Jean-Guillaume Prats is just 41, but has already managed a fair share of vintages, as he assumed control of Château Cos-d'Estournel in the 1999 vintage. Along with Jean-Philippe Delmas, Jean-Charles Cazes, Frédéric Engerer, Thomas Duroux, Edouard Moueix and others, Prats is among the generation of Bordelais who will help shape the region in the years to come.
Frédéric Engerer is intense. Seriously intense. He dominates the conversation. Assuming you can get a question in, his answers are long but direct, loaded with information. If he has a filter, you wouldn’t know it; he seems to hide nothing. And he seems to care about one thing and one thing only—Château Latour. He has a reputation for being severe, though those within Bordeaux will tell you that once you know him, you’ll appreciate where he’s coming from. And the effort shows after tasting the 2009 Latour with him.
Thomas Duroux is a bit of an outsider. Though born in Bordeaux, he’s half-Italian. And he worked in the Languedoc and then spent three years as technical director at Tuscany’s Ornellaia (where he made the ’01 through ’03 vintages). When a headhunter approached him about an opening in Bordeaux, he initially shrugged it off.
“They said they were looking for a technical director for a major property, and at the time I was in my early 30s. I went to the interview in jeans figuring, what the heck. And then it progressed from there,” said Duroux, as we walked through the vineyard at Château Palmer, the third-growth Margaux property owned by the Sichel Family as well as numerous other shareholders.
When I asked for a visit with the elder statesman of the Right Bank, I figured we'd meet at his office, talk and taste a bit. When he said to meet him in the parking lot at Pétrus, the famed Pomerol estate, I figured I'd be lucky enough to get a cellar tour as well (cellar tours are not automatically given around here).
When I pulled up at Pétrus, Christian Moueix and his son Edouard met me‑and I noticed Christian had his pruning shears with him.
No sooner was I back from my visit to the Southern Rhône and nearly over my jetlag, and it was time to head back again, this time for a 15-day jaunt through Bordeaux, my first official tour through the region since assuming coverage at the end of his past summer.
Though my trips through the Rhône are business-first, I do get a chance to enjoy a meal or two and am always on the lookout for places to recommend to you, the reader.
Here are reports on my recent visits to Restaurant La Maisouneta, Coteaux & Fourchettes, Les Florêts, Restaurant L'Oustalet and Campagne, Vignes & Gourmandises
When I travel through the Rhône and visit domaines, it's not uncommon for the vignerons I meet to also pour me wines from related domaines, or for them to give me sneak peeks at new domaines that are just starting up. Because I haven't visited these domaines personally or met with the vignerons directly, I prefer to group my brief notes on the wines here in this one post. If, down the road, they develop a track record of quality based on the official tastings I do in my New York office, I will certainly then try and visit them and report in greater detail on their efforts, as I did in my blog posts from my just-completed trip.
Today was my last day in the area, with another four visits on the docket. I figured I'd continue to explore estates in the Côtes du Rhône-Villages areas around Cairanne, eventually circling back close to my hotel. As with yesterday's visits, these estates are carving out some delicious wines that carry modest price tags from the lesser-known areas of the Southern Rhône. I tasted at Domaines Rouge-Bleu, Dionysos, Brusset and Delubac.
After working for over a week in the Southern Rhône's two leading appellations—Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas—it was time to head out into the hinterlands. Here, plateaus and rolling hills make up the Côtes du Rhône-Villages area, where good vignerons don't have the benefit of a well-marketed and recognizable appellation. It brings both benefits and hardships.
As a consumer, you can find excellent values in these areas—outstanding quality that can't command the price of a Châteauneuf-du-Pape or Gigondas. But the vignerons have to work twice as hard to pull quality from these terroirs, which aren't as naturally blessed.