Friday, November 26, 2010

Bordeaux Day 1 Part 2 

Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou 

Saint-Julien & Pauillac 

Latour, Ducru-Beaucaillou, Pontet Canet 
The grand Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou

     Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou is situated in the Saint-Julien appellation on the left bank south of Latour in the Medoc. Depending on the vintage, Ducru makes some of the best wine in all of Bordeaux. This famed Chateau, a gorgeous work of architecture that is as pretty as it is intimidating when in its presence, received its name because of the beautiful and large stones that are common in the soil of this property or “terroir”. Sitting in the heart of the appellation, Ducru sits on some of the best ‘terroir’ in Saint-Julien having those large stones in the vineyard property, as well as sitting right on one of the better gravel mounds, the heart of the best terroirs in Bordeaux. In fact, the best Chateau in Bordeaux such as Lafite or Latour, have vineyards sitting on the best gravel mounds on the left bank. The gravel mounds are large, archeological formations and deposits that make up more than just one property and can extend to multiple properties, but more or less are the reason for the best properties that have the best vineyards that produce the best fruit and therefore make the best wines, though in good vintages, plenty of great wine is available in all of the Bordeaux appellations at all prices.
The vineyards of Ducru-Beaucaillou, checkout that terroir!
     Our tour at Ducru was to be in French only and thankfully our Rosetta Stone lessons came in handy. We sat in the waiting area of the offices nervous of what we expected to be an uncomfortable tour. It turned out to be one of the most memorable experiences while on France on vacation for those two weeks. Many wine making terms are synonymous, no matter the language, mostly because they are French in origin so cepage, elevage, barrique, etc. were all familiar and having gone on many wine tours, even in French they are kind of the same and we were able to interpret on our own fairly well. But this one was great as our tour guide was the cellar master Rene Lusseau, and we found the challenge of interpreting the language barrier a fun challenge. We started in the vineyard and the layout of the vines on the property, explaining which vines were Cabernet Sauvignon and which were Merlot, which were older and which were younger vines that would go into the second wine, Croix de Beaucaillou, and then those from the oldest and best terroir destined for the grand vin Ducru-Beaucaillou.
The barrel room at Ducru
     Next we moved to the cellar to where the fruit came in from the vineyards during harvest to view the fermentation tanks and then the aging barrels the newly fermented wines aged in. We sort of discussed a different process of how wines are racked in Bordeaux, it is different than what I have seen in most Napa cellars I have been to.  Recently I asked Napa Valley vigneron Aaron Pott about this process called "Esquive" racking.  Aaron currently makes Napa Valley wine under his own label called "Pott", but years back cut his teeth in Bordeaux making wine and later at quite a few solid wineries in Napa.  According to Aaron it goes a little something like this:

"The little hole called an esquive on the head of the barrel is taken off and the wine pours into a small pan before a tube is inserted into it. The other side of the tube goes to another barrel next to it. Then inserted into the bung hole is a device called "une tete de chien" or dog's head, it is either attached to a small electric pump or can be manually pumped. The pressure pushes the wine through the esquive and through the tube into the other barrel. When there is no wine then you pull the tube out and tip the barrel using a hand cranking device that sets on another barrel or on the wall and tips the barrel forward to let out the wine. Now the wine is just falling into the pan. You can look through the stream with a candle and determine when the ideal time to stop lifting the barrel, that is when the wine runs clear."  Thanks Aaron!

The rear property of Ducru, the Gironde estuary is further back.

     Next we made our way across the property to the rear of the Chateau towards the tasting salon. See here the view of the palatial Chateau view, a stunningly beautiful work of architecture. Upon entering the salon, a beautiful purple and gold room has the 2009 vintage notes on the wall, along with the composition and tasting notes of the 2009 wines. Ducru has 3 wines, the last not from grapes from the actual estate vineyards but still hailing from Saint-Julien: 

Grand Vin: Ducru-Beaucaillou
2nd wine: Croix de Beaucaillou
3rd wine: Chateau Lalande-Borie 

     As we made our way from the foyer to the tasting salon, we passed through the 2009 wines in barrel resting in the depths of the Chateau’s ornate lower reaches. The entrance to the tasting salon had a grand setup displaying many sizes of bottles: magnums, Balthazar, all of the different wines produced by Ducru. The tasting room had the most unique sink I have ever seen. Made of beautiful stark white marble, the sink with a thin layer of water, would allow the taster to see their disposed wine form a rose blossom in the bottom of the sink. Original art work from artists such as Keith Haring lined the walls of the salon. This was spitting at its highest art form! Monsieur Lusseau was kind enough to gift us a few souvenirs for our visit, as well as pour us the 3 Chateau wines from barrel for the 2009 vintage. It was such a treat to try these wines in their youth as these wines were drinking so well. The grand vin 2009 was one of our favorite wines from barrel on that trip, up there with Vieux Chateau Certan and Haut-Bailly grand vins. As we tasted through each wine, we spit them into the sink and watched as the rose blossoms bloomed, gaining more color and concentration with each wine up the ladder. Truth be told, we did not spit much, if any of the grand vin as it was already so developed and delicious, Monsieur Lusseau actually told us to drink it and not spit it as it was so good, why waste it we all thought? He pointed right down to his gullet and that was sign language we could easily identify with.
Various sizes of Ducru-Beaucaillou

The smartest tasting room I have ever been in, this is the marble sink.

The overhead light helps to gauge the gradation of the wine's colors, you also see limestone brick from the original structure of the Chateau.

     As we left and made our way back above ground to catch our ride to our next destination, monsieur Lusseau officially anointed us ambassador’s of Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou. So here we bring you our experience and tasting notes for Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou. If you find yourself in Bordeaux, make sure you set up a tour here to see the land and try the wines, you will not be disappointed.
Lisa holding the 2009 barrel sample of the Grand Vin Ducru Beaucaillou

Yours truly

The rose bloom formed by the spitting of the wine

Rose bloom second view

Tasting Notes 

2009 Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou

Deep red in color. Complex notes of creme de cassis, currants, licorice, and black cherry; big but precise on the attack. The palate is enrobed in luscious fruit and big, sweet, silky tannins. The texture and finish is off the charts impressive. Big and ripe tannins frame the bountiful fruit with a very solid structure. An incredibly long 1+ minute finish, enticingly silky texture, expansive palate = incredible wine. Very developed for such a young wine, very persistent and pure. This was the best barrel sample we had on our whole trip. 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot; 90% aged in new French Oak, 10% in used (12 months) French Oak

2009 Croix de Beaucaillou, 2nd wine of Ducru

Mostly Cabernet Sauvignon here, silky long and smooth, fruit aromas and flavors like cassis, currants, and notes of pencil shavings...great concentration for a second wine, smooth finish, good tannic structure, a solid 2nd wine. This will be a great second wine, the feeling we came away from these two wines were they were definite buys, this one especially in the $40 range.

2009 Chateau Lalande-Borie, 3rd wine of Ducru

Cabernet Sauvignon (50%) is the majority of this blend, with plenty of Merlot (40%) and a large proportion for the left bank of Cabernet Franc (10%). The color is deep purple. Bright red fruit aromas, and you can taste the cabernet franc distinctly in the mix. Raspberry & currants, whiffs of orange peel. Unique for a 3rd wine. Though I am not so sure how much this is an actual 3rd wine, from what I have read this is a completely different property/vineyard west of the estate.

NEXT up is Pontet-Canet back in Pauillac!



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