balanced, with ripe tannins and dark firm blackcurrant flavours, earthy undertones and notes of black cherry, crushed black pepper and blueberry. The price will shock you – it’s only £8.56 – as you’d expect a wine of this quality to be substantially higher. Regis’ principle in pricing to make his wines available to every wine lover, every day. I recommend you try his Chateau Ballan Larquette Bordeaux Clairet 2008 (£6.98) – if you haven’t tried Clairet before this will knock your socks off and if you have, then you will recognise that it stands well above its peers. It’s a beautiful wine.