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L'atelier du vin

Wine ABC-book

Wine quiz

  • Does the colour of a Bordeaux red wine come from ...

  • In Bordeaux, the Imperial bottle is equivalent to ...

  • Why would you decant (i.e. pour into a carafe) an old red Bordeaux?

  • Burdigala is the Roman word for Bordeaux. What does it mean?

  • One of these years was not an exceptional Bordeaux vintage. Which one?

  • An ageing cellar must:

  • In the Middle Ages, a sommelier was called:

  • The colour of a young red wine will generally be:

  • Aromas that call to mind wax are characteristic of:

  • Nicknamed ‘Spain's cabernet sauvignon’, this grape variety is used in most of the wines from Rioja and Ribera del Duero in Spain...

Our variety of wine

  • Sémillon

    Sémillon

    Sémillon is the doyenne of the varieties used to produce the great fortified white wines of Sauternes in Bordeaux, thanks in large part to its extremely thin skin, which promotes the growth of noble rot. As the main grape in blends, it gives a syrupy appearance to fortified wines, like Monbazillac from Dordogne. However, it can also be used to craft white wines with surprising potential for cellaring. Its very round, fat mouthfeel is often combined with sauvignon blanc, which provides freshness and complements its aromas. Today it is well established in the Côtes de Provence appellations in France, but it is also grown in Chile, California, South Africa, Argentina and the vineyards of the American Northwest in Washington State.

    Used in the Merle Blanc blend at Château Clarke, sémillon balances the sweetness of muscadelle and the freshness of sauvignon blanc, resulting in a dry wine that is now a reference in Médoc.

  • Muscadelle

    Muscadelle

    Along with sauvignon blanc, muscadelle is the other traditional white grape variety from the vineyards of Bordeaux. The variety's popularity was hindered by its fragility and vulnerability to diseases, but now it is sought out for its broad palette of aromas. Muscadelle is traditionally used in the fortified white wine blends of Sauternes as well as in the dry white wines of Graves. It brings softness and complexity, floral aromas and an herbaceous edge. The Compagnie Vinicole uses muscadelle to impart floral notes to Merle Blanc, the white white blend produced by Château Clarke.

  • Chardonnay

    Chardonnay

    Just like sauvignon blanc, the chardonnay variety is extremely common throughout the world. This grape is native to the Mâcon area, so it is appropriate that it earned its royal reputation in the great wines of Burgundy. Today it is found in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, the United States and even in Chile. It is particularly sought after for its abundant yields, early ripening and aromatic complexity, not to mention its ability to adapt to many different soil types. This vine variety is also known as an ingredient in sparkling wines, such as in the Champagne region, where it is often blended with pinot noir and pinot meunier.

    In Fredericksburg, South Africa, the Compagnie Vinicole produces an elegant, mineral-dense Chardonnay varietal called Baroness Nadine, in honour of Baroness Nadine de Rothschild.

  • Sauvignon Blanc

    Sauvignon Blanc

    In France, sauvignon blanc is known as the king of grapes used to produce white wines in Bordeaux and the Loire Valley, where it delivers light, fragrant wines. It is also one of the most popular grapes around the world, used in blends and varietal wines. It is especially common in the United States, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, where it is miraculously suited to the cool climate. Sauvignon blanc creates highly aromatic and fruity wines, with characteristic notes of black currant, grapefruit, tropical fruit and flint.

    At Château Clarke, sauvignon blanc is the predominant grape in Merle Blanc, where it accounts for 80% of the blend. Its freshness and aromatic intensity complement the sémillon and muscadelle. In New Zealand's Marlborough district, it exhibits another personality, yielding a crisp, taut varietal wine with typical notes of lemon and grapefruit.

  • Petit Verdot

    Petit Verdot

    Once popular in Bordeaux, petit verdot is known as a temperamental grape. Because it is very sensitive to water stress, it requires both abundant sunshine and intense irrigation, as well as constant attention due to its short harvesting period. This fragile grape ripens quite late – hence its name, which means "little green" in French. It was long overlooked before it returned to grace in the last few years. It is very tannic and adds strength and roundness to the blends in which it is used – usually in quite small proportions (rarely more than 10%). It is characterized by floral (violet), fruity (raspberry, cherry) and spicy (anise, mint) aromas.

  • Tempranillo

    Tempranillo

    The deeply aromatic Tempranillo grape is the variety that gave Spanish wines their top-tier status. Mixing subtle aromas, complexity and mellowness, it thrives in the soils of Rioja south of the Cantabrian Range and a stone's throw from the Spanish Basque country. This intensely fragrant grape evokes spices and tobacco – even leather – and is an especially good match for the structure of cabernet sauvignon. Its name comes from the Spanish word for early ("temprano") because its ripening time is shorter than that of other red grape varieties grown in Spain.

    With its Bodegas Benjamin de Rothschild & Vega Sicilia estate in Rioja Alta, the Rothschild family aims to produce a great Spanish wine that maximizes the aromatic properties of tempranillo.

  • Pinotage

    Pinotage

    Created at the beginning of the 20th century in South Africa, pinotage is a cross between pinot noir and cinsault that produces wines with a tremendous capacity for aging. Particularly well suited to the granitic soils of South Africa, it combines the finesse of pinot noir with the sturdiness of cinsault, resulting in wines known for their mellowness and aromatic complexity, with notes ranging from dark fruits to coconut.

    Long confined to its homeland, pinotage vines are now spreading slowly to other New World wine-making countries, such as New Zealand, Australia and Brazil.

  • Pinot Noir

    Pinot Noir

    Pinot noir is forever linked to Burgundy, where it produces some of the world's greatest wines. Originally from the Jura region, this vine variety has also adapted remarkably well to the soils of the Americas and Oceania. It yields very good wines just as readily in Ontario, Canada, as in New Zealand, at the shores of the Southern Ocean. Pinot noir can be identified by its subtle, fruity aromas, but most significantly by its ability to find wildly different expressions depending on the terroir. It is just as capable of delivering highly complex wines for cellaring as fruity wines to be drunk in their youth.

    The Compagnie Vinicole chose the Marlborough region of New Zealand to produce a 100% pinot noir red wine. The great difference between day and night temperatures, combined with the mineral-rich, stone-flecked terroir, enables the variety to take on a uniquely New Zealand personality with a fruity, delicate and piercing wine.

  • Syrah

    Syrah

    Although its name has long been synonymous with the Orient, this black grape actually stems from the Rhône Valley. Syrah takes its name not from Syria, but from "ser", a Celtic term referring to a rounded mountain or a hill. This variety is very present in the great Rhône blends and is often transformed into varietal wines in the north of the Côtes-du-Rhône region, as in Cornas. Syrah has a reputation of being a fragile grape and it was slow to take hold in the wine-making countries of the New World, such as the US and Chile. Today the aromatic bouquet and structure it brings to blends make it a sought-after grape, yielding exceptional wines in dry soils, such as in Australia where it is known as shiraz.

    Syrah produces wines with solid structure and intense colour. It is used at Bodega Flechas de los Andes to make "Gran Corte" (“great blend"), to which it brings spicy notes and a smooth, opulent mouthfeel.

  • Cabernet Franc

    Cabernet Franc

    Cabernet franc is older and spicier than its close relative, cabernet sauvignon, and historically has been quite a popular variety in France. It is still the main grape used in Val de Loire blends, but it takes particularly well to the soils of the Gironde, especially in the Libourne region, where it is traditionally combined with merlot and cabernet sauvignon. It lends an array of complex, herbaceous aromas to blends, as well as more nuanced tannins than those found in cabernet sauvignon. This subtlety means it can be consumed young; but when combined with grapes that have stronger tannins, it can be used in wines intended for long-term aging.

    Cabernet franc is blended with merlot in the wines produced by the Compagnie Vinicole at the Château des Laurets. It enhances the refined quality of the estate's wines and gives them typical undergrowth aromas. But cabernet franc also finds a unique voice in our Argentinian wine "Gran Corte", produced by Bodega Flechas de los Andes, where its freshness tempers the power of malbec and underscores the complexity of syrah.

  • Merlot

    Merlot

    It is said that the dark merlot grape was named after the blackbird ("merle" in French). Like the bird, it is common throughout many countries and is now the most widely grown grape in the world. It is traditionally used in Bordeaux and features predominantly in the Saint-Emilion AOC. It is a great variety for blends because its roundness and suppleness counter the tannic tendencies of cabernet sauvignon. Its inherent complexity also makes it an excellent grape for producing varietal wines.

    Today the Compagnie Vinicole is known for its masterful approach to vinifying merlot grapes, not just in its historic terroir of Saint-Emilion, but also – more unusually – in Médoc, a region traditionally dominated by cabernet sauvignon. As the major grape in the Château Clarke blend, merlot grapes produce a Médoc wine whose refinement and exuberance set it apart.

  • Cabernet Sauvignon

    Cabernet Sauvignon

    Cabernet sauvignon is one of the most widespread and well known red grape vines in the world. Created by crossing cabernet franc (a red grape) with sauvignon blanc (a white grape), this easy-to-grow variety is planted in most of the major wine-producing regions, from Bordeaux, California and Lebanon to South Africa, Chile and China. Its tremendous popularity, however, should not detract from the wonderful qualities of the grape, which can yield truly great wines by lending them structure and complexity.

    While cabernet sauvignon is naturally used in the Bordeaux blends produced by the Compagnie Vinicole, it is also well represented in our South African wines produced in Fredericksburg. When blended with merlot and cabernet franc grapes in this terroir, it produces remarkable results in deep, concentrated wines.

  • Malbec

    Malbec

    This grape comes from the cotoids family (also known as malbec) and probably originated in Quercy. It first became popular in the vineyards of Bordeaux, where it was admired for its colourful, tannin-rich expression. Decimated by phylloxera, today its most prominent use in France is in Cahors wines. But it seems that malbec has found its true home in Argentina, where it was imported at the end of the 19th century – a time of massive European immigration. It was widely planted in the Mendoza province, which is now the world's leading producer of the variety.

    The Compagnie Vinicole chose these slopes to produce a great malbec wine, crafted by Bodega Flecha de los Andes. Malbec grapes achieve their full potential in the Uco valley, delivering richness and aromatic intensity with red currant and plum notes, a characteristic floral touch and powerful tannins.

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