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Blending wine in Bordeaux


We spent a sunny weekend in Bordeaux for the last of the 2013 vintage Vinification Experience Days at Château Beau Rivage. The aim of this wine course is to better understand the vinification, ageing and blending of wine. As we were to find out, the work of the winemaker is far from over once the grapes have entered the chai at harvest time!

To start talking about the fermentation and vinification stages, there is no better place than the chai, and it was here that Christine Nadalié, the winemaker at Château Beau Rivage, explained all about the alcoholic and malo-lactic fermentation.

Wine making : alcoholic and malo-lactic fermentation

Christine comes from a family of coopers and as she says, she fell into a barrel at a very young age! The barrel room at the winery is very impressive, and Christine talks with as much passion about her barrels as she does her wines. She explained the importance of the source of the oak used for the barrels and the different toasts that are used to influence the structure of the wine. With the stirring of the lees, topping up the angel's share, and racking the barrels, there's more than enough to keep the maitre de chai busy!

winery visit Bordeaux Château Beau Rivage

We then took a few minutes to venture into the vineyard and enjoy the sunshine. With a week to go before Easter, instead of hunting for the Easter eggs, we searched for the adopted vines!

vine adoption Bordeaux France

The Vinification Experience Day is the course where we taste the most wine. To better prepare us for the wine tastings, we organised a workshop to identify the aromas found in wine. When tasting wines, finding the words to describe our impressions is often the most difficult thing.

wine aromas tasting Bordeaux workshop

The first tasting was blind, and we had to find the difference between two wines. They were both however identical wines, the only difference being the type of barrel that they had been aged in. The comparison showed us the aromatic and difference in taste of a wine aged in French oak and a wine aged in American oak.

wine tasting at the winery in Bordeaux

At lunchtime, we dined in the 1902 restaurant, located at the family cooperage. During the meal we tasted wines from the range made by Christine.

Blending wines is a true art form, and we set aside the afternoon to better understand it. First of all, we tasted wines from four different grape varietals separately - merlot, cabernet sauvignon, malbec and petit verdot to appreciate the characteristics of each.

wine blending in Bordeaux France

We then made several blends to see how the wine changes when different combinations of grape varietals are used. Even a small change in percentage can have a big impact on the final wine. We gradually honed our blends to try and find the best wine.

Many thanks to Christine and Guillaume from Château Beau Rivage for sharing their passion for their profession with us, and to all of the participants for their enthusiasm. We now just have to wait patiently as we give the wine the time to age sufficiently before knowing the blend that Christine will choose for our cuvée!

Comments

  • A great day, superbly organised. A unique experience in a great setting. Many thanks for your welcome and for making it an unforgettable day.

    We learnt how to taste wine and recognise the different aromas and tastes. It's not easy to blend the different grape varietals.

    It's a passionate profession that keeps your feet on the ground and close to nature.

  • Simply brilliant! The welcome was perfect, the team very friendly and full of humour. You learn alot and get to appreciate that winemaking is a real profession for passionate people that demands lots of skill and experience. I recommend to participate in a day in Bordeaux!

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