- 24 Apr 2017 -

Dordogne Beautiful

I knew Bergerac's location in Gascony means I am in for a real treat. Foie gras and duck of course are just a couple of the gastronomic delights, and sont forget there some amazing local cheeses to die for. What I didn't know was what a pretty little city it is sitting on the Dordogne River.

This medieval market town is filled with Renaissance buildings and you will find yourself in a lovely park or quaint little square whenever you turn a corner. The weekly food market is much loved by locals and tourists alike, not so much for the food produce but a great forum for locals to socialise and catch up with each other. A stroll along the old river port and popping into the Maison des Vins is a must!

Saint Emilion is one of those magical places that you will never forget and leave you gasping for more no matter how long you have stayed or how often you visit. It is named as a UNESCO World Heritage site for a reason.

It stands second to none with its rich history with the signs of battles carved in its buildings made out of burnished gold limestone. It is also the home of the prestigious Chateau Angelus and Chateau Pavie which are the shining light at the height of the classification in the right bank of Bordeaux.

The windy cobbled steeets are laced with wine shops, wine bars and cafes with a wine theme; art galleries, and there are underground wineries and monuments to explore. The world famous macaroons and canele cakes are a must! Just follow the aromas and you will find your way!

In line with the environment, one can pop on the most recently introduced electric powered tut-tut for a tour around the outskirts of town to witness its architectural legacy with medieval chateaus and buildings or immerse in its world famous vineyards.

One of the highlight of my trip was visiting Chateau Feely in Saussignac listening to Caro Feely talk about the ethos, challenges and rewards in organic and biodynamic farming.

For those who reside in the UK, Laithwaites is a familiar household name but many are surprised to know it actually has its own family vineyard and winery in St Colombe, in the heart of the Cotes de Castillon, a stone throw from St. Emillion. It was a pleasure to be hosted by the young and enthusiastic Simone who showed us the vineyards, winery and cellars of Château La Clarière Laithwaite.

We then drove for no more than 5 minutes and reached the idyllic site of Le Chai au Quai, a 19th century cellar which sits along the bank of the famous Dordogne River at the edge of Castillon - La- Bataille.

The chai is my definition of a chef kitchen or the equivalent of the chemistry lab of a botanist. It is here where the winemaking team which comprise of Jean-Marc Sauboua (ex Chateau Haut Brion), Mark Hoddy and Glyn Le Var ages the wines, crafts the blends and finishes the wines. It is here where they can unleash their creative minds with complete freedom and choose to experiment the composition of different blends, ageing periods and vessels to create the aroma, flavour and texture profile they desire. The same innovative formula applies to the raw materials they choose to make these wines as they are free to source grapes from multiple vineyards ranging from appellations within Bordeaux from large estates to family establishments, and a few in Southern France.

This is a place where you as the visitor will experience winemaking first hand - whether it's some active engagement in battonage by spinning a wine barrel with some Chardonnay in the making.

...or comparing the taste profile of a wine aged in stainless steel or ceramic egg, before or after MLF, the winemaker or cellar hand is only keen to explain to you the reasons for why it is how it is given the path of evolution of the wine in question.

; Sauternes Study Trip: Part I - Barsac