The spirit in the bottle
A lovely pastime of ours since moving to the country is simply to get in the car and drive through the countless villages and vineyards that grace the eastern side of Médoc. It’s a wonderful maze of charming roads and invariably we get a little lost, chasing a beautiful Chateau we see on a distant hill or exploring a small road that seems all too inviting. Ranging from tiny operations, where the wine is literally made in the garage, to splendorous castles filled with rich family histories, Médoc has it all. Many of the villages are high on the authenticity list, not a souvenir shop in sight and sometimes, less conveniently, not even a loaf of bread. But that’s just the way we like it.
Bordeaux wines are a blend of the robust Cabernet Sauvignon and the smoother Merlot, usually with a dash of other varieties. In Médoc the blend favours Cabernet and this is why its wines are considered more earthy and powerful than wines from the “Right bank” such as St. Emilion and Pomerol. This is an oversimplification, of course, and there are different tendencies within Médoc itself. A wine from St. Estephe (the most Northern of the famous villages) are more earthy than wines from the southern Margaux, which have a reputation for silkiness.
Which brings us to Moulis (to be pronounced Moulisse) a neighbour of Margaux and one of the oldest wine making appelations in the region. Some years ago, in Paris, a sommelier at a restaurant had introduced us to Chateau Maucaillou from Moulis and it quickly became a household favourite. It was therefore such a happy accident, when we bumped into the owner of the Chateau at a local gas station and even better, he wasted no time in inviting us to lunch at his Chateau.
Chateau Maucaillou turned out to be a real family operation, run by Pascal Dourthe and his two sisters, Magali and Caroline. They grew up on the estate surrounded by wine and horses, and after their father’s retirement took over the reins at the castle in 2006. The Chateau itself is beautiful a wedding present from a man to his wife in a different age when a trip to the jewellery store was not enough. These days the Chateau partly serves as a guest house, especially for visitors and wine enthusiasts. The estate includes a very impressive wine museum and a nearby building has a chef on standby for those who might be hungry.
And what a meal it is, after five courses and three hours, after savouring Chateau Maucaillou 2000 and 2005 (one of the best vintages in recent memory), our appetites were satisfied and our heads filled with Pascal’s stories about his childhood, his unique take on life and of course… his wine.
In Médoc wine is a way of life, that’s what people do here, what they talk about, how they make their living. A bottle of wine is a personal thing, not to be taken lightly and it’s such fun to finally put a face to a bottle of wine that you like, to understand the family behind it. Next time we open a bottle of Chateau Maucaillou, and believe me we will soon, Pascal Dourthe will jump out of it in spirit and perhaps even join the conversation.