Âllo, âllo, Bonne Année!

Here we go! At full speed into the new year. Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your life.
Allez, on y va!

Unarmed Combat
Inspired by squirrels, castle mice and all the other castle cohabitants we started to stock our larders and woodsheds to bursting point at the end of November. And rightfully so because beginning December Mother Nature cut the umbilical cord with civilization. It became freezing cold but inside we stayed warm and cozy. We enjoyed ourselves, filled our bellies, drank some nice wine and read think books next to the roaring fireplace.

But when Christmas came around the cold departed and lunch could be served outside once again.   The sunrises looked like we could plant Pinotage.

Swakening solar heat melted away the frost from the leaves in the vineyard.

Because of that early in the morning it was already great vineyard weather, meaning that the wineboer could occupy himself with his favorite outdoor activity: the unarmed combat with unwilling grapevines.

A brand new year

Christmas and New Year spread a blanket of calm over the Château. We put a few chickens on the spit…
  … lit the candles and set the castle table extra festively.

Some friends came by…   we opened a bottle of wine...


And we drank the very very last bottle of Vin Puur. A Château de la Garde from the blessed millésime 2000. Of this we bottled a special edition got Jonnie and Thérèse Boer from 3-Michelinstar restaurant 'De Librije'. That year Jonnie together with Hans van Wolde from 'Beluga' cooked for our grape pickers. And so incredibly good that every year since our pickers have asked us with a glimmer of hope in their eyes if 'les deux Chefs Hollandais’ will be coming again this year.


Our distant neighbor Château La Gomerie had a hot Newyears eve: a fire destroyed the Chai and 50 barrels of wine.
But at that moment we had no knowledge of that: in a cozy restaurant in the centre of Bordeaux we were busy with an extensive comparative study of excellent Pessac-Léognans. Which the Carbonnieux won resplendently. But noblesse oblige: his cork costs € 1,20. That of his neighbor € 0,24.

Exactly at the magical time the lights in a restaurant were dimmed.   So that the international texting, bbming and pinging can commence and the new years greetings could be sent over the oceans and mountains.   After which we could dive in to a brand new year with a clean conscious and full of all sorts of newyears resolutions. Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of our lives.

Bacterial warfare

These wine cuves look spotless and orderly. But on the inside they’re a total mess. In the dark, behind the rvs, there rages a fierce war between billions of bacteria. One side is hell bent on breaking down the malic acid in the wine, while their opponents do everything in their power to stop them form doing that.

Is it the 'fermentation malolactique', the second fermentation. The 2010 harvest has a high alcohol level and because of that 'le malo’ had some trouble getting going, but on the last day of the year all the cuves got their malo going and the wine could finally mature.

In the silent depths of the barrel cellar it seems to be a lot calmer. But appearances can be deceiving: while the millésime 2009 is still dozing in the barrels, the tonneliers have been busy stocking our 'chai à barriques’ with new barrels for our 2010 wine. Confusing, all those dates, because we have already moved on and are preparing for the harvest of 2011.

That’s how we spent the first day of the rest of our lives, taking the plastic foil of barrels and rinsing 50 oak barrels.

Fresh Tulipes 2010

I’m lucky: the next day is also the first day of the first of our lives. And even luckier: that morning we immediately get to start drinking wine.

Already at 9 in the morning we’re slurping and spitting and the noses of château manager Bence, oenologue Paul, Michel Rollands winemaker Bruno and the wineboer himself have already disappeared into the glass many times.

Although the Tulipes won’t appear in the supermarket until March we have some serious slurping to do. We start off with the Tulipe Sauvignon Blanc.
The overall harvest quality of Bordeaux 2010 is better than that of 2009. That is why Michel and Bruno decided to keep the percentage of Sauvignon blanc at 80%, while reducing the Semillon this year to 10% and to fill the remaining percentage with 10% muscadelle; a delicious, aromatic grape, which will give the wine the extra flowery parfum of the muscatel grape.

When the first glasses have been poured out, Paul yells enthusiastically: ‘Acacia! Pêches blanches!’ His almost overused nose disappears like a bittern underwater. ‘Wow! Ça casse le nez!'
And right he was: soft fruit aromas fill the room. Last year we won two gold medals and a silver one with the Tulipe Blanc. What are we going to do if this wine gets any better?
  When you’re tasting wine in a team you have to use your opponent’s weak moments to quickly write down your findings. When Bence takes a spitting break, the wineboer jumps on the opportunity: as fast as his fingers can follow his train of thought he tries to write down the collection of smell and taste sensations that flooded his mind a moment earlier.

This was followed by the dégustation of the rosé. Which is a little more complex this year according to Bruno. Less grenadine. Moreover it also has more glycerols, so it’s thicker. That can be easily seen on the picture above.

Although we still vinify the La Tulipe Rosé with 100% merlot, we’re doing an experiment this year: Michel Rolland and Bruno are vinifying a quartet of Tulipe rosés with an increasing intensity of colour, going from the very light ‘Pellure d’Onion’ to strawberry red. Especially with rosé the colour is extremely important. Which is hard to judge in the living room so we step outside and hold the glass up to the light with the white stones of the Château wall behind them.

On one thing we agree unanimously: this wine is good. On crache pas. You don’t spit this out, this we can swallow.

With a superhuman feat of willpower Bruno manages to splash a swig of this pink nectar of the gods in the crachoir. The wineboer uses the time, unseen by the others, to have himself another gulp.

The taste is overwhelming, but the colour is where it goes wrong. After endless discussions we decide at the end of the morning to go for the scientific approach: all the pros and cons are listed after which a conclusion will be drawn. But an agreement was nowhere to be found: the opinions are as scattered as brood of chicken being chased by a fox.   'Le Schjloerp!' Bruna suddenly says. ‘How many readers does Le Schjloerp have? Why not ask them!?’
Curious the veteran winetigers crowd around the laptop with the lasest episode on the Slurpsite.

When the wineboer also gives them a copy of the Slurpbook a volley of laughter can be heard through the whole castle. ‘We are in it! Now it has to be a good book! With intelligent readers who we can easily ask for their opinion without having to worry about any nutter answers like ‘I prefer the blue one’.

knop   Therefore we nailed a pillowcase to the wall and photographed the four rosés in the daylight. Which one is it to be?
Cliquez ici and help us out. Give us your opinion and chose the colour of your own rosé.

Among the participants we’ll raffle off 10 signed first bottles rosé of the year.

The luck which we look for, is often right at our feet.

Restaurant La Fontaine. Surrounded by depressing new buildings, is situated along the Route Départementale, a shotgunblast away from our Château. It tries to attract the attention of the cars racing by with a loud sign, which is a little too big compared to the restaurant which, in architects terms can be called a ‘rigid box’. At least a thousand times we drove past it, with out a single hair on our heads considering for a moment to stop.

The announcement ‘Ouvert’ isn’t removed from the sign at the end of the day, which might give you a distorted view of its opening hours but another sign made us hit the breaks full force: ‘Changement propriértaire’. A new year, a new challenge. More over it was, once again today, the first day of the rest of our lives.

We changed course and parked the wineboermobile the French way right infront of the entrance. We were the only ones.

A quick look inside sent shivered down our spines: the interior had the coziness of a crematorium run by the Adams family.   Once inside it turned out that the lighting system wouldn’t have been out of place in the cutting room of a mortuary.

The floor with its hard white tiles brought to mind the urine-collectionpoint in a home for the elderly.   Luckily the completely deserted room offered some company through the soundless TV.

But someone really put some effort into the menu with calligraphy and curls everywhere.
  Just like with the tablenumbercards. But are we at table 2 or at table 4?
Menu: a salad with smoked salmon as a starter; main: grilled steak; dessert: apple crumble pie with whipped cream; a carafe with wine and an espresso to top it all off. All inclusive for, hold on to your hat, 12 Euro. Yes, you are reading that correctly: 12 Euro!

'Vous êtes Hollandais!!!?' After the patron has gotten over the worst of the shock, he starts to explain the menu of the day in high speed French. After that follows the explanation of the ‘Plat du Jour’, the fish of the day and the dessert of the day. Afterwards he gives a detailed description of the four dishes that are available outside the menu and finishes it all off with a summing up of three different desserts. ‘And what would you like to order?’ he asks smiling of the wineboer and his company who’s minds are still trying to catch up to the mans French. To be safe we go for the Menu du Jour.

The very fruity sauvignon blanc is from our friend, collegue and mayor of our village, Alain and eases the suffering of eating in a frosty, empty hospital room.   The bread basket also cheers us up: it actually contains something that is very rare in France: Pain Complet, wheat bread!

Then the room begins to fill up and the interior is livened up by a stream of guests. From fiery small-lunchers to hardened ‘Mangeurs’.

After half an hour there is no free table in sight and the previously boring room is filled with deafening chitchat and laughter. Everywhere you can hear the sound of cutlery eagerly hitting tableware. The patron and his wife run crisscross around the place with armfuls of plates and bottles of wine.

The Salade de Saumon Fumé is a party: with fresh salad and a generous helping of salmon, served with heartwarming charm. They even made a courageous attempt at Haute Cuisine by putting some paprikapowder in the edge of the plate.

A Bavette is one of those mysterious French dishes of which even the French aren’t sure what exactly there are supposed to consist of. Whatever the case it tasted excellent, just like the thick homemade fries. Especially after we were offered a glass of hot blooded Médoc by a forward from a local rugbyteam at the adjacent table.

The apple crumble looked mouthwateringly good. However the wineboer called upon never before seen reserve of willpower and managed to wait until the coffee. He was only just able to save it out of the hands of the overactive patron.


As if by magic, La Fontaine was totally empty again by 14:30 on the dot. And we left this great place with satisfied pinching trousers, a negligible bill and a valuable, beaming smile from La Patronne.

Restaurant La Fontaine - 280, Zone Artisanale Illot - 33240 La Lande-de-Fronsac. Tél: +33 5 57 42 06 48

Anti-Robert Parkerguide

The world of wine in Bordeaux has been abruptly awoken with a comicbook. Comic illustrators Benoit Simmat and Phillipe Bercovici publicized an Anti-Parkerguide at the end of last year. Loosely translated the title is: The seven sins of the capital. In this book the world of wine, which lets its prices be set on the basis of the point system made up by the American ‘wineadvocate’ Robert Parker, is ridiculed in a humorous way. Even our oenologist can’t escape the fast drawing hands of Simmat and Bercovici.
Highly recommended!
for more info
to order

Allez, heartily Santé et à la prochaine!


Slurp! 2

€ 14,95 in the bookstore.
Of order here in our SlurpShop!