Travels in Wine / Bordeaux

Travels in Bordeaux: A total immersion!


David Marsh David Marsh / 21 March 2019

I travelled with Tim almost three years ago to taste the 2015 vintage wines for our en primeur offer. This trip was quite different, certainly the less glamorous side of Bordeaux, but none the worse for that. When people talk of Bordeaux it's often the image associated with the top wines that comes to mind, but of course, there is so much more to this vast region.

The aim of this trip was to blend The Society's Bordeaux Sauvignon, something Tim likes to do early so as to have access to the best batches of wine from the most recent vintage for our blend. It is also an opportunity to catch up with existing suppliers, mainly from the satellite regions of Bordeaux (the lesser-known appellations) and to search for new supplies of well-priced petit château wines. Tim has been working hard to build up this range since he took over buying Bordeaux wines. I witnessed at first hand the rigours of the selection process to end up with the great value clarets that so many members love.

Hitting the ground running

Left to right: Fabrice and his brother Jean-Jacques Dubourdieu with our buyer Tim Sykes
Fabrice and his brother Jean-Jacques Dubourdieu
with our buyer Tim Sykes

Tim and I met at Luton Airport for our EasyJet flight to Bordeaux on Monday morning. As a seasoned traveler, Tim successfully negotiated with the EasyJet gate staff and avoided our hand baggage being whisked off to the hold, possibly for a trip to some other European destination.

After a straight-forward flight, we picked up our Fiat from Goldcar (cheap and reasonably efficient) at Bordeaux airport and headed straight for our first appointment at Château Doisy-Daëne with Fabrice and Jean-Jacques Dubourdieu, sons of the late Denis Dubourdieu.

We tasted 13 wines from a number of recent vintages from their range. We started with Clos de Reynon, a 100% merlot from the superb 2015 vintage through Clos Floridène 2016 and Château Haura 2014 and 2016, a Graves wine that so far Tim has not decided to buy. We finished with Château Cantegril 2016 aka The Society's Exhibition Sauternes and Château Doisy-Daëne 2016. This was very intense and a 93% semillon/7% sauvignon blanc blend, that will be delicious for many years to come.

During the tasting, talk turned to the hot topics of the day for England and France, Brexit and the 'Gilets Jaunes'. We stayed in the centre of Bordeaux just off the main Place de Tourny where the Apple store had been smashed and looted over the previous weekend. By the Wednesday it had been repaired and restocked. We weren't around the following weekend to see how it fared.

The Grand Théâtre, by the Place de Tourny in central Bordeaux
The Grand Théâtre, by the Place de Tourny in central Bordeaux

Our second visit was to a small négociant Paul Martin, based in a little office in a central Bordeaux side street, and run by Paul van der Linden who recently took over from his father Thyl. We tasted our way through a weird and wonderful selection of petits châteaux from many different vintages and appellations.

If you're interested in reading about how the Bordeaux wine trade is organised and the people behind the wine, News Editor Joanna Goodman wrote an article on the subject here.

An evening tasting at van den Linden, central Bordeaux
An evening tasting at van den Linden, central Bordeaux

Where to go next?

Blaye, Bourg & Blending

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