Looking to immerse yourself in the secrets of Bordeaux wine-making? We just returned from a trip to France, where we indulged in the Luxury Wine Experience offered by Bernard Magrez. Here’s an inside look at what the wine tour entails….
We arrived at Château Pape Clément, located in Pessac, 20 minutes south of Bordeaux, where we had booked a room for the night. We were driven in a golf cart from the parking lot to the château and shown to our well-appointed room by a personable young man who offered us a glass of estate wine as we comfortably installed ourselves. We then walked to the wine store and rendezvous point for our informative wine tour on the château grounds. The tour was given in English to our group of about a dozen people, by a young French woman who had worked in San Francisco as an au pair. Her knowledge about the property and wine making process was impressive. She spoke about its long history, as vineyards were first planted in 1252. In 1300 the estate was presented to the archbishop of Bordeaux whose papal name was Clement V. Today an effigy of Clement V rests in a small chapel in the cellar where numerous bottles of old vintages of Grand Cru Classés are stored. The production is small, and based on its reputation, sold before it’s bottled.
M. Magrez is the owner of four prestigious Bordeaux classified appellations in the area. Sustainable practices are in place with all parts of the grape put to use. Hand labour is the norm for harvesting. Oxen and mules are used, instead of machines, to plow the dirt between the vines to prevent the soil from compacting and hardening around the roots.
We were delighted with our stay at the Château, with much to contemplate during the evening, as we walked around the property admiring the well-cared for trees, plants and gardens, including 1000 year old olive trees. Peacocks called out during the night, and in the morning at petit déjeuner, a white peacock unfolded its tail and strutted outside the window where we were seated. As we exited the salon, the owner M. Magrez walked in for a business meeting and amicably shook our hands.
Our next night was a stay at Château Fombrauge, another one of M. Magrez’s wine estates, situated close to Saint-Emillion. We were led to the enormous Suite Cadran, with two floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over the rolling hills and majestic vineyards. This was another wonderful night’s sleep and stay in gorgeous surroundings, both inside the quiet château and out, in the well-kept gardens.
The following morning we headed back to Bordeaux for lunch at the five-star La Grand Maison Hotel-Restaurant, another one of the splendid properties owned by M. Magrez, with its two Michelin star restaurant overseen by Pierre Gagnaire. A valet whisked our car away, we were warmly welcomed and escorted into a grand dining room and offered champagne. Along came eight special small plates designed to hold delicious tastes of creatively prepared hors d’oeuvres. Two lovely courses followed that looked like works of art. I can’t remember all the dazzling ingredients, but they were fresh and colourful presentations using fish, vegetables and heavenly sauces. Did I mention the warm bread and flavoured butters? Superb wine from the estate accompanied the meal. Then there was a small glass of Sauternes, dessert and espresso with mignardises. Sublime! I almost wept over the magnificence of this meal.
The professionalism of service, the orchestration of the dishes, the openness and style of the room…it’s all etched in my memory. It was over too quickly, but I’m still savouring the moments and will, for a long time to come. The hospitality offered by M. Magrez and all of his staff leaves me with a warm feeling and understanding of the true meaning of l’art de vivre.
For more information, visit www.luxurywineexperience.com