Vinexpo 2003: Wednesday 24th June
Tis the day before La Fete de la Fleur and the Baronesse Philippine de Rothschild must be exhausted from blowing up hundreds of party balloons and inserting cocktail sticks in chipolatas. I wonder if she went to Iceland? Perhaps I should pop in and lend a hand since today we are circumventing Vinexpo and heading for Cheteau Calon-Segur? After woofing down our croissants, we are back heading north up the D2 artery into the Medoc to the sound of Beyonce, Madonna et Shania.
The village of Saint Estephe is veiled with a palpably different atmosphere to communes more southerly. It is discerningly more tranquil, the serenity undisturbed by the heavy traffic of tourists' cars speeding from one chateau to the other. I have an appointment with proprietor Mme Gasqueton, who in her autumnal years has transformed the estate into one of the most respected in Bordeaux. I must ensure we are punctual as she does not appreciate tardiness and as we pull up one minute before our rendezvous, there she stands, ready for us by the chai. She is the mould from which grandmothers are made: diminuative but buxom, matronly with bobbed grey hair, a cordial but measured smile and attired in conservative white blouse and skirt. She has an unexpectedly firm handshake as if to say, I might be old, but all my faculties are intact thank you very much. We discuss the vintage, the present summer heat and after a tour of the orangerie and ornate gardens we bid farewell and head south down to Margaux.
Following an impromput visit to Chateau Palmer, the afternoon is spent at Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou, which is certainly one of the grandest, most regal looking buildings in the Medoc. I notice that even in these arid conditions the grass is still a lush verdant green and immaculately kept, unlike my own garden, which is turning into the Mojave Desert. After this I have time to take a few more photos for the website, after which we return chez Lopez to groom myself for the evening's soiree hosted by Philip Casteja at Chateau Batailley in Pauillac. We arrive at the entrance at around 8pm where Philip and his wife greet their guests and though we have been acquainted for several years, he fails to recognize me. It must be my new look, for up until a year ago my hair was tousled and unkempt, I looked like I had just survived a heavy weekend at Glastonbury. Having informed him of my identity we walk through to the back garden where I sip champagne until dinner is served in the capacious barrel cellar that flanks the chateau-building, ten to a table.
The main topic of conversation is the now already legendary party at Chateau La Gaffeliere in Saint Emilion the previous evening: a mythical event at which numerous people will doubtlessly claim to have been present, similar to the millions who purportedly witnessed the Sex Pistols debut at the 100 Club in 1976. A sudden storm had ripped the tent from its moorings sending partygoers scurrying for their lives to the safety of the underground cellars, whereupon festivities continued in a wartime bunker atmosphere. The evening is a pleasurable affair and after winding up Philip Casteja's rugby-playing son about England's dominance in the sport, we decide to leave around mid-night.
Tomorrow is the grand banquet at Chateau Mouton-Rothschild. I wonder what flavour jelly the Baroness has made for her
My guess is lime.