Not that she is that interested. Milk or cream, preferably lightly whipped, that’s what she wants. We on the other hand, we take every opportunity to open a bottle of champagne. This summery Saturday afternoon the choice is pink bubbles from Vilmart & Cie. We raise our glasses and toast for all beautiful cats around the globe and especially for little Princess, of course. It is the 8th of August; it is the international cat day, World Cat Day.
Champagne Vilmart Cuvée Rubis Brut is beautifully deep orange-red, yes you can come to think of rubies. Fine ample effervescence. Dark berries and bready touch in the nose, concentrated rich fruit on the palate. Delicious texture and exquisite flavour palette where strawberries and cranberries dominate and taste long, so long. This is rosé champagne with fresh weight. Must be one of the most delicious ones we have tasted.
A Premier Cru with base wine of 90% Pinot Noir and 10% Chardonnay from vintages 2009-2010, matured ten months on large oak barrels. Of course oak, this is Vilmart. A house were all wines are raised in barrel. Size and time depending on final product.
The bottle has rested in our cellar in almost two years after our visit at Vilmart in Rilly-la-Montagne the autumn 2013. I take a look in the product sheet and read that Vilmart’s owner, as well as winemaker, Laurant Champs considers it to be at its optimum after one to two years. Well, it will be hard to become any better than this. We make a memory note, at the next visit we must put more Rubis in the boxes.
Little Princess was however totally uninterested of pink champagne. Did not want to be on the picture, but went quickly in through the cat door to the waiting milk bowl. A bit surprising therefore, how fast she joins us when the bottle with dinner wine is to be photographed. A white bordeaux is put on the table and suddenly she comes and jumps up to inspect it.
This time the label says Coucheroy. A very nice Sauvignon Blanc with fine oak character from vintage 2009, from André Lurton’s château with the same name in Pessac-Léognan. The name Coucheroy (something like “the king slept here”) is said to have been born a stormy night many hundred years ago, when the French king Henri IV spent a night on the castle. Royal glory, then it is good enough for little Princess.
I am not going to travel far from the Intendant in the Bordeaux city centre. I thought I should go looking for the home of my January favourite, Château La Garde, in Pessac-Léognan.
Pessac-Léognan is the commune appellation we should remember for three things: heritage, class and red. The heritage is of the very best rank. The classification comprises the best estates, but is often forgotten when talking classifications of Bordeaux. And red? Yes, Pessac-Léognan is in fact dominated by red wines, although I often think of the region south of Bordeaux as white wine country.
It is just a quarter of an hour from the city centre and there, squeezed in among the southern suburbs, the first vineyards are found. An airborne arrival to Bordeaux, that is to the Mérignac airport, implies a landing right in Pessac-Léognan, the most northern part of Graves. The spot where grapes were grown already 2000 years ago. A spot proud of its rich heritage.
Claret, the light red Bordeaux wine, which won the heart of the Englishmen already in the Middle Ages, came from this neighbourhood. The vineyards in Graves were already well established when the Dutch came to Médoc to fulfil their ditching assignment in the 1700s. During the 300 years when Aquitaine was under English rule, from 1152 to 1453, the claret literally flowed into London from Graves.
Château Haut-Brion, the only estate in Graves classified for red wine in 1855, excelled early. 2013 marks an anniversary! It is 350 years since “Ho Bryan” was established as a luxury brand in London. The owner Arnaud de Pontac had persued a successful strategy and differentiated his wine from the competitors’. Darker, more power – simply one class better. And three times the price. The good Arnaud was a real businessman.
Pessac-Léognan also holds the oldest estate in Bordeaux. Château Pape-Clémant counts 1299 as its birth year. That was the year when the coming Pope Clemant V got the estate as a gift from his older brothers. Today it is considered as one of the best estates of the appellation.
Red, red, red. Delicious wines are made from both blue and green grapes raised on the light gravelly and sandy soils. I often think white when thinking Graves, but the fact is that about 80% of the production in Pessac-Léognan is red wine! The traditional Bordeaux grapes are grown on the appr. 1700 hectares. Cabernet sauvignon is the signature grape for the red wines, with Merlot as runner up. Sauvignon blanc and Sémillon dominate the white.
Pessac-Léognan is an appellation of recent date, born on September 9, 1987. And we should note the for Bordeaux unusual scope; this commune appellation includes both red and white wines.
You could think that the appellation comprises only the two communes that have given the area its name. But that is not the case. Ten communes, or rather villages, are included; Mérignac, Pessac, Talence, Gradignan, Villenave d’Ornon, Canéjan, Léognan, Cadaujac, Martillac, Saint-Médard-d’Eyrans. Remember them if you can! But no, that is not necessary, Pessac-Léognan will do fine.
Then it is time for the classification. Graves has one of its own, a fact easily forgotten in our eagerness to learn the most distinguished estates in the classification of 1855. All the 16 estates awarded “cru classé” in Graves are located in Pessac-Léognan. The classification, without any internal ranking, was established as late as 1953, with an extension 1959 to the one of today. Six estates are classified for red and white wine, seven for red only and three for white. Château Haut-Brion is of course among the classified estates in Pessac-Léognan too and is thus, as the only estate in Bordeaux,”double classified”.
What about Château La Garde then, do I find my way there? Yes, but it is a trip that will end as far south as I can come in Pessac-Léognan, in the commune Martillac. On the way south I pass several famous names and the palate starts longing for the delicious liquid. Why not a few drops from one the classified estates such as Domaine de Chevalier, Château Olivier, Château Smith Haut Lafitte, Château Haut-Bailly…
I can also conclude that Pessac-Léognan is André Lurton-land. The renowned winemaker’s properties are not located far from each other. There are the names so well known from the labels of the white wines we often find in Sweden: Château de Cruzeau, Château la Louvière, Château Couhins Lurton, Château de Rochemorin och Château Coucheroy. The latter two reliable, affordable, pure Sauvignon blanc wines, often poured on our tastings as typical examples of a Bordeaux white. But again – red wines are made on all the estates.
So, why not choose a red Pessac-Léognan the next time?
Note. All the 16 classified estates in Pessac-Léognan (Crus Classés de Graves):
White wines: Château Couhins, Château Couhins-Lurton, Château Laville Haut-Brion.
Red wines: Château Haut-Brion, Château de Fieuzal, Château Haut-Bailly, Château La Mission Haut-Brion, Château La Tour Haut-Brion, Château Pape-Clément, Château Smith Haut Lafitte.
Both red and white: Château Bouscaut, Château Carbonnieux, Domaine de Chevalier, Château Latour-Martillac , Château Malartic-Lagravière, Château Olivier.