By Margaret Elderfield
In June, a team from Clos & Cru went to Vinexpo, the massive trade show for the wine and spirits industry, which is held in Bordeaux and Hong Kong in alternating years.
My colleague Martyn was the seasoned veteran, having been a few times before, but I was the newbie and wasn’t sure exactly what to expect.
I should have known it would be busy when an Irish friend advised me, “be sure to bring your flat shoes!” Thank goodness she’d warned me, as we seemed to walk around 5km each day through the vast exhibition halls to visit the stands we’d identified in our ‘hit list’ before the show. The stands ranged in size from a small desk and counter, to vast office-like spaces with private meeting and staff rooms, wine bars, and displays of art on the walls.
With 2300 exhibitors and 48,000 overseas visitors, there were a few crowds to negotiate. On day two, when Martyn and I missed our shuttle bus from the hotel, we had to squeeze ourselves like sardines onto a jam-packed A tram at Porte de Bourgogne station. Not an advisable way to travel during a 37 C+ heat wave.
But the French are nothing if not civilised. Even with throngs of people and a full diary of meetings, the Coravins and tasting glasses were never too far away. I can still taste the 2010 Chateau Rauzan-Segla, fragrant and resplendent in its velvety youth. But my personal tasting highlight was the 1999 Chateau Haut Brion – so ‘correct’ and yet so utterly transcendent, replete with cool dense fruit and a kiss of fine-grained tobacco.
What comes after a civilised day of meetings and tastings? A celebration feast, naturellement. Two particular evenings will linger in the memory.
The first was an intimate Sunday dinner at Chateau Bellevue, the St Emilion grand cru classe chateau known for its 100% Merlot wines. The views from the terrace were stunning, and it was fascinating to see the original 17th century wine cellar. The raucous cheering ‘competition’ that broke out spontaneously between our table and the Chinese guests after the second magnum of grand vin was proof of the jolly time had by all.
The other memorable night was the 16th “Tour de France des Appellations” dinner, at the Domaine de Chevalier in Pessac-Leognan. This was a banquet royale with a guestlist in the hundreds, co-hosted by several high-profile producers (including Domaine Zind-Humbrecht, Maison Olivier Leflaive, Chateau Beaucastel, Domaine Faiveley and Champagne Pol Roger, to name a few). The aperitif was served in the garden at sunset, with lashings of oysters and caviar, and the cheese table was so enormous it seemed to take up half the cuverie.
Typically at wine dinners you get one or two wines with each course. Here were upwards of 30 wines on offer, served buffet style. I tasted a 2006 Winston Churchill from Pol Roger in magnum, a 2006 ‘Clos des Corton’ from Faiveley in mathusalem, and a 1977 Domaine de Chevalier Rouge in jeroboam. Strictly to avoid offending our hosts, mind you.
Bring on Vinexpo 2019!
Thanks again to our hosts – Axel, Stanislas & Ines of Chateau Bellevue, and Olivier & Jolene from Zind-Humbrecht at the ‘Tour des Appellations’ dinner. Delicious wines, good memories, great hospitality.