Paul Smith, our Financial Director, has again had the chance to visit Bordeaux to discover new wines, chateaux and meet its wine makers. This is the fourth in this series of blogs about his trip and his discoveries . . .
My visit to Bordeaux offered a valuable chance to visit Chateau Reynon, one of the remarkable chateaux owned by Denis Dubourdieu. I met his family and was invited to taste their beautiful wines. Whilst writing up my notes today I learnt that Denis had died last week following a long illness. He was an extraordinary man; well respected within the wine world, with a brilliant mind and a unique gift for wine making. He had just received the award of Knight of the Legion of Honour for his exceptional work with wine. Both Nick and I would like to offer our sincere sympathies to his family during this sad time.
Dubbed the ‘Professor of Bordeaux’ and the ‘Pope of White Wine’ Denis was made Decanter Man of the Year 2016 for his outstanding contribution to modern wine making. Denis was a Professor of Oenology and was both an insightful wine scientist and an outstanding wine maker. He was a consultant at many well known chateaux across Bordeaux – including First Growths Chateaux Cheval Blanc (Saint Emilion), d’Yquem (Sauternes) and Margaux (where he oversaw their white wine Pavillon Banc). He also worked with many wineries in countries far beyond his home (Italy, Spain, Japan and Greece just to name a few). His influential research had lead to him being cited globally more than 7000 times.
Denis was considered to be one of the best specialists around in white wines and revolutionised their production in Bordeaux. He consulted at Chateau de Malle, home of two of the lovely white wines Nick introduced to the UK several years back: the dry white M de Malle and sweet Sainte Helene. Denis’ style was characterised by aromatic purity; preferring complexity over power, and his wines have been lauded by wine critics as ‘scintillating’, ‘tantalizing’ and ‘profound’.
The wines from Denis’ own estates are worth hunting for and you’ll be pleased to learn that many of them are reasonably priced.
Denis was brought up in the little sweet white wine making village of Barsac (both he and his wife come from long established wine making families in this region). Together with their sons Fabrice and Jean-Jacques the family own several estates centred around Barsac, including: Sauternes & Barsac Second Growth Chateau Doisy Daene; Chateaux Floridene (Graves), Reynon (Cadillac & Cotes de Cadillac), Cantegril (Sauternes & Barsac), Haura (Graves & Cerons).
Although famous for his vast experience and formidable knowledge in the production of white wines Denis also crafted sleek and refined reds and roses that bear his hallmark aromatics. At Chateau Reynon (circa £12 a bottle) he increased his plantings of the red grape Petit Verdot, known for its deep flavours and fragrance of violets and sandalwood. The aim is to increase Petit Verdot in the vineyard up to 20% of all grapes grown (the highest percentage in all Bordeaux!).
We were given a tour of the grounds and cellar of Chateau Reynon when we arrived by Fabrice. The vineyards in this region have had a huge amount of rain in May and early June so they are a little late in flowering.
During the tastings I encountered a familiar wine from our old friends the Arbo family at Chateau Puyanché. Nick first discovered Puyanché back in 2008 and was impressed by this little claret from the Cotes de Castillon. He was the first to introduce it to the UK and sent samples out to wine critics and the press, who were also impressed with its quality. Since then Chateau Puyanché has gone on from strength to strength; the chateau now has a website and has expanded with the acquisition of Chateaux Godard Bellevue and Les Moulins de Coussillon.
Dinner at Chateau Reynon was a very friendly affair in which I was fortunate enough to sit next to Fabrice’s wife, Di Dubourdieu Sun. Di is Chinese and met Fabrice through their mutual love of Sauternes at an event focusing on matching the great wines of France with Chinese cuisines. The sweet wines of Bordeaux feature heavily in Di’s life; she is an ambassador for ‘Sweet Bordeaux‘ and shares her food and wine pairing skills on You Tube. Di sees the sweet Bordeaux wines as very feminine, firstly, for their delicate sweetness; and secondly because of their alluring aromatic intensity. According to Di one Chinese region in particular, Sichuan, has had a huge influence on Chinese food and she finds Sweet Bordeaux wines go marvelously well with strong-flavored Sichuan dishes.
Sweet Bordeaux whites have traditionally been paired with desserts, blue cheese and foie gras but this is rapidly changing. Producers have evolved and now have plenty of new ideas when it comes to matching their sweet whites up with modern and contemporary recipes. Wine styles have also modernised with many wine makers devising fresher styles of sweet whites and creating fashionable dry whites using their expertise in this field. Producers of sweet whites have had to fight for their foothold in the market place as they are dwarfed by the notoriety of Bordeaux’s reds. Being over shadowed, however, has lead to this being one of the most progressive and innovative regions in Bordelaise wine making.
The Dubourdieu’s website can be found here – I can heartily recommend:
Chateau Reynon. This is an insider’s Claret and is not particularly well known outside France. Benefiting from the Dubourdieu’s considerable skills this wine is a really smart buy.
Le Rose de Floridene. Lovely Rose with Cabernet Sauvignon making up the majority of the blend. Truly fine and fragrant.
Chateau Doisy Daene. The Dubordieu’s flagship sweet white. We had a bottle of this with dinner and it was divine!