37 hectares of vines and 600 years of history

December 17, 2008
img_6789-3There are hundreds of châteaux in the Bordeaux region but few are truly worthy of the name. Château de Pitray, however, is a real château: a neo-gothic celebration of renaissance architecture surrounded by hundreds of acres of forest, parkland and vineyards. His mother’s family have been here since the 14th century; his ancestors built the existing house in 1868 and today Jean de Boigne manages 37 hectares of vines that produce Pitray’s excellent Côtes de Castillon wines. The terroir here is similar to the limestone côtes of nearby Saint Emilion and the vineyards are planted with merlot and cabernet franc vines. Jean’s top cuvée – la Madame – is fermented and aged in new oak barrels. Aromatic complexity (spices, caramel, black fruit), elegance, balance – the wine is superb; but it’s also great value, especially compared to its grand cru classé neighbours a few kilometres west. The de Boignes opened Pitray’s doors to tourism some years ago and today you can stay in one of their splendid chambres d’hôtes rooms all of which overlook the expansive grounds. Storytellers from the Brothers Grimm to Walt Disney could not have found a better archetype for their fairytale castles.

Comte et Comtesse de Boigne
Château de Pitray, 33350 Gardegan



If God forbade drinking, why would he have made wine so good? – Armand Jean du Plessis de Richelieu

December 16, 2008
img_6667The King’s minister, Cardinal Richelieu, in a quest to find the best vineyards in the Bordeaux region purchased lands here on the Tertre de Fronsac. His nephew built the château which still bears the family name. Dutch winemaker Arjen Pen gave up a career in the airlines business and now co-owns Château Richelieu where he cultivates around 10 hectares of vines organically. The exceptional terroir has allowed Arjen and his talented team (which has included img_6783expert advisors like Stephane Derenoncourt) to produce a very fine wine, much fêted by the pundits on both sides of the Atlantic. Within the classical 17th century house, are five chambres d’hôtes whose names follow a Musketeer theme – Athos, Porthos, Aramis, D’Artagnon and, downstairs, a suite named after their arch-enemy, Richelieu. Three red wines are produced: an easy-drinking, lighter-style Fronsac called La Temptation, the main cuvée Château Richelieu and a prestige wine called La Favourite whose 2005 vintage was awarded 93 points by Mr. Parker. Arjen’s talents are taking him even further afield in the wine world – his most recent projects in South Africa are starting to bear fruit and one imagines that this Flying Dutchman will go far!
Arjen Pen, Château Richelieu, Chemin du Tertre, 33126 Fronsac


Dreaming Spires in a French Vineyard

December 16, 2008
img_6515Drive up into the hills just north of Bourg-sur-Gironde and look out for the spire-topped turrets of the Chateau de la Grave. A real little 18th century castle in the middle of 45 hectares of vines, the family home of the Bassereau family is also a wonderful bed & breakfast. Philippe Bassereau, the 4th generation of his family to work the vines here, produces red and white Côtes de Bourg wines, a rosé and even some sparkling Crément de Bordeaux. Valerie Bassereau takes charge of the baronial chambres d’hôtes rooms, one of which has a circular bathroom in the tower. The property’s wines are distributed in the UK and you can even rent a row of vines here. Stay for a weekend, visit the impressive cellars and explore this area they call the Bourgeais: a pretty countryside of hilly vineyard slopes, small-scale farming and ancient river ports.

Valérie and Philippe Bassereau, La Grave, 33710 Bourg-sur-Gironde



A wine between friends

December 16, 2008
Pascal and Marielle have just finished their 22nd harvest at this very pretty winery in the hills above Gauriac in the Côtes de Bourg appellation. Architect Marielle directed the conversion of the ‘maison des vignes’ – a very smart gîte in the midst of the vineyard. She has a passion for interior décor and garden flowers. Her most recent project is the creation of a second gîte which is to include a spa and massage room.  img_63941Pascal produces some outstanding wines from 15 hectares of merlot, the cabernets and a little malbec. You can find the property’s wines in some of the finest restaurants in France or go along to Gauriac where he’ll be more than happy to give you a taste of his characterful and complex côtes wines.
Pascal and Marielle Méli, Château Bujan, Gauriac 33710 


Plassac, Gironde 8th December

December 10, 2008