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Brothers in wine

02 August 2013


IN FRANCE, they enjoy their regional foods and wines - and every food and wine seems to have its individual gastronomic brotherhood to support it. I have been to some remarkable meals in my time, but I think the most remarkable was the annual banquet of the Burgundian Brotherhood of Snail Scoffers. Every dish in the meal featured snails, although the ice cream was not snail-flavoured, but only in the shape of a snail.

As far as the wines of Bordeaux are concerned, there is a hierarchy of such gastronomic associations, with, at the top - and here I must, like Agag, tread delicately, for I wish to offend no one - the Jurade de Saint-Émilion and the Commanderie du Bontemps de Médoc.

These "orders" promote the wines of their members, and overseeing all this is the Grand Conseil du Vin de Bordeaux, led by the Grand Maître, Emmanuel Cruse, of Château d'Issan, Margaux.

The links between Bordeaux and Bristol are close, and there was recently a visit to the latter by a team from the Brotherhood, representing the most humble of the wines of Bordeaux - L'Ordre des Vignerons de Bordeaux et Bordeaux Supérieur, led by their Grand Maître, Hubert Burnerau. Their wines come from the host of petits châteaux that are the backbone of the Bordeaux wine-trade, with more than 5000 growers producing more than seven million hectolitres of wine.

In some ways, M. Burnerau is not typical of the producers he represents; for he sells the grapes from his vineyards in the village of Saint-Vincent-de-Pertignas to the had co-operative cellar. No wines appear on the market under his name. Over the past few years, he told me, the owners of vineyards at this level had had a torrid time. While both investors and speculators were prepared to pay inflated prices for the prestigious names from the Médoc and elsewhere, the wines labelled simply Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur found few outlets, and prices collapsed. It appears that there is now a light at the end of the tunnel, and the market is picking up again.

Apparently, the wines available at the tasting are all sold on the British market, but we were not told where, and at what price. The only prices that we were given were in euros, per bottle, directly from the cellar. Available for tasting were not just red, white, and rosé still wines, but also white and rosé sparkling wines, and three representatives of Bordeaux Clairet, a deep pink wine.

Among the white wines, my favourite was the Château Côte Montpezat Cuvée Compostelle 2010. The price of €11.90, however, I found to be on the high side. Among the reds, my selections were: Château Galand 2010 (€7); Château Peychaud 2009 (€6.25); Château de Camarsac Sélection 2009 (€8;) and Château Landereau 2010 (€6).

The hosts for this event were the Bristol branch of the Commanderie de Bordeaux, which also has branches in Manchester, London, and Edinburgh. Should you be interested in joining, I suggest you contact the British Grand Master, Paul Chedgey, at paulchedgey@googlemail.com.

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