My folks are only about an hour’s drive from Bordeaux, so we always try to fit in at least one trip when we visit. Today it was the turn of Lynch Bages, a 90 hectares chateau just outside the town of Pauillac. Although the wine was only classified as a cinquieme cru in 1855, it is now seen as one of the best wines outside of the first growths.
We had a bit of trouble finding the place as the usual road was closed and in true French style no one had bothered with a full set of deviation signs. We joined the tour as they went to the upper floor of the vat house. The mezzanine level, which is the same height as the top of the vats below, was designed by a mine engineer and the cross hatching of tracks allowed the carts of grapes to be easily manoeuvred from entrance to vat.
The tour continued through the barrel room with its beautiful fragrance of prunes and vanilla. I’m always amazed how you can still find out something new on every chateau visit when the process of picking grapes and fermenting them in oak barrels really doesn’t vary that much between vineyards and countries, and yet you always do. The interesting barrel fact of the day was that they wrap a split chestnut rod around the rim of the barrel because it acts as an insect deterrent.
The tour ended with a tasting of Les Ormes des Pez – a St Esteph chateaux owned by the same family – and the 2004 Lynch Bages. The Lynch Bages was beautifully smooth already with a satisfying earthiness underlying blackcurrant fruit.
After the tour we wandered round the eerily perfect hamlet of Bages. The other buildings have been renovated to within an inch of their lives, no doubt in an attempt to offer visiting Americans an experience of the quintessential French village. That said, we had a pretty good mooch round the kitchen shop and an excellent grand creme in the cafe, so at least it wasn’t too much a case of style over substance.
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