Fine Wine has always, in my mind, been connected to Fine Art.
It’s partly what I mean when I write that, for me, wine opens the door to other interests; culture, food, art etc.
Along these lines it’s interesting to see wineries make this connection when they commission artists to design paper labels for their wine bottles.
Chateau Mouton Rothschild is a perfect example of this creative practice. They started commissioning artists to design labels in 1924 – nearly a century ago – and Jean Carlu, a graphic designer who made an enormous contribution to commercial art, was the first artist to have this honour.
After a pause before and during the Second World War, Chateau Mouton Rothschild re-ignited this approach and have commissioned an artist designed label every year since 1945.
A few of the impressive list of artists commissioned by Chateau Mouton Rothschild since 1945 include Miro, Chagall, Picasso, Braque, Dali, as well as Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, now King Charles 111. The complete list of artists with illustrations is published on the Ch. Mouton Rothschild website.
The most recent artist to work with the Chateau is the acclaimed figurative artist, Peter Doig. Peter Doig is a ‘man of many nations’ (Christie’s). He was born in Edinburgh in 1959, moved to Trinidad as a baby, yet he grew up mostly in Canada. He studied in London, England. He lives between Trinidad, London and New York. His paintings now sell for double digit multi, multi million £ prices.
In his label painting for the Chateau Mouton Rothschild 2020 vintage Pauillac first growth wine, Peter Doig uses the vineyard as the setting to celebrate the work of the people involved in making wine before it is bottled.
I really applaud this twinning of wine and art by Chateau Mouton Rothschild and I am on the hunt to find a bottle of the 2020 vintage Pauillac and see this painting on the label in real time!
Stop Press! You can see Peter Doig’s paintings at The Courtauld Gallery, London from 10 Feb to 29 May, 2023.
Caro, our friend and near neighbour in the Dordogne area of SW France has been writing about wine, and especially about building a biodynamic winery for some years.
Caro Feely, Co-Proprietor, Chateau Feely, Saussignac SW France
Two of her books: Grape Expectations and Saving our Skins tell the engaging account of sheer hard work and determination that Caro, her husband Sean and their daughters continually invest in their winery.
This year, Caro takes the plunge and enters the Wine Writing Competition 2022 in the category of Regenerative Agriculture sponsored by the acclaimed wine writer Jancis Robinson. Caro’s article is one of the 31 published essays and one of the 20 shortlisted essays from writers around the world. A great accomplishment!
Here it is: Regeneration – Changing our thinking by Caro Feely
I recommend reading this. Caro describes regenerative as “…transforming our thinking from extractive, how much volume of wine and financial value can we generate, to how many benefits can we create, for nature, for us, for the wider community. It is thinking circular rather than linear.”
The regeneration of land impacted by the Feely farming practices has resulted in one visible impact of increased biodiversity that we see: increased numbers of beautiful wild orchids.
Pyramid orchids in the garden
Jancis Robinson gives an overall comment about all the essay entries in this category of regeneration: …”Having read them all, we are happy to say that we have come away feeling inspired by and confident in the strides that are being made in the fields of regenerative viticulture and sustainable winemaking.”
Congratulations to Caro for her inspiring article and also to Jancis Robinson and her team for initiating this global essay competitive process and encouraging wine writers.
After so much time dreaming of holidays during lockdowns, here’s a wonderful opportunity to engage with the wine community in Sigoulès, near Bergerac in SW France by signing up for the summer event on July 24th of the Confrerie du Raisin D’Or de Sigoulès. A parade, a lunch and much fellowship awaits when you step outside your comfort zone and into a wonderful traditional event.
Taste Vin – Confrerie du Raisin D’Or de Sigoulès, SW France near Bergerac.
Check out the Confrerie website for all the details, menu and registration.
facebook: confrérie du raisin d’or
Summer festival Confrerie du Raisin D’Or de Sigoulès July 24
Saussignac, a small village of approximately 420 people in SW France in the Dordogne area of Nouvelle Aquitaine, really is a village of wine.
Route to Saussignac village
Dusk at the end of a hike in the Dordogne – the outline of Chateau Saussignac
Bergerac Wine Region showing Saussignac and Sigoulès
Apart from being the name of the village, where the chateau dates from the 17th century and is on the site of a much older building, Saussignac is also the name of the Saussignac Appellation D’Origine Contrôlée. The wines of this appellation are a late harvest botryrized wine made mainly from Sémillon grapes. This is a distinct category of the natural sweet wines produced from withered, shriveled grapes; a Vin Liqoreux, on the same honeyed track as a Sauterne or a Monbazillac. These wines of liquid gold can be savoured best with foie gras or a blue cheese, like Saint Augur or Roquefort, a dessert or even as a chilled aperitif. Several wine makers in the Saussignac area make these delicious wines, which should definitely be savoured by anyone visiting the area.
Saussignac is home to several wine makers, many of whom are organic farmers.
One such innovative organic farmer, writer and educator is Caro Feely from Château Feely. Caro is hosting a free zoom virtual presentation and discussion on the Climate Change Crisis on Friday, November 12 at 5.00 pm UK or 6 pm France. To sign up, Caro can be reached at email@example.com www.chateaufeely.com
An addition to the local community wine makers are Frank and Riki Campbell, new proprietors at Chateau de Fayolle in Saussignac. Their goal is to promote the wines of the area on a global level.
Chateau de Fayolle, under the new ownership of the Campbells, is offering platters of cheese and charcuterie with wine tastings in a newly renovated and up to date wine tasting room, which has wonderful views over the rows of vines. Great recommendations of the wines and ambience have been received from wine loving friends in the area and visitors from Bordeaux, so it’s well worth a visit. Check out details on their website: http://www.chateaufayolle.com
To complete the picture of Saussignac as a village of art and wine, I would be remiss not to mention the creative work of Mike and Lee McNeal Rumsby at Le 1500; the boutique hôtel, bistro and painting retreat in the middle of the village opposite Château Saussignac. Lee managed some of the world’s finest hotels and Mike’s paintings are sold internationally, so Le 1500 is definitely a place to visit and enjoy. http://www.le1500.rocks
The village of Saussignac continues to live up to its reputation as a place of Art and Wine.
This year in summer 2021, the Confrérie du Raisin D’Or de Sigoulès in the Bergerac Wine Region in SW France was innovative in fulfilling its mandate of promoting local winemakers.
Instead of hosting its annual Confrerie wine event attended by Confrerie members from across France, it creatively switched to participating in the local Festival for Winemakers of Sigoulès-Flaugeac. The Confrérie hosted a wine tasting event of local wines in which the public voted for the wines of their choice. Great Idea!
Awards were then given by the Commandeur Guy Bergeron, representing the Confrérie, to the winners in the 5 wine categories of Red, Rose, Dry White, Sweet White, and Late Harvest Liquoreux. All 19 winemakers who participated in the public tasting were thanked for their participation.
And the five winners were…
Rouge/Red wine: Stephanie et Philippe Barré-Perier in Saint Pierre D’Eyraud
Rosé/ Pink: Jean Philippe Cathal, Domaine Petit Marsalet, St. Laurent des Vignes
Blanc Moelleur/Sweet White: Durand Frères, Château Haut Lamouthe, Lamonzie St Martin
Blanc Liquoreux/ Late Harvest Liquoreux: Stéphane Dumoulin, Chateau le Cluzeau, Sigoulés-Flaugeac
Congratulations to the winners of the people’s votes!
All these community names are very familiar to me and I am so pleased to acknowledge the work and effort that went into this event.
Given the COVID restrictions in place, the Confrérie du Raisin D’Or de Sigoulès, under the leadership of the Commandeur and the support of the members, continues to be active in the community upholding its role as part of the UNESCO World Heritage recognition of Confréries in France as a fundamental aspect of French Gastronomie.
Much is written these days about the benefits of spending time in Nature. As an example, this year the Duchess of Cambridge’s Nature Garden will be a highlight of the Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show in London (May 21-25, 2019). http://www.rhs.org.uk
What better way to spend time in Nature than to have a wine-tasting and walking holiday in the French countryside, in the Dordogne Valley near the small town of Bergerac? For time-out from the hurley-burley of city and work life, it would be difficult to find a better refuge for rejuvenating personal and family time.
Dusk at the end of a hike in the Dordogne – the outline of Chateau Saussignac
Within a defined radius around the communities of Saussignac, Monestier, Sigoules and Pomport, all within an easy drive of Bergerac Airport, there are many wineries where a visitor can happily indulge all three interests of Nature, Wine and Walking, or Randonnées as the French call walks in the countryside.
Bergerac Wine Region and adjoining wine areas
Locating Chateau Ladesvignes
Bergerac Wine Region, SW France
Aquitaine now expanded to Nouvelle Acquitaine, encompassing part of the Charente
Holidays in the French countryside often involve staying in self-catering Gites often attached to wineries. I’ve written in my blog about most of the wineries I am going to mention and will highlight the relevant blog posts. All the wineries offer wine tastings. In cases where I know the wineries offer accommodation I am mentioning this but not making any recommendations.
Walking maps are available in the villages, usually in the Mairies (Mayor’s office) or on a notice board in public areas. Another resource is Walking in the Dordogne: Over 30 walks in Southwest France by Janette Norton, available on Amazon.
The Confrerie du Raisin D’Or, an association which supports wine tourism in the area, organizes walks every Monday and Thursday in July and August. These walks always finish with a Vin d’honneur – wine tasting of local wines. At this time of writing, the Confrérie’s Randonnées program hasn’t yet been finalized for 2019 but will be available on their website: www.confrerieduraisindor.com
The Confrérie du Raisin D’Or de Sigoulès
Also available from March through November are jazz evenings offered in different wineries. The next concert will be held April 12 and in June, the jazz evening will be in Pomport. Check out the 2019 Jazz en Chais program: http://www.jazzpourpre.com
SAUSSIGNAC (4 km from Monestier and 12 km from Pomport and 12 km from Sigoules, 19.6 km from Bergerac Airport)
Château Feely owned by Caro and Sean Feely
Olivier Roche, proprietor of Château LeTap
Pierre Sadoux, father and son, Chateau Court les Mûts, Vigneron of the Year 2018, Bergerac Wine Region, Guide Hachette
Chateau Feely and Chateau Le Tap are adjoining wineries in this village. Both are organic wineries and both offer Gite accommodation.
Chateau Feely and associated business French Wine Adventures offers wine courses, walks and talks in the vineyard. Chateau Feely has been listed in the Top 100 wine estates in France, once for education and valorization of ecological practices and a second time for accommodation. Caro and Sean Feely have been pioneers in the area. www.facebook.com/chateaufeely
Chateau Le Tap wine information and Gite accommodation offered by Olivier and Mireille Roche is available on their website. Most recently, I mentioned Chateau Le Tap in the December 2018 post, Soirée Vigneronne. www.chateauletap.fr
Chateau Court Les Muts is also in Saussignac and offers wine tastings. We have been to a jazz evening offered in their winery in previous years. See elizabethsvines archive: December 2017 “Bred in the Bone: Vigneron of the Year 2018, Chateau Court Les Mûts. Jeweller Annabelle Degroote offers her creative and hand made jewellery on site. The creative pieces are made from vine tendrils, pearls and stones.www.court-les-muts.com
Local accommodation is also available at Le 1500, a Chambre d’Hôtes (B&B) and Café offering tapas, lunch and dinner located in the centre of Saussignac village opposite Chateau Saussignac. Contact Mike or Lee: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sue and Humphrey Temperley, proprietors of Château Lestevenie
Gabriel Cuisset, co-proprietor with his brother and father of Château Grinou
Château Monestier La Tour. Time and the passage of time: Auguste Rodin quote, the sundial symbolising the passage of time and the watchmaking career of the Proprietor, Karl-Friedrich Scheufele and the Chateau Monestier la Tour emblem of the Crane.
Three wine chateaux and a restaurant come to mind with respect to Monestier.
Chateau Monestier La Tour, which I wrote about in January 2019 with their herbarium and biodynamic agricultural practices. See my last blog post: “Philosopher, watchmaker, winemaker: Chateau Monestier La Tour, Monestier”. I recommend phoning to book an appointment for a visit. www.chateaumonestierlatour.com
Chateau Lestevenie, which I have mentioned several times in various blog posts, most recently in the December 2018, Soirée Vigneronne post. Chateau Lestevenie offer fun pop up dinners in the vineyard during the summer months. Sue and Humphrey Temperley can show you the variety of beautiful orchids growing on their property. It’s important to phone and book ahead for the popular (and delicious) pop up dinners.
Chateau Grinou – one of the early adopters of organic wine making practices in the area is located between Chateau Lestevenie and Chateau Monestier La Tour. I have not yet visited the winery but have met the co-proprietor Gabriel Cuisset and sampled their 2018 wine at the December 2018, Soirée Vigneronne. www.chateaugrinou.com
We have enjoyed many lunches at the Relais de Monestier restaurant, located in the centre of Monestier very near to the Chateau Monestier La Tour. Le Relais de Monestier is on Facebook.
The Suite of wines from Château les Hauts de Caillevel
Chateau Ladesvignes and the view beyond
We have visited two wineries in this community, which is between Saussignac and Monbazillac.
Chateau Ladesvignes. I wrote about this winery in 2013, which seems a long time ago now! Apart from delicious white wines at this winery, the views from here over the Dordogne Valley looking towards Bergerac town are spectacular. www.ladesvignes.com
Another nearby location to experience this amazing view is the restaurant near Monbazillac: La Tour des Vents, one star Michelin restaurant and adjoining brasserie. We have enjoyed several meals here over the years. Important to reserve in advance. www.tourdesvents.com
Chateau Les Hauts de Cailleval: see elizabethsvines archive, December 2017 “Living the Dream, Chateau les Hauts de Caillevel. I have good memories of sitting by a wood burning stove on a cold December day, drinking hot coffee and listening to the proprietor tell his story about wine making. www.leshautsdecaillevel.com
Members of the Confrérie du Gateau Basque in Sigoulès
The colourful parade of confréries
In the nearby village of Sigoules, the annual wine fair (Foire aux Vins de Sigoules) has been held here on the third weekend in July for over 40 years. It’s organized together with the annual gathering of the Confrerie du Raisin D’Or, which attracts many Confreries from all over France. The confrerie members officially parade through the village on the Saturday morning in their charming and creative costumes symbolizing the gastronomique culture they represent. It’s a colourful and happy occasion held in the market square, near the Code-Bar and bistro frequented by many locals. Le Code Bar, Sigoules is on Facebook.
There’s much more that can be written about the pleasures of this area: its proximity to the city of Bordeaux, the great wine areas of the Medoc and St. Emilion, the nearby route of the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage, the historic sites of the 14th/ 15th Century 100 years war. There are the many food markets to tempt the visitor with local delicacies and kayaking on the Dordogne River to burn off calories. The list goes on and on.
My focus here is about the opportunity for tranquility, for relaxing in nature, enjoying excellent local wine presented to the visitors by the wine-makers themselves in most situations and for walking among the vineyards and lanes of this peaceful, rural area; and, without doubt, rejoicing in the experience and having fun.
The low barrel ceiling of the cellar area of the old Château in Saussignac in South West France is home to the 2018 New Wine presentation by local winemakers.
This cartoon says: drinking directly from the barrel, I’m reducing the impact of packaging on the environment!
We walk beside the dark stone exterior wall of the Château, using a powerful torch to prevent us slipping into muddy pot holes or against large rocks or tree roots. We open the outer door and are greeted by a burst of yellow light and the sound of cheerful chatter as we step down onto the old stone-flagged floor of this cavernous area.
An informal gathering of over 100 people of all ages, from grandparents to grandchildren, is here to sample some new wines. It’s a casual opportunity to meet neighbours and friends in this small village nestled in the vineyards of the Bergerac Wine Region near the town of Bergerac on the Dordogne River.
Samples of 2018 new wines from Château Grinou
Stretched along the middle length of the long, narrow room are picnic tables, the sort that get stacked in village halls for events, joined end to end to accommodate the community meal this evening. It’s organized as an “Auberge Espagnole” which for the uninitiated is a gathering in which every person or family bring their own food, drink and utensils and generally share what they bring. It’s basically Bring Your Own and Clear Up Afterwards! A fantastic, civilized and practical way for communities to socialize and share a meal together. After all, food, and in this case wine, is at the heart of most convivial community initiatives all over the world. So forewarned is forearmed: if you see a poster for an “Auberge Espagnole”, don’t try to reserve a room, start cooking and pack up your picnic basket!
Circulating around the room, we talk to three local winemakers who offered some of their new wines for tasting:
Gabriel Grinou from Château Grinou in nearby Monestier
Sue and Humphrey Temperley from Château Lestevenie, also in Monestier
Olivier Roche from Château Le Tap in Saussignac
Each winemaker mentioned that 2018 has been a challenging year due to the weather and the mildew. There was a wet spring followed by a hot summer that turned into the hottest summer in France since 1947. Mildew is a fungal disease that can affect the grapes and needs to be managed very carefully throughout the growing season and around harvesting time. For farmers such as these, who practise organic or near organic farming methods, there are bigger challenges dealing with mildew, as there are fewer options for fighting diseases.
in spite of the inherent challenges in farming, which vary year to year, the winemakers are overall positive about the 2018 harvest with better grapes and higher yield in general than in 2017, which was a very difficult year. I certainly see smiling faces among the group!
What we tasted:
Sue and Humphrey Temperley from award-winning Château Lestevenie offered their 2018 Bergerac Rosé. A blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon providing strawberry flavour with a hint of spice, Humphrey says ”…their best ever”. In the photo below, the bottle is empty! And as Sue says, “…unfortunately, you can’t see the amazing colour”. You can check out their website at: http://www.chateau-lestevenie.com
Sue and Humphrey Temperley, proprietors of Château Lestevenie
Olivier Roche from Château Le Tap, certified organic in 2010, offered his 2018 Bergerac White Sec. Consistently a good quality wine, this is our “go to” white wine. Olivier and Mireille Roche also offer gîte accommodation at their vineyard for wine tasting holidays! http://www.chateauletap.fr
Olivier Roche, proprietor of Château LeTap
Gabriel Grinou from certified organic vineyard Château Grinou generously offered a basket of new wines for tasting. The team of father and two sons are known for their high quality wines. I tasted several from the wine basket and found their new and still developing red to be sunny and rich with lots of potential. http://www.chateaugrinou.com
Gabriel Cuisset, co-proprietor with his brother and father of Château Grinou
Farming and wine making are challenging endeavours at the best of times. We greatly enjoyed the Soirée Vigneronne organized by the Cafe Associatif in Saussignac and wish all the winemakers a successful New Year with their New Wines.
In closing our last post for this year, we extend best wishes to all for a healthy, happy and peaceful New Year! See you in 2019.
Victoria, British Columbia offers that mix of Western Canadian history and urban charm itself. This is why we enjoy our summertime visits there so much.
Iconic Empress Hotel, Victoria
Munro’s Books, Victoria
Elegant 19C architecture: Union Club, Victoria
Rogers Chocolates : Delicious chocolates since 1885
Only in Canada: moose humour
Inner harbour, Victoria
Captain Cook who sailed into Nootka Sound in 1778 with MidShipman George Vancouver
These photos represent all the things we look forward to when visiting Victoria: browsing and buying books at Munro’s books, always a highlight of our visits; sampling delicious chocolates at Roger’s Chocolates, and generally taking in all the small town charm of British Columbia’s capital city. Each visit, I re-read the history of the early explorers on the statues around the inner harbour; quite often there is a seagull perched on Captain James Cook’s head.
On our most recent visit in June we discovered a restaurant new to us: 10 Acre Kitchen, one of three 10 Acre restaurants in downtown Victoria. This enterprise offers local farm to table imaginative cuisine and serves interesting wine. A definite recommendation for future visits.
We enjoyed beet salads and Dungeness crab cakes – light and delicious with a Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon blend white wine from Lock and Worth Winery in Penticton, British Columbia; also new to us!
10 Acre restaurants in Victoria BC
Lock and Worth Winery, BC : a new discovery
Lock and Worth Winery: Sauvignon blanc and semillon
I particularly enjoy this Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon blend. To me, this is the classic Bordeaux White wine blend that I am familiar with in SW France. It’s another opportunity to think about the wine related connections between SW France and Western Canada! What I enjoy about this blend and find very drinkable is that the Semillon gives depth and gravitas to the acidity of the Sauvignon blanc. At Lock and Worth, the winemakers produce wine that is un-fined and un-filtered so the wine is slightly cloudy. The winemakers say they make wines without pretense and this approach is behind their plain label bottles I will definitely plan to visit this winery on a future visit to the Okanagan Valley and taste more of their wines.
It’s always fun to discover new restaurants and wines and incorporate those experiences into familiar venues. I am looking forward to a return visit already!
References: 10Acres.ca Group of restaurants, Victoria BC
lockandworth.com. Lock and Worth Winery, Penticton BC
Winery proprietors Sylvie Chevallier and Marc Ducrocq are living their dream at Château les Hauts de Caillevel. Nearly twenty years ago, after careers in the corporate world, they decided to change course, live in the country, raise their children in a pastoral setting and make wine. Sylvie and Marc see themselves as partners with nature in the creation of wines from their property.
Official recognition of their Bio certification
After successfully completing oenology courses, Sylvie and Marc settled themselves at Chateau les Hauts de Caillevel in 1999 with the objective of making wine in the most environmentally friendly way they could. This approach culminated in their official certification as a “Bio” or a biologique/ organic farm in 2010, an achievement that deservedly gives them a sense of pride and satisfaction.
The vineyard is located high above the river valley on the plateau village of Pomport; approximately 20 minutes drive from Bergerac. Château les Hauts de Caillevel offers camping facilities as well as tastings to visitors. It’s a relatively small wine producer farming 18 hectares of which 8.70 hectares are red grapes and 9.30 hectares are white grapes and they produce eleven different wines.
Château les Hauts de Caillevel, winter view from the office
Driving along their expansive drive to the house and vineyard office, I feel the peaceful calm of this pastoral setting at the edge of the escarpment, which faces across the valley to neighboring villages. It’s the same sense of benign energy I have felt at another Bio winery in the Region, where I expected to see a unicorn appear from the surrounding woods at any moment.
It’s a chilly, misty December day and we are dressed warmly for the weather. I have made an appointment to visit the winery and meet Sylvie Chevallier on the recommendation of a colleague in the Confrèrie du Raisin D’Or de Sigoulès, the wine confrèrie I have had the pleasure of being a member of for several years. Sylvie Chevallier has a reputation for making good wine, recognized by the Guide Hachette. She is also someone who is recognized for her significant contribution to the area through her community work over the years.
December is a busy time for winemakers and so I appreciate the opportunity to visit this winery, which I did not know about previously.
As it turned out, Sylvie had other vineyard priorities she had to attend to on the morning of our visit. Undeterred, we have the pleasure of meeting her husband Marc. Over a coffee and warmed by the wood burning stove in their office, we settle down for an interesting conversation with Marc about wine making at Château les Hauts de Caillevel.
Several things stand out from that conversation that imply to me that here are two people who are risk takers and confident in their vision of making their own path in the wine-making world.
After completing their oenology training, they learnt about winemaking on the job with the help of external, experienced wine consultants.
They include in the suite of grape varieties that they grow an indigenous grape variety in the region called Périgord Noir, which has a lower alcohol by volume percentage than the typical varieties. In this way, they believe they are responding to the trend of consumers wanting to enjoy wine but with lower alcohol levels.
They grow Chenin Blanc, a grape variety more usually associated with the Loire Valley in France and in South Africa. According to AOC regulations, this variety can be blended in small quantities in the Bergerac Region white wine and Sylvie and Marc use Chenin in this way. They also make a 100% single varietal Chenin Blanc wine outside the AOC Bergerac Wine Region framework. I am interested to taste this as Chenin Blanc produces some of the greatest white wines in both Touraine and Anjou-Saumur in the Loire Valley. It’s a white wine that ages well.
We have a wide-ranging conversation and exchange of ideas about wine making both in France and Canada. We also talk about the trend to organic winemaking and the overall reduction in chemical usage, whether vineyards are formally certified Bio or not, that is widespread across the Bergerac Wine Region.
Towards the end of our visit, I ask Marc what was the biggest surprise in being a wine-maker over the years? His immediate response was the effect of nature and how one is at the mercy of the weather. His view is that wine-makers have to be a fatalist to accept what the weather brings. It’s an important reality check to hear this comment. I expect that wine makers also have to an overarching sense of optimism to cope with the unpredictability of nature.
After a pause, Marc also comments that the other surprise for him is how difficult it is to market wine due to various complications in the related processes. He feels this is a real issue for the smaller local wine producers, who can have difficulty making a living.
We run out of time to taste the wines of Chateau Les Hauts de Caillevel and so a return visit in 2018 will be planned. We do take a quick tour of the tasting room and I buy several wines including the 100% Chenin and a 2015 red, called Ebène, which is a Cabernet Franc and Merlot blend, to enjoy at home.
The Suite of wines from Château les Hauts de Caillevel
I appreciated Marc’s candour about the realities of being a wine chateau proprietor. Having the opportunity to visit and speak personally with winery proprietors in this way is for me, what makes wine come alive; recognizing that flow from grape to glass.
Driving down the winding road under a sunny blue sky towards Sigoulès, a village in SW France, I see in the distance coloured paper decorations stretched over the road at the village entrance and the large sign SIGOULES in yellow and gold letters.
It’s mid-summer and early in the morning. I parallel park in the field-cum-parking lot and feel the festive mood in the air as I walk over to the large central village square. People are up and about getting the place ready for the annual Wine Fair, including the gathering of the Confrérie du Raisin D’Or de Sigoulès. Stallholders are setting out their wares for sale: wines, olive oils, lavender oils and soaps, food items and all manner of regional products. They are anticipating the bustling crowds of visitors who will come over the weekend to celebrate and enjoy the local wine and food culture of the area.
I meet Joanna Urwin, a local film-maker who has generously offered to make a video of the festivities and we discuss “photo-opps”, where she can best position herself to film public events and where I will talk about Confréries and their activities.
Confréries have their origins in the guilds of the Middle Ages. Today, they are an integral part of local tourism, economic development and cultural initiatives supporting regional products. They were recognized by UNESCO in 2010 as an intangible cultural heritage; an aspect of the “Gastronomic meal of the French.” Confréries also encourage the discovery of regions through such initiatives as well-attended music concerts and popular guided walks in the areas. The Confrérie du Raisin d’Or de Sigoulès also provides a bursary to a student engaged in wine studies, thus helping to support the education of the next generation of wine professionals.
Confréries operate in a reciprocal manner and members visit other confrérie events across France and in other areas of Europe. This is representative of their value of conviviality and social connection. Members of 45 other Confréries, both in France and as far away as Belgium attend the event in Sigoulès.
The attached video, created by Joanna Urwin of VideoProFrance, provides an insight into this local Foire aux Vins and the annual public celebration of the Confrérie du Raisin d’Or de Sigoulès in SW France.
Monbazillac wine and rainbow trout
Apple tart in Sigoulès
Confrérie du Piment d’Espelette
Joanna Urwin of VideoProFrance filming in Sigoules
From my perspective, one of the many pleasures of exploring the world of wine is to enjoy a new wine experience and its environment. Attending a gathering of the Confrérie des Compagnons des Vins de Loupiac is a perfect example of this.
Roman history and a hidden gem of vins liquoreux come together in the Loupiac wine area near the city of Bordeaux in SW France.
Loupiac is named for the wolves which once roamed this area and the Roman heritage is in the original name of Lupicius, the wolf.
Loupiac AC and the town of Loupiac is situated 40 km to the south west of Bordeaux, nestled up against the better known Barsac and Sauternes Appellations yet on the right side of the Garonne River. Look at the map of the Bordeaux wine region too quickly and Loupiac is nearly invisible.
Part of the Bordeaux wine region showing Loupiac AC near Cadillac
Loupiac AC is one of the grouping of Graves and Sweet Bordeaux wines including vins liquoreux in the Bordeaux wine region.
60 winegrowers cultivate the 370 hectares of Loupiac appellation vineyards in small parcels of land, none of them larger than 10 hectares.
As with vins liquoreux in other areas of SW France, the grape varieties are: Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle and the blending percentages in Loupiac AC are generally 80%, 15%, and 5% respectively. All grapes are harvested by hand, in several consecutive passes.
It is the proximity to the Garonne River which produces the morning mists followed by hot, sunny afternoons. This climate in turn contributes to the creation of the noble rot or botrytis cinerea which concentrates the sugars in the ripe grapes and results in these honeyed, complex wines.
Increasingly, people are recognizing that these wines can be enjoyed with a variety of foods, not just the old fashioned view of sweet wine with sweet puddings.
At the Confrérie meal, the varied menu included pâté, rabbit, cheese as well as dessert.
Foie gras with apple
As we progressed through the menu, we sampled a range of Loupiac AC wines from different chateaux and different vintages, from 1995 to 2015 demonstrating how well these vins liquoreux age. I was intrigued by the unfolding aromas and tastes across the years. As one of the winemakers explained, the wines develop their mellow, honeyed almost fortified intensity over time not because they become sweeter with age but because the acidity drops with the ageing process thus bringing the sweetness to the fore.
Clos Jean 1995
Domaine de Noble 2015
Domaine des Pins de Pitcha 2005
Clos Jean 2011
Ch Loupiac Gaudiet 2013
Loupiac AC Vin Liquoreux
I found this visit to Loupiac and the vin liquoreux and food pairing to be inspirational, especially with the aged wines.
Other wine and food pairing suggestions include chicken roasted in Loupiac wine, duck breast prepared with soy sauce and Loupiac wine, and lemon puddings. And, of course, as an apéritif. All served with chilled Loupiac AC wine, between 4-8’C.
I have already experimented making up a recipe for the foie gras and Granny Smith Apple starter with a biscuity base.
Experimentation is the order of the day, encouraged by the day of discovery at Loupiac.