Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Chateau de Pressac, St. Emilion

A few days ago I made a comparison between two vineyards in France. I promised a more positive blog about another St. Emilion domaine, and here it is.

Chateau de Pressac is a classic St. Emilion vineyard, owning land that covers the three main terroirs of the appellation. The vineyard did not feature in any of my reference books so I wondered to myself why we were scheduled to tour this particular vineyard when there are so many to choose from.

Chateau de Pressac, St. Emilion

Well, it turned out that my reference books are all out of date, with an average publication date in the late 1990s. It was 1997 when the Chateau de Pressac changed hands and things began to improve in leaps and bounds. So much so that the domaine is now classed as a "rising star" and can be expected to receive a significant upgrade in 2016.

The new owner met us for a catered lunch at the chateau and provided three wines to accompany the lunch. He explained that he had sold out of a "white goods" business to buy the chateau in 1997 and that this had become his new career and passion.

The first wine was a clairet, the Bordeaux rosé or summer wine that we had first discovered at Spec's in Houston. The clairet is actually the drink that the English favored when they owned this part of France and the word claret is derived from it, though claret is a full bodied wine. The clairet was excellent, a perfect accompaniment for the cold lunch which included slices of boudin noir (black pudding)!

The two reds were interesting and I wish I could write more about them. The were both blends of the same percentages of grapes but one was a Pomerol, the other a St. Emilion (from Chateau de Pressac). The consensus was that the house wine was much the better!

The owner talked about his methodology for improving the quality of wines. Attention is given to soil science and a full understanding of the terroirs of the vineyard means that the winemaker will have better quality grapes to work with as the years go by. One example of the care going into soil management comes from the paradox of excessive rain in a vineyard. Rain means fungus and mildew will follow, so spraying is necessary. But the equipment needed for spraying can compact the soil around the vines, causing the microbiology of the soil to change and potentially turn sour. A fine balance must therefore be maintained between soil management and crop spraying.

Chateau de Pressac, St. Emilion

Several of the vineyards were being re-planted with the right grapes - here the chateau has added small areas of two grapes not associated with St. Emilion but which are permitted - Carmenaire and Malbec. The latter has many other names, including Cot and, locally, Pressac! It is therefore fitting that this grape should be utilized.

The domaine has a good website with an English version here.

And the chateau is almost famous for its history - the 100 Years War ended here!