Tag Archives: Wine School

Grand Cru Drive Thru Bordeaux: Back to (Wine) School

Guest Wines Tour de France

Back to wine school and commuting to Bordeaux, how exciting!

Having been inspired by several friends in the wine business who have attended courses at the Wine School in Bordeaux, L’Ecole du Vin, Kelvyn and I decided it would be a missed opportunity not to see what was on offer during the month we were to be residents in the region! Coincidentally there were a couple of courses running bang in the middle of our stay, so I went for it and booked myself on a two day Practical Bordeaux Course. This was my first bit of formal training since completing the WSET Advanced late last year and I was both excited and nervous. Chateau la Tour de Chollet were kind enough to release me from harvest duties as they understood the importance and benefits of me undertaking this training.

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The course ran on a Sunday and Monday at l’Ecole du Vin in the centre of Bordeaux city. This meant getting up rather early to drive the hour’s journey there, which was all nice and easy on the Sunday but a rather different story on the Monday when I was plunged into rush hour traffic. Although it turned out to be pretty straight forward parking on the city’s limits to catch the tram the rest of the way.

It was a nice sized group with some of the people having already attended the previous two day theoretical course. We were a mix of English, German, Taiwanese, Canadian, Chinese and Italian. It took me a bit by surprise when our course tutor, Caroline, introduced herself with a distinctly Irish accent, admittedly I assumed she would be French although this did not make any difference as the course was in English.  Caroline was a great tutor, there was a lot of content and tasting to get through in the two days, including almost 30 wines to taste, lunch out on day one and a cookery workshop on day two.

It was a well set up classroom and we each had our own sink for spitting in, lovely, and light for analysing the wine in glass. We addressed topics related to starting your own cellar, the Bordeaux wine market, serving wines and matching wines with food. Each day we tasted up to 14 wines giving us the opportunity to experience a range of the Bordeaux appellations, which equally highlighted how diverse the area’s produce is.

As you can see I am paying attention despite having several glasses of wine on the go at once.


Part of the course dealt with serving wines and decanting, in particular where older vintages are concerned. Here Caroline used a twist and pull opener on this 1981 Château Poujeaux, the cork impressively stayed in tact and didn’t crumble. The wine itself was also in tact with good structure and silky tannins. This was most certainly one of the oldest wines I have tried and I was surprised at the freshness of a wine this age. I now look forward to trying many more older vintages … if I can get my hands on them!

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Caroline also demonstrated a little gadget with a torch incorporated into it that hangs around the neck of the bottle, so you can see exactly when the sediment is nearing the neck and you should stop pouring. This is still often done using the good old fashioned candle method.


On an evening back at Chollet, Kelvyn and I spent most of our time reading up about Bordeaux, sampling wines from the various appellations and testing our senses with the help of the Nez du Vin that Kirstie had leant to us. With all our travels and what I was learning on the wine course, Bordeaux wines were opening up to us and sharing their deeper meaning.

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On day two we had a session on food and wine matching but what I think none of the class realised was that in order to really get to grips with this, we were to be taken to the local chefs training workshop, L’Atelier des Chefs, for a cookery course. A fabulous and unexpected surprise.

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It was great fun preparing and cooking the tapas dishes: creamy cucumber and mint gazpacho with marinated salmon on pain grille; duck thigh spring roll; baked cherry tomatoes with pesto and olives; prawn and smoked duck samosa. I was mightily impressed with what we made.

The zesty Sauvignon Blanc (Chateau le Tros, 2011) worked nicely with the gazpacho and salmon and the dark savouriness of the Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot (Chateau Reverdi, 2009) was perfect with the smoked duck samosa, beautiful flavours abounded!

The tomato and pesto might have benefited from a lighter, more acidic style than the juicy Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot (Chateau Cantelaudette, 2009) and although the duck spring rolls matched very well with a sweeter wine, the Semillon (Chateau la Rame, 2009), a bit more zesty acidity would have balanced better.

Success in the end! Some of the group, Chang, Chai, James, Gabriele and Frank all looking pleased with their achievement!

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I throughly enjoyed this practical course and met a great group of people. It taught me all sorts of useful facts and stats about the region as well as giving me the chance to try a great variety of Bordeaux wines!