When I went to Bordeaux during Primeur week with the Millesima Blog Award crew, the boys and girls from Bernard Magrez’s wine empire were all there to look after us throughout the week. From getting picking up from the airport by our chauffeurs to getting to stay at the plush Château Fombrauge just outside of Saint Émilion, it was VIP all the way…which I could easily get used to! But for this week on the blog I need to shimmy it down to the top 5 things of the week, and one afternoon at Pape Clement really sticks in the mind.
Château Pape Clement is Bernard Magrez’s flagship Bordeaux base. It’s teeming with incredible history all over it, with links back to the papacy in medieval times. In recent years they’ve spent a good deal of cash cleaning the outside and renovating the inside. It’s now not only a top Cru Classé Château (basically means it’s got every chance of being really good), but also a hotel and a conference centre. It’s also the base for one of Mr Magrez’s more interesting business ventures.
It’s all about shire horses. He’s paired up with a team of guys and girls who are reinventing the use of horses in the vineyards instead of using tractors. They’ve developed a set of ploughing tools that fit perfectly inbetween the vines and once the horses are trained up, it actually takes the same time as it does with the tractors.
So what are the big benefits? From an environmental point of view you get less pollution from diesel engines and a lot less noise pollution for the surrounding neighbours. From a soil point of view you’ve got a half tonne horse instead of a 20 tonne tractor, so the soil gets less compacted and eroded. The horses’ own emissions help with the rose bushes too!
But overall, the thing most of us bloggers got out of it was the smiles it puts on your face working with animals. This is something people ignore, but take it from a guy who had a definite weariness of going near horses beforehand, the gentle giants were absolutely brilliant fun (especially my mate Quinoa pictured above).
Good luck to the team as they try to roll this one out to more wine makers across the globe!