Travels in Wine / Bordeaux

Travels in Bordeaux: Blaye, Bourg & Blending


David Marsh David Marsh / 21 March 2019

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts

On Tuesday morning Tim and I were up nice and early for our visit to blend The Society's Bordeaux Sauvignon 2018. Our contacts (via an arrangement that goes back many years) had sourced nine different wines with volumes ranging from 180hl to 583hl (1 hectolitre equates to about 133 standard 75cl bottles of wine, to give you some idea of how much wine we are talking).

Early-morning wake-up call - the mouth-puckering line up of young sauvignons!
Early-morning wake-up call - the mouth-puckering line up of young sauvignons!

We first tasted all nine wines and Tim chose his favourite three and his least favourite three. The suppliers had constructed three trial blends which were also tasted. Interestingly, it turned out that all the trial blends included wine six which was Tim's least favourite!

Then the blending began…

The first blend included 50% of wine 9, 40% of wine 4 and 10% of wine 1. Although wine 1 was not one of the favourites by itself it was included in the blend as it had very high acidity and was used to balance some of the 'roundness' in wines 9 and 4.

We then went through a sequence of small tweaks and it was amazing how much difference these small changes made. Finally, after much deliberation and discussion the proposed blend of 10% of wine 1 and 45% each of wines 9 and 4 was agreed.

An exclusive blend tailor made for our members

The Society is in a very privileged position. Everyone else would just buy one of the wines, we are able to taste and blend something to suit our members' tastes.

After this fascinating introduction to the art of blending we headed off to Blaye (one of the northernmost of the satellite regions on the right hand bank of the Gironde estuary) and Château Monconseil Gazin owned by the Baudet family.

Tim catches up with Jean-Michel Baudet on the 2018 vintage with agent Alice Macleod-Dumas
Tim catches up with Jean-Michel Baudet on the 2018 vintage with agent Alice Macleod-Dumas

2018 vintage news at Monconseil Gazin

15% of the crop was lost to mildew but overall a very successful vintage which promises well. We tasted a number of wines from the last couple of vintages including barrel samples. We were then invited to lunch which was described as 'not a proper lunch'. Since it consisted of soup, foie gras, smoked duck, risotto with fried duck breast, cheese and then a selection of desserts, I am not sure I would have been able to manage a proper lunch!

During lunch we were served their 2015 and 2016 wines together with Quintet a wine that is primarily aimed at the American market. The 2015 and 2016 were both drinking nicely, though for me the 2016 had the edge.

From the Blaye to the Bourg

We then made the short drive to Clos du Notaire a property run by two young and enthusiastic people Amélie Osmond and Victor Mischler, who bought the estate in 2015 and are relatively new to wine.

The 2015 is a wine that is not quite to Tim's taste (a little over extracted) but the 2016 was fresher with a crunchy finish – an iron fist in a velvet glove. The 2016 is 75% merlot, 16% cabernet sauvignon and 9% cabernet franc.

Next was Château de Blissa run, seemingly single-handedly, by Stéphane Destrade. The 2016, 40% merlot with equal parts of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and malbec was closed but fruity. The 2017 was very perfumed with violets. As we were leaving Stéphane was returning to the vineyards to prune. He estimated that he would take three months to prune his 60,000 vines. I can imagine pruning one or two or maybe even a row… but 60,000? That's dedication!

Member favourite Château de la Grave – you can even stay here if you wish!
Member favourite Château de la Grave – you can even stay here if you wish!

Our third and final visit of the afternoon was to a long time Society favourite Château de la Grave in Bourg. We believe that the first vintage we sold was the 1973 and members have lapped it up ever since!

We started our tasting here with the whites. The 2018 was described as 'a very nice wine' but unfortunately ¾ of the crop was lost to hail in May. 60% semillon, 40% colombard with fermentation in barrels of American oak, the 2017 was minerally with hints of liquorice and ideally needs some more time in bottle.

We then went on to taste the reds from 2015, 2016 and 2017. The 2017 was a barrel sample and we are likely to sell it before the 2016 as it is expected to be ready to drink sooner. These wines are 80% merlot and are aged in three-year-old oak barrels that are sourced via a friend when no longer needed at one of the extremely upmarket properties in Pauillac. No names though! We also tasted the top wine, Nectar, which The Society's sells en primeur most years.

Bordeaux by night – Christmas market mayhem?!

After Château de la Grave, we retuned to Bordeaux. There is a Christmas market in the centre of Bordeaux and Tim (based on his experience the previous year) said that traffic in the centre would be grid-locked and that we would have to park away from the centre and walk. We were pleasantly surprised to be able to drive easily to the underground parking in the Place de Tourny. It seems the activities of the previous weekend with the gilets jaunes out in force had put people off. Sad news for the stall holders but it certainly was a bit of a relief for us!

The recommended restaurant that evening was Belle Campagne a restaurant that prides itself on serving locally-sourced fresh ingredients. It was very good so I can, in turn, recommend it to members who find themselves in central Bordeaux.

The cockle risotto at Belle Campagne, which turned out to be made from pearl barley rather than rice, but which provided an interesting and different starter
The cockle risotto at Belle Campagne, which turned out to be made from pearl barley rather than rice, but which provided an interesting and different starter

Where to go next?

Travels in Bordeaux: looking for little nuggets of joy!

Back to Travels in Bordeaux: Total Immersion!

Back to Travels homepage

Members' Comments (0)

There are no comments for this article.

Want more inspiration?

Sign up for a carefully-curated selection of recipes, guides, in-depth expertise and much more.

Our website uses cookies with the aim of providing you with a better service. By using this website you consent to The Wine Society using cookies in accordance with our policy.


4.4. Cookie Policy

By using The Wine Society website, you agree to cookies being used in accordance with the policy outlined below. If you do not agree to this, you must alter your browser settings to turn off cookies or block those types which are unacceptable to you or cease using the website.

The Wine Society uses cookies to enable easy navigation and shopping on the website. We take the privacy of all who use our website very seriously and ensure that our use of cookies complies with current EU legislation. The following guide outlines what cookies are, the types of cookies used on The Society's website and how they work.

You may alter your browser settings to turn off cookies or block those types which are unacceptable to you, but this will cause difficulties when accessing and using some areas of the site. Instructions on how to do this can also be found below.

4.4.1. What are 'Cookies'?

  • Most major websites use cookies.
  • A cookie is a very small data file placed on your hard drive by a web page server. It is essentially your access card, and cannot be executed as code or deliver viruses. It is uniquely yours and can only be read by the server that gave it to you.
  • Cookies cannot be used by themselves to identify you.
  • The purpose of a basic cookie is to tell the server that you returned to that web page or have items in your basket. Without cookies, websites and their servers have no memory. A cookie, like a key, enables swift passage from one place to the next.
  • Without a cookie every time you open a new web page the server where that page is stored will treat you like a completely new visitor.
  • More recently, cookies have also been used to collect information about the user which allows a profile of their preferences and interests to be created so that they can be served with interest-based rather than generic information about available goods and services.

4.4.2. How do Cookies help The Wine Society?

Cookies allow our website to function effectively. Cookies also help us to arrange content to match your preferred interests more quickly. We can learn what information is important to our visitors, and what isn't.

4.4.3. How does The Wine Society use cookies?

The Wine Society does not accept advertising from third parties and therefore, as a rule, does not serve third-party cookies. Exceptions to this include performance/analytical cookies (see below), used anonymously to improve the way our website works, the provision of personalised recommendations, and occasions when we may team up with suppliers to offer special discounts on goods or services.

The Society uses technology to track the patterns of behaviour of visitors to our site.

4.4.4. What type of cookies does The Wine Society use?

We use the following three types of cookies: Strictly Necessary Cookies
These cookies are required for the operation of our website, enabling you to move around the website and use its features, such as accessing secure areas of the website. Without these cookies, services like shopping baskets or e-billing cannot be provided. Under this heading, we currently use the following cookies:

  • Authentication Cookie and Anonymous Cookie
    These cookies remember that you are logged in to your account – without them, the website would repeatedly request your login details with each new page you visit during your time on our website. They are removed once your session has ended.
  • Session Cookie
    These cookies are used to remember who you are as you use our site: without them, the website would be unable to tell the difference between you and another Wine Society member and facilities such as your basket and the checkout process would therefore not be able to function. They too are removed once your session has ended. Functionality & Targeting/Tracking Cookies
These cookies are used to recognise you when you return to our website and to provide enhanced features. This allows us to personalise our content for you. Under this heading, we currently use the following cookies:

  • Unique User Cookie
    This cookie is used to:
    • store your share number in order to identify that you have visited the website before. Without this cookie, we would be unable to tell whether you are a member or not.
    • record your visit to the website, the pages you have visited and the links you have followed. We use this information to make our website, the content displayed on it and direct marketing communications we may send to you or contact you about more relevant to your interests.
    • This cookie expires after 13 months.
  • Peerius Cookies
    These third-party cookies are used to provide you with personalised recommendations based on your purchase and browsing history. They expire within 4 hours of your visit. Performance/analytical cookies
These cookies collect information about how visitors use a website, for instance which pages visitors go to most often, and if they get error messages from web pages. These cookies don't collect information which identifies a visitor. All information these cookies collect is aggregated and therefore anonymous. It is only used to improve how a website works. Under this heading, we currently use the following cookies:

  • Google Analytics Cookies
    These are third-party cookies to enable Google Analytics to monitor website traffic. All information is recorded anonymously. Using Google Analytics allows The Society to better understand how members use our site and monitor website traffic. Authentication Cookie
In order for us to ensure that your data remains secure it is necessary for us to verify that your session is authentic (i.e. it has not been compromised by a malicious user). We do this by storing an otherwise meaningless unique ID in a cookie for the duration of your visit. No personal information can be gained from this cookie.

4.4.5. How do you turn cookies off?

All modern browsers allow you to modify your cookie settings so that all cookies, or those types which are not acceptable to you, are blocked. However, please note that this may affect the successful functioning of the site, particularly if you block all cookies, including essential cookies. For example, In Internet Explorer, go to the Tools Menu, then go to Internet Options, then go to Privacy. Here you can change the rules your browser uses to accept cookies. You can find out more in the public sources mentioned below.

4.4.6. Learn more about cookies

4.4.7. Changes to our cookie policy

Any changes we may make to our cookie policy in the future will be posted on the website and, where appropriate, notified to you by email. Please check back frequently to see any updates and changes to our cookie policy.