An Autumn Wine Tasting in the Medoc
Art + Wine sounds to me like a match made in heaven. Apparently I’m not alone. The other day we were fortunate enough to go on the last of the season Art and wine tasting tour in the Medoc peninsula stopping at thee different chateaux organized by the Bordeaux Tourism office.
We began at Chateau D’Arsac in Margaux, which is literally littered with art amongst the vines and inside their tasting room. Philippe Raoux who has owned the vineyard since 1986 has been collecting art for decades and adding a piece of sculpture to their garden every year since 1992. We spied a thumb by César amongst the vines, a Pot Rouge (red pot) by Jean-Pierre Raynaud plus a Jim Dine heart and a Niki de Saint-Phalle bench inside. The wine is quite reasonable and drinkable at just 17 euros a bottle for the 2011.
Next up was Chateau Chasse-Spleen, despite its strange sounding name, which actually means chasing away melancholy in French, this wine is superb and must be kept for a minimum of 10 years before drinking. The art wasn’t as heavily emphasized on this tour but the two gigantic resin boots, interestingly two left feet made quite an impression set against the gorgeous Chateau.
The owner, Claire Villars who inherited the property from her mother Bernadette Villars who was quite renowned along with her husband for improving the quality of the wine via consultation with Professor Émile Peynaud. The family now owns nearly many vineyards including Graud-Larose, Citrand, Haut-Bages-Libéral among others.
One look at the property and one can tell that Madame is clearly a very creative type. Sprinkled throughout the property are sculptures and inside the tasting room there’s an Italian painting done on the cellar ceiling entitled nine triangles, which you can only make out when you stand in one particular place in the room. Otherwise it seems as if the red triangles are dancing together on the ceiling. This adds a lot of interest to what would otherwise be just another cellar with barrels lined up.
We stopped for lunch at Lynch Bages’ casual café, Lavinal in the village of Bages just west of Pauillac. We’ve been several times before and it never fails us. The salad and lamb chops I had that day were scrumptious. Pictured above is hubby’s lunch.
The café is spitting distance from the Chateau and our third and final tour with tasting. Lynch Bages has done up the entire village rescuing it from developing into another shuttered ghost town which happens often to tiny French villages. The boys of Bages have opened a bike shop for rentals, a wine school plus the Bages Bazar with gifts, kitchen wares, books and wine on offer. Plus there’s a boulangerie, a gourmet store and butcher making me wish I had a cooler in the car to store some purchases for the 1.5 hour drive home. However, I did buy a new Bordeaux guide book in both French and English called Bordeaux Code 01 which I’m loving.
Our final tour was mercifully short, as I tend to tire of all of the malolactic fermentation talk during all French wine tours. Our guide, understanding that this was tour #3 pushed us through to the highlights.
The artist Barthélémy Toguo from Camaroon who was a 2015 Venice Biennale pick decorated the mini-museum that shows you how wine used to be made in wooden vats. Mr. Toguo’s skeletons, eyes and other colorful human body parts in distress or morphing into nature was an interesting and compelling juxtaposition to the dark wood in the museum.
The wine tasting at the end of a tour is always the highlight. We were able to try three wines from the Lynch Bages spectrum, their 2nd growth Echo, their St. Estephe named Ormes de Pez and in the collection since the 1930’s and finally Lynch Bages itself, all from 2011. While I love great wine my palate isn’t sophisticated enough to taste and tell you that these wines will be great or just good in another 6 years but later that evening we had a 2004 Lynch Bages with dinner. Even though 04 wasn’t a stellar year compared to the 2005, 2009 and 2010’s – Lynch Bages never disappoints.