jerry and jean

jerry and jean

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Tastin' the grape!

beautiful old Carousel  in the park

waiting in the park

Jerry waiting for the toilet before the trip

First Chateaux - Figerac

Today we went on a wine tour with an outfit called (oddly enough) Bordeaux Wine Tours.  We booked it through the Tourist Info office. 85 euro apiece.  We met there at 2:00.  There were 8 in our group  A couple from Thailand, but the man was Austrian, a woman and her 12 year old daughter from Vancouver, BC, a couple from Brussels, and us.  Big 9 passenger van, very comfortable.  Drove to the little town of St. Emilion about 25 km out of Bordeaux on the right side of the Gironde River. Driver spoke English and French, and was quite knowledgeable about the area and wine.  We were to go to 2 vineyards and then some time in the little town of St. Emilion.  Back to the tourist office by 7:00 PM.  Gorgeous day.

Chateau Figeac: We started at Figeac which is a premier wine Cru, and a good sized vineyard.  The manager welcomed us and I got my photo with him.  He was CHARMING!
I really considered trading Jerry in at this point
Then we got passed off to his assistant Gwen.  Back to business!  She explained all about the soil, subsoil, etc. etc. and why this wine tastes minutely different than other wines.

Then she took us through the wine making process. Which is quite interesting, but may bore some of you Old Milwaukee fans, so suffice it to say, it eventually gets into the bottles at HyVee.  Only, this stuff would be at Syrduks, not HyVee, and you can't afford it.   I will show you the picture version of the steps.

Step before step one:  They grow the grapes. Each vine is about 50-75 years old.  They trim all but 2 branches off, then they decide how many buds to leave on each branch.  Each bud will produce 2 bunches of grapes. Too many grapes affect the quality of the others. Everything is done by HAND, pruining, picking, everything.  Not allowed to irrigate, fertilize, Only gravel, sun, and rain. 

Bud that was left to grow

Step one:  Grapes are picked and sorted and put into these big oak casts for 24-40 hours, skins and seeds and all

Each cask holds a different section of the vineyard and only one kind of grape

Step 2:  The juice is heated slightly, then extracted from the bottom, and the skins and pits are crushed and removed.
heating panel

Old fashioned presser

First pressing goes into the grape juice, some of the second, and the third they turn into Grappa! This is the
new presser

Step 3.  The juice goes into French oak barrels for 18-22 months. They cost 800 euro each and are used for 3 times. Each barrel maker has a special "signature" to the way he makes the barrel, which apparently affects the taste.  This place uses 7 different barrel makers. 

They make 500 barrels per year.

Signature of a barrel maker

Step 4: Then they blend the different kinds of wine together.  At this vineyard it is usually 35% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Franc and 30% Cabernet Savignon. No other additives are allowed by law.  The wine is bottled and stored in a cave.

Perfect 52 degrees

Under ground, this cave is 400 -500 years old
Step 5 - After time they bring up the bottles, wash them and "dress them" (label, back label, and foil around the cork).  Then they box them up and store or sell them.

And that is how wine is made.  All of the wine from this vineyard is sold in futures, so 80% is exported all over the world.

Now we get to taste the wine, which is for me the most fun part.  
Jean praying that she shuts up and pours the stuff
"blah, blah, blah"


First wine, 2001

Second wine 2007
Then we are done.  The second vineyard was very small, only 100 barrels a year.  The guy was a one man show, vintner, salesman, tour guide.  The process is exactly the same only it is a family run business.

This is Vincent.  He is hot too!

We went through his house to the back.

Only 100 barrels a year

Down into the cellar which is under the house and yard.
In this cave he has some wine from the early 1900's that we saw and he
said some from 1800's too.  Lots of wine!

Each area is by date bottled.

The tasting!
His tasting room was right off the garden. I can picture some fun parties in this room.

This bottle would have cost us 60 euros at the vineyard. It was
the cheapest one.  They went up in price from there.  We bought 2 cases--Not!

The yard that the cellar is under

Then we had about 45 minutes to explore St. Emilion.  We, of course, found the cathedral which is very old, some parts from the 4th century and some nice frescoes.  The town is charming, and LOTS of wine stores (go figure).

click on this to make it bigger so you can read it.

Barrel vaults, very old.
The pillars are inside the walls, which is early construction.


Jerry at the outdoor urinal

Very cute town, and if you had a car it would be a fun place to stay for a night or so.

Came back to Bordeaux, came home on the tram and bus and crashed.  We ate fried egg sandwiches and snicker bars.  What a gourmet dinner.

We are up now and ready for the day.  Exploring again.  Maybe the river front.  It is bright sun and about 70.  Tomorrow maybe rain.  Save the museum of art for that day.  A bientot!

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