Monday, May 30, 2011

Château Smith Haut Lafitte

By Paige Donner

 Read Complete Article on Bordeaux Food And Wine Château Smith Haut Lafitte, Bordeaux, Photo c. Paige Donner

Château Smith Haut Lafitte is one of those wineries in Bordeaux that has its own helipad. Likely, it's one of the only wineries in Bordeaux that has its own helipad, actually. It also has its own weather station and its own cooperage. And, yes, mais oui!, the wine barrels are all made from French Oak.

Château Smith Haut Lafitte's owners, since 20 years, are Mr. and Mrs. Cathiard, a dynamic "Power Couple" who can count Olympic Team competitive skiing, grocery store and sporting goods retail empires and an international advertising executive career as part of their storied pasts. But that was then and wine is now.

Château Smith Haut Lafitte wines are considered one of the top 20 wines of Bordeaux. That is no small feat. Just look at the company they keep. But having reclaimed the historic Graves AOC Bordeaux Château, which, by 1990 had fallen into disrepair, the Cathiards set about doing things their own way. It worked.

Château Smith Haut Lafitte, Bordeaux, Photo c. Paige Donner

Château Smith Haut Lafitte, Graves AOC, Bordeaux Photo c. Paige Donner

To examine just two facets of their innovative approach, let's look at the 2009 vintage, both white and red.

Château Smith Haut Lafitte - 2009 Vintage

Fabien Teitgen, the winemaker, and the Cathiards believe in whole grape fermentation. Grapes are not crushed at this winery. To help achieve this, the 2009 vintage saw two revolutions here: one for de-stemming and the other for grape sorting.

Grape Sorting: they refer to it as Optical Sorting and use a Vistalys Optical Sorting machine. This sensitive machine photographs the fruit and sorts it based on color and shape characteristics. A jet of air eliminates all the detritus and unwanted bits such as debris or under ripe fruit.

Destemming: The second revolution is also grace á a "revolutionary" machine. The destemmer vibrates the grapes which releases them from their stems. No splintering of stems results and only whole grapes, then, are released into the fermentation vats. The Château Smith Haut Lafitte winemaking team is able to use "precision and reproducibility" with these machines as well as keep nothing but whole, perfect grapes for their wines.

2009 Reds are: 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc , 1% Petit Verdot, 30% Merlot  "The wines are taking on a lovely fleshiness. They are full and silky."

2009 Whites are: 90% Sauvignon blanc, 5% Sauvignon gris, 5% Sémillon "Lovely, ripe, concentrated rich wines just like a fine, sunny day. They have nice acidity that reflects the cool summer nights of 2009."

Dynamic Soil

While the term "bio-dynamic," is not used by Fabien Teitgen,  Château Smith Haut Lafitte's winemaker, there are practices on the vineyard reminiscent of bio-dynamism. For instance:

On a number of vineyard plots, we have applied the same, gradual, empirical approach, to vine protection and developed a system based solely on copper and sulphur (in homeopathic doses) combined with nettle, chestnut, and horsetail tea and herbal concoctions.

This risky step has paid off: the vines are beautiful and healthy. - Fabien Teitgen

Teitgen also credits the use of organic compost - horse manure, vine prunings, pomace - on the 67 hectares of Gunzian gravel terroir with revitalizing it and helping maintain the necessary equilibrium between soil and vine. They use an innovative (not standard) cover crop between the rows of vines which helps revitalize the soil's structure, drainage and dynamics.

Château Smith Haut Lafitte, Bordeaux, Photo c. Paige Donner

Château Smith Haut Lafitte, Cooperage, Bordeaux Photo c. Paige Donner

So why the helipad? Well, maybe it's for their Rich & Famous friends who have dropped in at the winery, you know, like Mr. and Mrs. Johnny Depp, Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz.

Stay at the neighboring Les Sources de Caudalie

33650 Bordeaux - Martillac




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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Vinexpo Bordeaux 2011


Champagne Louis RoedererConcha y Toro and Baron Philippe de Rothschild are among just some of the world-class wines that will be represented at this year's Vinexpo, Bordeaux.

Alongside these major groups, large numbers of vigorous companies are also lining up: Symington Family Estates, Maison Louis Latour, Camus, Angus Dundee Distillers and many more.

Italy, France and Spain, which together account for nearly half the world’s production andexport more than 6 billion bottles of still light wines, are again very widely represented at thisVinexpo with national pavilions but also through well-known companies, such as Luigi Cecchi & Figli, Casa Vinicola Zonin and Gonzalez-Byass, as well as Hugel & Fils, Georges Duboeuf and Castel Frères.

The other leading producer countries have also reserved space for their national pavilions: Germany, Chile, the U.S., Austria, Portugal, Hungary, Greece, Brazil, etc.

Vinexpo Bordeaux on Local Food And Wine - Bordeaux

New At Vinexpo, Bordeaux 2011

What Vinexpo visitors and exhibitors will find new this year is the promotion of a number of tasting areas branded “TASTINGS BY VINEXPO.” These unparalleled facilities are designed to really enhance all the wine and spirits tastings and presentations organised in these areas.

Vinexpo's World's Best Sommelier 2009 - Local Food And Wine - Bordeaux

Thus in 2011, together with the rooms in Halls 2 and 3, the Convention Center becomes a state-of-the-art platform for high profile tastings and professional presentations with options for organising seated tastings, reception areas and conference halls. Of course, all these events are perfectly complementary with the many events and meetings organised directly on the different stands.





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Monday, May 16, 2011

La Revue du Vin de France Paris Salon 2011

By Paige Donner

La Revue du Vin de France held its wine salon this past weekend in Paris at the "ancien Bourse" which is the old stock exchange of Paris. As you can see here, it's a beautiful building. It's spacious and airy and the perfect place for wine tasting on a sunny Spring Sunday afternoon in May.

Le Salon LRVDF May 2011 c. Local Food And Wine

Honestly, if I have one recommendation to make to visitors to France, it's that you really must coordinate your travels with these wine salons. For a few Euro, you get to not only see the interior of a national monument, you get to drink and taste your way through the wines of France.

Le Salon LRVDF May 2011 c. Local Food And WineI was so pre-occupied with tasting wines from Bordeaux, Bourgogne, Loire and Provence that I had to remind myself to sip a few drops of champagne every so often - just to clean the palate, you know.

So many wonderful wines. It will take the rest of the month to wade through all my tasting notes.

Le Salon LRVDF May 2011 c. Local Food And WineAnd the crowd was super friendly. Maybe it's the sunny weather in Paris in Spring or perhaps it's simply that good French wine brings  out that "conviviality" that the French speak so glowingly of when discussing their wines. Whatever it was, the LRDVF crowd was super friendly, very forthcoming with anecdotes about the wines they were pouring and the wines they were tasting and just plain, well, welcoming.

Le Salon LRVDF May 2011 c. Local Food And WineIf there is only one little note I might give it's that the Spanish wines were much too hard to find. Certainly, once I found my way upstairs, I loved the private room where the Spanish winemakers had stashed themselves, with the old stock exchange board that featured handwritten company signage such as Printemps and Paribas on it... But they were much too isolated up there. Since it's the first time the salon has welcomed foreign wines amongst its midst in its 5 year history, perhaps affording them more accessibility would be a gesture of convivial diplomacy.

By the time I left, it was with a full glass of Spanish red liqueur wine. So sweet and rich and nothing like "ice wine." I'll definitely have some words to share about that and about the Priorat wines I discovered at the Paris Stock Exchange.

Le Salon LRVDF May 2011 c. Local Food And Wine


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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Pique-nique at French Independent Wineries June 12 & 13

By Paige Donner

For the first time this year Independent Wineries all across France will throw open their doors and uncork their bottles to welcome visitors and oenophiles to their wineries for two days of Picknicking in the vineyards.

June 12 and 13, a holiday weekend in France, has been designated the days of Pique-nique by the French Vignerons Independant association. Already a remarkably successful yearly event in Alsace, where it has been drawing 10,000 picnicking participants during the designated weekend for the past 17 years, this year the Association is taking it nationwide.


Participating regions include Champagne, Provence, Bordeaux and everywhere inbetween - a grand total of 550 wineries, 12000 hectares and 31 counties in France are participating.

Why this is a bonanza for amateurs and oenotourists? For one, the wine will be "offered" for your picnic meal and many of the wineries even greet their guests with a glass of champagne or other aperitif such as Muscat ("offered" in French means free). 

The real value, however, is in the fact that the winemakers and winery owners have set these two days aside to welcome people from all walks and levels of knowledge, degrees of enthusiasm into their world of wine. This includes winery tours, vineyard walks, in-depth tastings, explanations of what it is to be a winemaker or run a vineyard and more. The doors of the vineyards will be swung wide open, literally and figuratively, to all who wish to stop by on June 12 and June 13, 2011. 

You bring your own picnic lunch, of course!  

It's also suggested to bring a dessert that you can share, if you wish, with the other gathered guests and families who have chosen that winery to spend their pique-nique at that day. As you wish...


As Jacques Legros, of French main television channel TF1 explained at the recent press conference, Wine is like a treasure. It is at the heart of French culture. We are very proud for people to discover our wines.

The website devoted particularly to this event is easy to navigate and when you hover over the numbered indications on the map, all the contact info of the wineries pops up. Check it out here:




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Quebec Independent Winegrowers Join European Confederation

The Association Independent winegrowers of Quebec (VIQ)officially joined CEVI, the European Confederation of Independent Winegrowers, on the occasion of the General Meeting of April 20, 2011. This widening of CEVI beyond the borders of Europe reinforces the influence of the profession of  the independent winegrower and its values, and allows the network of CEVI to get richer through experience sharing. 

ADVVQ was founded in 2006 by a group of vinegrowers and winemakers in the aim of gathering the producers of the areas of Quebec and of supporting the spreading of the know-how of this production in emergence. Accordingly, the ADVVQ supports the organisation of regional and interregional meetings in order to exchange on the characteristics of the production in Quebec. Since 2010, the association changed its name for Vignerons Indépendants du Québec (Quebec Independent Winegrowers).

The goal of the association is to promote the elaboration of wines made from grapes entirely grown on the Quebec terroir, by proscribing any addition of raw material coming from outside Quebec (grapes, juice and concentrates), except for alcohols required to the making of fortified wines, according to an exclusively artisanal and nonindustrial transformation. 

The association gathers 51 members, representing approximately 35 to 40% of the production of wine in Quebec. In Quebec, more than 630 hectares of vines are in production. There are 4 main regions: Estrie, Montérégie, Lanaudière and Chaudières the Appalachian Mountains (regions of the South-Quebec). The type of vines which are cultivated there are mainly rustic and semi-rustic hybrid type of vines.




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Ultimate July 1 Barbecue with a New Wine Mobile App

Game-changing technology allows you to instantly scan 150,000 wines in the liquor store

Toronto, May 12, 2011 – A new free mobile application will change the way Canadian wine lovers find, buy and enjoy wine this summer. The Natalie MacLean Wine Picks & Pairings app lets you use your smartphone camera to snap a picture of any bottle label bar code in the  liquor store. With one click, you get tasting notes, scores, and food pairings.


“You’re in the liquor store wondering if you should buy the bottle with the castle on its label or the one with the fluffy squirrel,” says Natalie MacLean, the editor of Canada’s largest wine web site at She created the tool to make buying wine easier for consumers.

“Now you just point and click to find out if that shiraz actually is a good wine to go with your pepper steak, or if the sauvignon blanc would work with your grilled veggies. No more guesswork based on castles and critters.”

No more shopping lists either since you can scan the wines right in front of you in the store. The app’s key features allow you to:

- Instantly access tasting notes, scores, prices, recipes and food pairings

- Search 150,000 wines at the LCBO, SAQ, BC Liquor Stores and other liquor retailers across the country

- Get real-time stock for every wine at the store in which you’re shopping

- Check the number of bottles in stock at nearby stores via GPS real-time inventory search

- Track your purchases in your virtual cellar with just a few clicks

- Create a wine journal with your own wine notes and pictures in the app

- Share your favourite wines and pairings on Twitter and Facebook

The new Wine Picks & Pairings app is the next generation of Natalie’s mobile app, which was selected among the top five food-and-wine apps by both Computerworld Magazine and the New York Times. It’s the only one featured on Apple’s iTunes store under App Essentials for both “Food & Wine” and “Date Night.”

Fans use Canada’s most popular wine and food app to get more than 700,000 wine picks and food pairing suggestions a month—the number of users has grown 230% over the past year. The app, designed by Fluid Trends, bundles a suite of 10 wine apps including reviews, cellar journals, recipes, food pairings, articles, blog posts, a wine glossary, a bi-weekly newsletter, a directory of wineries around the world and excerpts from Natalie’s bestselling book Red, White and Drunk All Over.

A certified sommelier and winner of the World’s Best Wine Writer award at the World Food Media Awards, Natalie wrote and vetted all the pairings and wine reviews in the app rather than relying on computer-generated algorithms and crowd-sourced material.

Natalie’s Top 10 Well-Done Wine and BBQ Pairings:

1. Juicy Steak and Shiraz

2. Grilled Salmon and Pinot Noir

3. Seared Tuna and Gamay

 4. Flame-Broiled Hamburgers and Zinfandel

5. Grilled Portabello Mushroom and Rosé

6. Herbed Chicken and Syrah

7. Lobster in Butter and Sparkling Wine

8. Grilled Veggies and Sauvignon Blanc

9. BBQ Pork Chops and Chardonnay

10. Roasted Marshmallows and Tawny Port

About Natalie

Natalie MacLean is a Canadian wine journalist and author of Red, White and Drunk All Over.She connects with more than 123,000 wine and food lovers who get her free e-newsletter. Nat is the only person to have won both the M.F.K. Fisher Distinguished Writing Award from the James Beard Foundation and the M.F.K. Fisher Award for Excellence in Culinary Writing from Les Dames d'Escoffier International. More bio here:




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