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Anson on Thursday: Euro 2016 and wine in Bordeaux

Jane Anson talks to the Château-owning president of Bordeaux football club and suggests wines to drink in the city during its hosting of the Euro 2016 championship.

For the 2014-2015 season, Bordeaux’s football club Les Girondins gave a nod to the city’s main activity by designing a Maillot Grand Cru for their home kit.

Tiny vines, coloured claret of course, were subtly set against the dark blue colour of the shirt.

The kit was launched back in April 2014 at Domaine de Chevalier in Pessac Léognan – pretty generous really of Les Girondin’s president Jean-Louis Triaud considering that he is the owner of Chateaux Gloria and Saint Pierre up in Saint Julien, and Chateau Bel Air in Haut-Médoc. Triaud is also the main tenant of the €184 million Bordeaux football stadium Matmut Atlantique that was completed in May 2015 and is home stadium for his club. Right now, they are gearing up for the stadium to welcome four games during the knock-out stages of Euro 2016, and to play host to the quarter-finals.

Triaud is a serious player in the French football world. Under his tenure, the club has won the French league three times, in 2002, 2007 and 2009, and the Coupe de France in 2013. And he has applied the same perfectionist eye to the wine estates that he took over from his father in law, the legendary Henri Martin, after marrying his daughter Françoise in 1974. Quality has gone through the roof over the past 10 years, but they can still – just about – be considered insiders’ wines, for the smart money.

I had a thoroughly enjoyable lunch with Triaud a few months ago, over a number of bottles of the 1975 vintage that marked his second year as a winemaker. He remembered that even when he started off working alongside Martin (although at the time more of a rugby than a football player) he viewed winemaking as a competitive sport.

‘There are something like 8,000 chateaux in Bordeaux,’ he told me again this week, ‘and each vintage the challenge is to get the best result you can and to do better than the year before’.

It’s not so tough to see the comparison with Ligue A, especially for those chateaux that are noted and ranked by critics every year. So perhaps it’s also no great surprise that there links between football and wine everywhere once you start to look. Over in England, Stephan Browett, chairman of Farr Vintners wine merchants, is also co-chairman of Crystal Palace, with a 25% stake in the club. He has enlisted a ‘bring your own bottle’ policy to the executive boxes and introduced the really rather excellent Chateau Thénac Fleur du Perigord as the house wine, sold under the club’s colours as Eagle Red and Eagle Chardonnay. And to slightly bend the link, Thénac is owned by Eugene Shvidler, a close friend of Chelsea football club’s owner Roman Abramovich.

Back in Bordeaux, there is an ex professional footballer in the shape of Laurent Cisneros at Château de Rouillac in Pessac Léognan. He played for Cannes at the same time as a young Zinédine Zidane was getting started and bought Rouillac in 2009. Bordeaux also has two ex-Girondins footballers, Johan Micoud and Mattheiu Chalmé, as co-owners alongside Alexandre de Malet Roquefort at Chateau la Connivence in Pomerol, while down in Provence, another ex-Girondins Jean Tigana owns the beautiful Domaine de La Dona Tigana in Cassis.

So far at the Bordeaux stadium, the onsite brasserie acquits itself pretty well with Chateau Tour de Pez, Fleur de Pédéslaux, Benjamin de Beauregard and Chateau Ferrande on the list. But the real action takes place in the executive boxes and the business club, where 100 partner chateaux, from Cheval Blanc to Lynch Bages and Latour, provide wines that rotate between different matches. And Triaud has done his bit to extend overall links with the wine world – I’ve been to several wine tastings there over the past year, and the 2015 en primeurs even held the official Union des Grands Crus tastings in the glass-fronted room overlooking the pitch.

For wine tasting during the Euro 2016 championship, the best place to go might just be the new Cité du Vin, that will be hosting the Offside Festival and is an official part of the FIFA programme during the games. For each of the matches played in Bordeaux, the city’s latest wine attraction will show the match live in the auditorium, and will warm things up with a tasting from the player countries – starting with Wales vs Slovakia on June 11th.

It’s not such a crazy idea. In fact this is probably the best place in Europe to hold these tastings, as the wine shop Latitude20 stocks wines from over 70 countries including every single Euro 2016 competitor that is playing in Bordeaux (and in the entire tournament with the exception of Iceland and Northern Ireland, although the Republic of Ireland is represented with Thomas Walk Vineyard).

The World Cup in two years time should be a breeze.

Group Matches in Bordeaux, that will be featured in wine tastings during the Offside Festival at Cité du Vin

June 11 Wales vs Slovakia
June 14 Austria vs Hungary
June 18 Belgium vs Republic of Ireland
June 21 Croatia vs Spain

Tickets for the Cité du Vin Offside

Euro 2016 and wine: First Round – Wales v Slovakia

Ancre Hills Estates, Blanc de Blancs, Wales 2009

Welsh wine, admittedly, might not be getting quite the same attention right now as its English cousin, but this one is exceptional. The 2008 vintage was voted best sparkling wine in the world at the Bollicine del Mondo International Competition in Italy a few years ago. Located just outside Monmouth, the vineyard is planted to chardonnay, albarino and pinot noir, and is one of only two fully biodynamic estates in the UK. It is also one of 17 vineyards currently operating in Wales, that in total cover just 70 hectares producing around 100,000 bottles. The nose on this wine is focused and aromatic, with toasted brioche notes. Thing lighten on the palate and the mousse is not hugely persistent, but the flavours are. Beautifully dry, lovely citrus grip and soft elderflower. Great stuff from Roger and Joy Morris. 92.

Macik Winery Furmint Slovakia 2015

Slovakia beats Wales soundly in terms of production, with 18,000 hectares of vines in 2011 and six million bottles annually. The Cité du Vin will have both this Furmint and the Tokaj Macik 4 puttonyos 2006. This week, however, they were stuck in customs, so I was unable to taste…

And the Bordeaux football wines…

Chateau Gloria AOC Saint Julien 2006
Gentle seduction on display, a flush of brambly fruit and a sense of unforced pleasure. There are some issues that don’t quite resolve themselves over the course of the wine unfolding – namely slightly rustic tannins that pull the finish up short – but lots to enjoy. 89

Chateau Saint Pierre AOC Saint Julien 2010
Deceptively soft on attack but punches its fruit firmly into play within seconds, and hangs on right through the mid palate. Bilberry, cassis, sweet concentrated cherry coulis. From a blend of 78% cabernet sauvignon and 22% merlot, this is still a swaggeringly tannic wine, with a gorgeous display of liquorice spice. Barely opening up, one for the very long haul. Wonderful example of a Saint Julien wine that is increasingly making all the right moves. 97

Chateau de Rouillac AOC Pessac Léognan 2014
This property has the distinction of being the only estate in Pesac Léognan where Eric Boissenot consults (the technical director is one of his childhood friends, which may help). His deft touch is at work – this has bright purple reflections, showing the tight dark fruit and crisp tension, lean savoury tannins, careful extraction with oak (30% new) giving touches of smoky coffee beans to help add a little sprinkle of glamour. Attractive wine that is gaining weight over ageing and will be released in a few months. 92

Chateau La Connivence AOC Pomerol 2010
A newcomer in Pomerol that launched its first vintage in 2008 with Claude Gros as oenologist. 100% merlot at this stage, although a touch of cabernet franc is now routinely included. A lovely floral edge, and this has really opened up since I tasted in two years ago. Still very young but delivering beautiful rich blueberry fruit with liquorice from the 50% new oak and clean slate touches from the admirable restraint and singing freshness. 94

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