Though not really on fire, the Bordeaux region of France is hot. Very hot. There have been successive heat waves during past weeks (the most recent saw temperatures of 41 celsius, or 106 Fahrenheit). These leave us sunburned, thirsty, and reclining on patios during windy evenings sipping glasses of wine to cool down.

Midnight cooling down at a sidewalk wine bar

One result of this blast of sunshine is that grape vines are now leafy and full. So far, the weather has been good. Throw in a few rain showers to slake thirsty vines, and 2015 could be a stellar year for wine. The heat may shorten the growing season: harvest could begin in the first, rather than the traditional third, week of September.

Irrigating grapevines here is illegal. Vines have to push lower to seek sparse moisture. This becomes difficult when soils are dry and hard, as they are now. Evening drizzles have been insufficient to keep vines happy.

Fortunately, the forecast says heavy thunder showers are on the way.

Last week I visited winemaker Thomas Marchand at Château l’Espérance in Blaye. This modern facility is located on the right bank of the Gironde River. They produce white, rosé, and red wines with phenomenal quality for the price. Below is footage I shot of the château with a Phantom 2 drone. We would have shot more, but after the drone careened off a wall and snapped a propeller, we decided to call it a day. (Thanks for letting us use your music, Nico Vlahavas.)

Forget the Critics

Our friend Julien Pouplet (featured in the Russell Crowe narrated documentary Red Obsession) now works in Blaye for a new wine store named La Cave. He has been a wine consultant in the cities of Bordeaux, Saint Emilion, and Blaye. Julien has the rare ability to sample French wine and discern the vintage and region of origin. I recently presented three ‘mystery bottles’ over the course of days and he correctly guessed the vintage and origin of a 1996 St. Julien (Medoc) Bordeaux, a 1998 Saint Emilion Bordeaux (he knew the slope it came from), and a 2014 one-hundred percent Syrah from the Rhone Valley.

In the video below Julien explains how he does it, and he shares other wisdom.

Bourg Hospitality

Last week I also visited friends at Château Mercier, which has been in the Chety family since 1698. (We took drone footage there weeks ago.)

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Inside Château Mercier

Lunch, Isabelle Chety assured me, would be usual fare. For eight people we uncorked five bottles of wine, delved into a scrumptious salad hand-picked from the garden that morning, then dined on entrecôte steak rubbed with garlic and red wine-infused salt.

Isabelle and Charlotte at Château Mercier
Isabelle and Charlotte at Château Mercier

Afterwards we sampled six types of cheese before eating three different desserts. And finally?  Coffee.


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Original 1698 document granting land title to Château Mercier

What’s Next?

The small, densely populated region of France known as the Alsace borders Germany and Switzerland. It produces delicious white wines such as Riesling and Gewürztraminer. If you want to learn more (including which wines match curry dinners), tune into future posting from Vino Expressions…


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    1. I think you are also getting baked by heat over in Provence…Enjoying that splendid Rosé?

  1. Interview was nicely done! Julien sounds exceptional.

  2. I received this email from Christophe Viguié, who deals in oak for wine and who enjoyed this post –

    Dear Tom,

    Thanks for email and link !! Whaoouuu ! Fantastic… it was nice to meet you and Les in Blaye… I will be very happy to visit you again and talk about wines…

    I will also be happy to organize for you a visit of Tonnellerie du Monde, our premium brand cooper…

    When back from vacations in September !



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