After catching flights from Islamabad to Paris and onto Bordeaux – I’m with friends in the city of Blaye and enjoying free time after four years spent working in Asia.
The good news is that conditions appear to have been optimal for the 2014 vintage. That’s a relief. After stellar vintages in 2009 and 2010, the years 2011, 2012, and 2013 were unremarkable by comparison.
This may have been one reason why the mood was particularly festive and bubbly at a party which friends Les and Clarissa invited me to on Saturday night at the home of friends Alain and Dominique Bredin – physicians and members of a local wine tasting group.
Within minutes I met some of Right Bank Bordeaux’s most colorful winemakers.
Isabelle Chetty shared the story of how she abandoned France when fifteen years old, took a job as a butcher in New York, then traveled the world working on cruise liners before spending time in St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands (St. Thomas is my birthplace, so we chatted about the isle we share in common). Eventually, she returned to Bordeaux where she and her brother now own and manage Château Mercier (Appellation Côtes de Bourg) with 23 hectares (57 acres) of south and west-facing slopes that include clay and gravel soils.
Isabelle shared generous helpings of her 2010 Cuvée Prestige, a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Malbec. I later learned how the wine goes well with Pyrénées cheese (coincidentally, I purchased the same Pyrénées at an open air market in Blaye that morning, where the vendor wearing a red beret insisted on pouring us glasses of red wine to drink while we tasted his cheese).
Corinne Chevrier-Loriaud shared some of her 2007 vintage Château Bel-Air La Royére (Blaye – Côtes de Bordeaux) a hearty blend with an intriguing composition of 70 percent Merlot and 30 percent Malbec. Great promise with this winery.
When he was not busy charming his audience, I greeted Yann Bouscasse. We first met last July. Previously the owner of the third largest container shipping company in the world, Yann and his wife Florence decided to move to Bordeaux – where they now own Château Cantinot. I had the fortune to buy futures in 2009 Cantinot years ago, and the cellared vintage is now balanced and a joy to drink.
What else is new? The $9.7 billion Tours Bordeaux high-speed rail project – begun in 2012 – will be completed by the end of 2015. It will shave more than an hour off train travel times from Paris to Bordeaux, reducing a typical three-hour twenty-minute ride to less than two hours. This is the world’s largest rail concession contract, meaning that the consortium that designs and builds the rail line will also operate and maintain it for fifty years. The project is massive, and the road between the City of Bordeaux and Blaye shows the buzz of construction and earthwork projects. Soon, Parisians will visit the southern wine world of Bordeaux for a day. No doubt many Bordelais will appreciate choosing to live outside the city. Regardless, the rail line provides evidence of how Bordeaux’s economy is revving up.