Enjoying a vineyard visit in Blaye


Sometimes serendipity takes hold and brings you to enjoyable experiences. So it was last week in Blaye, close to Bordeaux and center of one of the wine-growing regions that cluster around that city. After enjoying a rather good bottle of the local wine, we were introduced to its maker, Alain Lancereau, a wine grower based in Plassac, close to Blaye. Alain used to be a partner at Accenture before he gave up the corporate world ten years ago and purchased a small chateau. Alain invited us to visit him at the chateau, which seemed like an excellent idea, which brought us to Chateau Bellevue Gazin the next day.

I have visited many vineyards over the years in France, California, Australia, and New Zealand and expected that we would follow the normal routine of some polite conversation before tasting several wines and then (if the wines were any good), a small purchase. What I didn’t expect was to have a two-and-a-half-hour masterclass in wine making.

Enjoying a master class in wine appreciation at the Chateau Bellevue Gazin

Enjoying a master class in wine appreciation at the Chateau Bellevue Gazin

Alain clearly applied his years working as a business consultant to the business of wine making. After buying the chateau, he interviewed many of his fellow wine growers in an attempt to master the detail of planting and harvesting, grape type and soil, vine age and location, the different grades of cork used and why screw-top closures will not be used by many vignerons, why some wine is aged in concrete vats whereas other is better held in stainless steel, the use of wood barrels and burnt oak, and so on. I’m sure that the locals thought that someone coming down from Paris to buy a vineyard and large house (they run a bed and breakfast too) was quite mad, especially when he asked so many questions. Their opinion was likely revised when Alain won gold medals at major wine shows in his second year of production!

Alain’s passion for his new career was clearly communicated as we sat and tasted his wines. No detail was too small to delve into or could not be explained clearly. The merits of Merlot versus Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec were discussed as was the difference between the Medoc and the other Bordeaux regions, including Blaye. Time went by fast and we enjoyed ourselves very much. And even better, the wine was good too and obviously a purchase was in order. We liked the 2005 “Grand Vin” more than its 2004 counterpart, but both were worth buying as was the “Claret”.

Then the real fun started. Producing some 60,000 bottles annually, the chateau is a small operation on the global scale. Some of the wine that we wanted to buy was bottled, but the bottles had no labels or tax stamps. We therefore had to adjourn to the “shed” to apply labels and stamps before we could take the wine. More conversation, advice, and opinions were shared as the bottles were prepared and we loaded the car.

I doubt that you will find the Chateau Bellevue Gazin in many wine shops. That is a pity but it’s not the point. What I think is important is the chance to have met someone who is so knowledgeable and enthusiastic about their work; not often encountered but always a delight when it happens.

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About Tony Redmond

Exchange MVP, author, and rugby referee
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