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Bordeaux - The Wine-Lover's Dream City

Richard Esling - Monday, June 03, 2019
Bordeaux - The Wine-Lover's Dream City

Summertime. Time to travel, discover new places and experience more of the world’s wonders. For wine lovers everywhere, there is no better place to visit than Bordeaux. The first thing you notice when visiting the centre of one of France’s major cities, is the quietness. Traffic has been replaced by super-efficient, electric trams. A modern vibrant city, it has undergone a major makeover in the last fifteen years and is now back to its former glory - a stunning and beautiful town, which is often justly called the wine capital of the world.

Fabulous architecture abounds and the city centre is filled with characterful restaurants, each with a fine selection of local wines and dozens of wine shops. England particularly has a long standing and enduring relationship with Bordeaux, understandably so since we used to own it! When Eléanor of Aquitaine married King Henry II in 1154, the region of Aquitaine in south- west France became an English possession and remained so for 300 years until the end of the Hundred Years War, when the English army was defeated at the Battle of Castillon in 1453. How could they have been so silly?!

Ever since that time, trade with Bordeaux has continued at a brisk pace and the UK remains one of the premier markets for fine Bordeaux wines. One of, if not the, best known wine regions of the world, the range of wines produced is wide, both in terms of style and quality. From sparkling Crémant to sweet Sauternes, from crisp, dry Sauvignon Blanc to full bodied reds from Cabernet and Merlot grapes, all are wonderful discoveries. And with delicious everyday claret (the name derives from the French ‘clairet’ which originally was a light coloured red wine) at under £7 per bottle, to the top reds from the Medoc or Saint Emilion at several hundred pounds per bottle, there are wines to suit every budget.

Having appreciated these great wines sitting at home in Sussex, or perhaps in a restaurant, seeing just where they come from and how they are made has to come top of the wine-lover’s ‘To Do’ list. I have been travelling to the Bordeaux wine region for over 40 years, visiting the vineyards, tasting the wines and chatting to the producers. In the past few years, I have become a great fan of the wines produced by Dourthe, which sets the benchmark for the wines of Bordeaux, due to their passion for innovation and dedication to quality.

Number One Wine company in Bordeaux since 1987, it now owns no less than 9 chateaux, including Chateau Belgrave, a Grand Cru Classé from the Medoc and markets some first-class blends, both red and white, under the Dourthe No. 1 label, established some 30 years ago. The company has come a long way in the last nearly 180 years, since the hotelier Pierre Dourthe opened his wine merchant business in the city of Bordeaux. It now has a worldwide reputation for its prestigious range of exclusive wines, with thriving export markets in many countries around the globe, including the UK.

Dourthe has a great tasting room, shop and reception centre at Chateau Grand Barrail Lamarzelle Figeac, a Saint Emilion Grand Cru chateau just outside the town itself, which also is a must to visit on a trip to the region. Several of their other chateaux are also open for visits, including Chateau Pey La Tour, with its characterful Brasserie style restaurant, surrounded by vineyards.

In the meantime, whilst planning your trip to Bordeaux, get yourself in the mood with these fabulous wines from the Dourthe stable. Chateau Pey La Tour is a 176-hectare estate planted mainly with merlot grapes in the Bordeaux/superieur appellation. This is a very affordable claret, rich, smooth and concentrated, with a quality level and reputation far beyond its appellation. £10.69 for the 2016 vintage from Waitrose. One of the Dourthe flagships is Chateau Grand Barrail Lamarzelle Figeac - a succulent and refined Grand Cru Saint Emilion. Made from 75% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Franc, it is a jewel in their crown, deep, concentrated, with fine tannins, balanced fruit and a long finish with a touch of spice. £23 from Sainsbury’s for the very good 2012 vintage.