The Marathon du Medoc at Château Pichon-Longueville Baron

Last Saturday was the 26th Marathon du Medoc. We participate very actively in this event. Château Pichon-Longueville Baron  has twice hosted the giant “Soiree des Mille Pates”, the dinner for 1500 or so Marathon runners that takes place the night before – the last time was last year in fact. I love this event, and have been running in it myself, on and off (very slowly, and not always to the end!) since 1991. It is a very joyous occasion, a celebration of the Médoc, of its Chateaux and its wines, and an affirmation of the idea that a moderate and regular consumption of wine is not only perfectly consistent with a healthy and active lifestyle, but is a natural and harmonious part of such a life. I do not think there are many puritans or teetotallers among the 8,800 participants, some of who showed a fairly unbridled enthusiasm for our product, and yet each one of them has had to submit themselves to a sustained programme of training in order to be there on the day.

Marathon du Médoc: Château Pichon-Longueville team

We have a Château Pichon-Longueville Baron team, seen here on the steps of the chateau on a beautiful morning last Saturday. Many have been coming for years. Please note in the centre of the line up the distinguished journalists Jean Francis Pécresse and Philippe Maurange in jungle costume (Tarzan and Jane in fact).

Marathon du Médoc: Christian Seely in front of Château Pichon-Longueville

Château Pichon-Longueville Baron was at Kilometre 17 this year, which made it a perfect place for me to stop, my training programme probably having been the least rigorous of all the participants. But I had a great time running that far, and enjoyed the opportunity to taste wine at the various chateaux we passed on our way through Pauillac and St Julien. At Pichon we poured Les Tourelles de Longueville 2008, which showed very well, and seemed to be appreciated by the thousands of runners who enjoyed the chance to taste our wine, served as you can see in wine glasses. I am not actually drinking two glasses but holding my wife’s while she takes the photo.

Marathon du Médoc: the band “Banda Biez Bat de Bassussary” in front of Château Pichon-Longueville

The wine tasting was accompanied by the band “Banda Biez Bat de Bassussary” seen here in the picture with various members of the Château Pichon-Longueville Baron team who worked very hard to serve the thousands of wine tasters in front of the chateau under the able direction of Corinne Michot on the left.

Marathon du Médoc: Ruth and Sophie Santry, Marie-Louise Schÿler, Théodore et Christian Seely

Disguises were the order of the day! Here are from left to right Ruth Santry, her daughter Sophie, a beautiful Schtroumpf who mesmerised my sons, Marie-Louise Schÿler who ran a very fast Marathon, and then in the front row, Theodore Seely and myself.

It was a wonderful day, perhaps a little hotter than one might have liked, but the weather was typical of the lovely sunny days we are enjoying here in Bordeaux this September which are providing perfect ripening conditions of the 2010 vintage, which is shaping up to be very good indeed. More of that when we visit the vineyards next week.

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Beginning of harvest in the Douro

Last week saw the beginning of harvest in the Douro for Quinta do Noval and Quinta da Romaneira. Things are looking very good at this early stage. We had an unusually large amount of rain in the spring, nearly double our usual annual rainfall. This created its own problems at the time, with a lot of repair work necessary on terrace walls that collapsed during this period, but it did have the positive effect of replenishing the reserves of water in the soil. This has meant that in spite of a hot and sunny summer, the vines are in great condition, with no visible heat stress. I was in the Douro for the last ten days of August, and days were warm and sunny, but night were fresh, always good for the grapes. Before harvest began we spent several days visiting the vineyards.

Here are António Agrellos and Jose Eduardo Costa from Noval, visiting a Syrah plantation at Noval.
Here are António Agrellos and Jose Eduardo Costa from Noval, visiting a Syrah plantation at Noval.

 

We had the pleasure of the company of the renowned Portuguese wine writer Jose Salvador, seen here in a parcel of Noval with António. In the background in the distance you can see part of the Romaneira vineyard, with the two Quinta buildings of Romaneira, housing the Quinta dos Sonhos Relais et Chateaux hotel.

We had the pleasure of the company of the renowned Portuguese wine writer Jose Salvador, seen here in a parcel of Noval with António. In the background in the distance you can see part of the Romaneira vineyard, with the two Quinta buildings of Romaneira, housing the Quinta dos Sonhos Relais et Chateaux hotel.

Here are Quinta do Noval’s first grapes from 2010, Viosinho in this case.

Here are Quinta do Noval’s first grapes from 2010, Viosinho in this case.

The first grapes to be harvested at Noval were actually white ones. We planted a small area at the top of the Quinta with Viosinho and Gouveio five years ago and both parcels gave great results this year. We harvested the Viosinho last Saturday the 28th. It is the first time we have made a white wine (unfortified) with 100% Viosinho, and the must tasted delicious on Saturday evening. Watch this space for news of a new white wine from Noval next year.

Here are Romaneira’s first grapes of 2010 (Tinta Roriz)

Here are Romaneira’s first grapes of 2010 (Tinta Roriz)

The first grapes to be picked at Romaneira were red: Tinta Roriz and Touriga Francesa to make the Romaneira Rose wine. We were in the vineyard last week to choose the grapes for this small production high quality rose that is one of the more unusual elements of the Romaneira portfolio.
 
Here is Adelino Teixeira, our agronomist at Romaneira, clearly pleased by the quality of the grapes.

Here is Adelino Teixeira, our agronomist at Romaneira, clearly pleased by the quality of the grapes.

And here is my wife Corinne, who vinifies our Rose, also clearly happy with the quality of the grape she is tasting, they were both talking to each other across the vines as I took this one.

And here is my wife Corinne, who vinifies our Rose, also clearly happy with the quality of the grape she is tasting, they were both talking to each other across the vines as I took this one.

Of course these first pickings are for unfortified wines, and there are several weeks to go before the Port wine harvest gets under way, and many of the Portuguese grape varieties such as Touriga Nacional with which we also make unfortified wines still need some time. But the potential is there for a great year in the Douro. I shall be going back before the end and will post up more news.

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Who serves the wine consumer best? Families or corporations?

I participated in this very interesting debate during the 2010 edition of the Symposium of the Institute of Masters of Wine which took place in Bordeaux last June.

We were on after lunch, always the worst time, so we kept it friendly and light hearted, in the hope that the audience of MWs and MW studients would stay awake. It ended up being a lot of fun. You can watch my contribution on video below.

To see the whole of the debate with Sylvie Cazes and Eduardo Chadwick speaking for families, and Margareth Henriquez joining me with a vigorous defense of corporations, click here.

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What constitutes a general declaration of Port?

I am not aware of any particular rule about the definition of a general declaration, but my own view is that it is exactly what it says, a Vintage that is generally declared by everyone. Or at least nearly everyone: sometimes there will be one or two producers who don’t but this would not be enough to stop it being considered a general declaration. Broadly speaking it is to do with the weather. As we know from the Bible it rains on the just and the unjust, and the same is usually true for Douro Vineyards.

Quinta do Noval has always had a slightly eccentric approach to Vintage Declarations, and indeed the house to a great extent made its name with its declaration of the great 31 Vintage, at a time when most other houses did not declare. We have also not hesitated to declare two years in a row when we have felt the wine merited a declaration as Quinta do Noval: in 1966 and 1967; in 2003 and 2004; and just recently in 2007 and 2008. A Vintage declaration is something which I, like any Port producer, take extremely seriously, and I would only declare a wine as Quinta do Noval if I were certain that it is a great wine worthy of the Quinta do Noval label. In the case of 04 and of 08, neither of them generally declared years, there were just a few lots that were so lovely that I could not resist making a small amount of Quinta do Noval Vintage, though in both cases, the quantities were much smaller than we made in the preceding generally declared Vintages.

Christian Seely

Published by Roy Hersh in For the Love of Port July 2010 Newsletter (No.53) in the section “A Question for the Port Trade” www.fortheloveofport.com

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Romaneira Tour

I was in the Douro a few days ago with António Agrellos, who has bought himself a camera. We decided to film a virtual tour of the vineyard and winery of Romaneira. António was cameraman, I did the talking. We probably both have a little progress to make in the production of movies, but I post up the result here in three parts as it will give you a global vision of the Romaneira vineyard project.

Click on the following videos to discover it.

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