Do not follow Google Map directions to Chateau d’Issan or you will find yourself on a road that passes the front of the chateaux, but where there is no access. By the time we had figured this out, we were 15 minute late to our next appointment with Clarisse, the PR Director at Chateau d’Issan who had spent time studying English in both New York and Seattle and had a delightful American accent. She also has exuberant energy and walked us around the vineyards and through the ancient fortress from the 1600’s with its own moat -- explaining the history and telling us that Eleanor of Aquitaine was served the wine of d’Issan at her wedding. Very impressive.
The chateau is large with 110 hectares, but only 40 of which are Margaux AOC. The others are Bordeaux Superior. Clarisse showed us that the Margaux vineyards were slightly higher and on clay and limestone, with some gravel and sand. They produce 100,000 bottles of Margaux, and employ Danish students to help with harvest.
Winemaking is traditional: triage, destem, another triage, crush. Davis yeast added to stainless steel tanks ranging from 70 to 200 hectoliters in capacity. A shorter fermentation from 10-14 days at 28C with 2 gentle pumpovers per day (remontage). ML also takes place in stainless. 5-8% of pneumatic pressed wine is added to the free run for the gran vin. Aging takes places in 50% new oak for 18 months, medium toast. They blend and fine in January, and undergo a light filtration using mobile bottling.
Clarisse shared two fascinating facts with us. The first is that she had to create more than 150 back labels for the 2007 vintage – in order to meet the requirements of all of the countries to which they export. The second was her terrifying tale of the hail storm that destroyed more than 50% of their 2008 crop in less than one hour. She showed us several vine shoots, and we were shocked to see how large the large hail dents were.
The tasting consisted of two wines from that fateful vintage, which of course, turned out to be quite good after all. The first was the 2008 Blason d’Issan which was a dark purple-blue color with a ripe grapey fruit nose/palate with some spice and a touch of violets on the finish. Good concentration and easy to enjoy. The 2008 Chateau d’Issan was opaque red-purple with a navy hue. It had a lovely perfumed nose of violets and earth, with good concentration, subtle spices and a long finish.