After 14 hours in the air, with a stopover at Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris, I finally reached my destination, Bordeaux.
This wine capital in the southwest of France is every wine connoisseur's Mecca. Bordeaux is steeped in arts and 18th century architecture, and is famed for its fine vintages and appellations of unsurpassed quality. This is a result of its diverse variety of terroirs (soil condition) ideal for viticulture, representing 25 per cent of the top wine production in France and generating a turnover of 3 billion euros a year.
I was in Bordeaux with a mission: the 14th Vinexpo (17-21 June, 2007), as a freelance wine journalist. The Vinexpo is reputed to the world's leading global wine and spirits fair, held bi-ennially in Bordeaux. It is a hotbed of the movers and shakers in the wine and spirits industry from all over the world. Buyers, distributors, winemakers, sommeliers and all those involved in the tipple business get together to trade, hobnob and schmooze.
Frazzled as I was after my long flight, there was no denying that Bordeaux had a wealth of sights and sounds on this scorching summer's day. The Vinexpo organisers had planned a comprehensive shuttle network to ferry delegates from all major stopovers in Bordeaux city centre and its outskirts. I hopped on the first available shuttle outside my hotel for my destination at the Parc des Expositions, located north of Bordeaux city centre, approximately half an hour by shuttle bus on a good day.
The sprawling expanse of exhibition halls, juxtaposed with 15 lakeside pavilions (the veritable Club du Lac) took my breath away. A cacophony of frenzied trade chatter, and a mammoth 100,000 sq m of exhibition space assailed my senses as I strolled through the halls. This year's Vinexpo was targeted to attract more than 50,000 wine and spirits professionals from over 45 countries.
Multitudinous vinophiles behind booths were proffering wine and spirits; adjoining them were on-site facilities such as airline ticketing, internet WI-FI, designer shopping, trade and business centres, Michelin star award winning restaurants and even designer shopping lounges.
A series of more than 70 tastings and seminars were scheduled to showcase the wines, and educate the merchants on marketing and merchandising. "Bordeaux gold-tasting of right and left bank sweet whites", "The 2006 vintage by Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux", "Grand tasting of Spanish Wines", were some of the featured events, to name a few.
I made a beeline for my sanctuary - the Journalists' Press Centre, where all members of the media come to nest, away from the madding crowd - to collect my press kit. I had a schedule of wine and spirits tastings with wine merchants from Piedmont (North Italy), Bordeaux, Rhone Valley and Bourgogne over the next four days. I had to pace myself; the temptation to over-indulge was too alluring. Thankfully, this was foiled by my jet-lag and the vexing heat.
I was engulfed in a sea of wines and spirits of all descriptions and vintages, ranging from vin de pays to premium classified first growths, and mind-boggling spirits and liqueurs. The wines and spirits that left an indelible impression on me were diverse, and quite remarkable- either instant gratification, protean complexities of character, or the engaging folklore of their origins.
One of the more memorable reds was the Montecanta Barbera D'asti Superiore DOC 2004 by Noceto Michelotti winery. This family winery is located in the village of Castel Boglione in the rolling hills of Monferrato in Piedmont, Italy. This elegant red won the Silver award in 2007 (Decanter), silver medal (Concours Mondial de Bruxelles 2007), amongst others. This complex beauty is the result of blending the choicest Barbera grapes from 35 to 40 year old vines. It has a spicy bouquet, ripe with berries and vanilla; smooth tannins and a balanced acidity pirouette on the palate, with a languid finish that keeps you wanting more.
Another noteworthy red was the reputed Premier Cru, Vigne de L'Enfant Jesus 2001. This is one of the flagship Beaune wines made by the highly-acclaimed Bouchard Père & Fils.
In the 17th century, this plot of land was owned by the Carmelite nuns before it was surrendered during the French Revolution. It was subsequently bought over in an auction by Bouchard. Legend has it that Marguerite du Saint Sacrement, the Carmelite founder of the "Domestiques de la famille du Saint Enfant Jésus", predicted the birth of Louis XIV - "Le Roi Soleil" or The Sun King - the King of France. She had heard the fervent prayers of his mother, Anne of Austria, for an heir. Ever since then, this piece of land which still houses the convent of Beaune, in the heart of the "Les Gèves" appellation, has borne the name "l'Enfant Jésus".
While the tale made me smile, what really gave me an euphoric buzz was the wine. This wine is the epitome of sophistication - subtle aromas of sweet spice and fruit, silky tannins, laced with nuances of minerality that begs complexity, finishing seamlessly.
The highly acclaimed Cuvée Des Enchanteleurs 1995 Champagne by Henriot was the bubbly that catapulted me into religious ecstasy. This private reserve great cuvée is the Henriot's family flagship champagne, which is made from the highest quality cuvée Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes-a true reflection of the savoir faire of the champagne house since it originated in 1608. It possesses a nutty, toasted coffee aroma, with vanilla flavours, possessing a firm spine that ends with a crisp smoky finish. Voluptuous and complex champagne, definitely one for the connoisseurs, rated 93 points by Wine Spectator (Dec 2006). The good news is this bubbly is available at the Booze Wine Shop located in the Central Business District.
Old St Andrew's newly-launched premium Pink 47 London Dry Gin also caught my eye. This attention-grabbing 70 cl bottle is crafted in the shape of a pink diamond known as the Kharvaraya. Pink 47 targets the female market with 12 botanicals (heavy on the juniper berries and nutmeg), yielding a fragrance and flavour which will rock the ladies' world, like the Kharvaraya. Admittedly, the romantic in me succumbed to love at first sight (and sip) too.
I could go on about the wonderful tastings of wines and spirits. At the end of the Vinexpo, there was the Bordeaux River Festival to look forward to, with a giant fireworks display by the banks of the Garrone River in salutation of the wine industry.
I must make my way there before my liver gets too pickled...
|Dr Vanessa Phua is an aesthetic physician by profession and a gourmand bon viveur by inclination, with a passion for arts and the finer things in life. She writes on food and wine for the doctor's lifestyle magazine, Grapevine Magazine, and occasionally acts on TV.
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