Review of vineyard tour and wine tasting. Our tour and tasting at this family run organic and vegan Bordeaux vineyard, Chateau la Tour de Chollet, turned out to be so friendly and approachable we visited it twice.
Although we booked in advance, you can just drop into Chateau La Tour de Chollet for a vineyard tour and wine tasting, their opening hours are on their website. They also offer half day and full day experiences which need to be pre-booked.
Winery & Vineyard Tour
Chateau La Tour de Chollet is an organic winery about 40 minutes from Bergerac in the Sainte-Foy Cotes de Bordeaux appellation.
Run by husband and wife team, Kirstie and Paul Rowbotham, Kirstie focuses on growing the best grapes, Paul in making the best wines.
I loved visiting this winery, so much so we visited twice! Kirstie was our guide on our first visit, Paul on our second.
This is not a spectacular winery, rather it is a family home and vineyard nestled in amongst very gentle slopes. It was the relaxed friendliness of our first tour at Chateau La Tour de Chollet with Kirstie that drew us back when a summer guest (who knows very little about wine) asked us to suggest a winery to visit.
Our second tour, with Paul this time, included some other visitors as well as our party. Paul rose to the challenge of a diverse mix of ages (from 5 years old to over 60) and levels of wine knowledge and interest. I was impressed.
I enjoyed both tours I had at this winery. It was interesting having the slightly different emphasis between Kirstie and Paul, each bringing their particular focus of work and expertise.
Organic wine – a challenging task
On our first visit I had recently been studying pests and diseases that attack vines as part of my WSET Diploma course. I was delighted that our tour was just my husband and me with Kirstie. As she is the grape grower we had a very bespoke tour of the vines, discussing in depth the challenges grape growers face.
What made it especially interesting is that since they are an organic winery Kirstie cannot use the wide variety of chemicals and pesticides available. This makes growing organic grapes a challenging task. Instead of multiple chemical options, Kirstie has to use a mix of alternative strategies. Including lots of manual intervention to manage vine growth to minimise damp conditions around the grapes where fungal disease can flourish. Particularly important in the often damp maritime climate of the Bordeaux region.
Hearing Kirstie describe what she does and showing us examples as we walked through the vines gave me a much deeper understanding and appreciation of grape growing in general and organic in particular.
Organic wine – explained
Organic wine is wine made from grapes grown in accordance with principles of organic farming, which typically excludes the use of artificial chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides.
Confusingly the legal definition of organic wine varies from country to country. There appears to be some consistency in terms of what you are allowed to use (or not) in grape growing. The main difference, particularly between European and U.S. wines, is in the use (or non use) of preservatives during the winemaking process. The level of sulphites allowed to be used in organic wine is restricted in the European Union whereas none at all is allowed in American organic wine.
If you would like to know more, check out the excellent Wine Folly site.
Vegan wine anyone!
But wine is made from grapes, doesn’t that make all wine vegan? Not necessarily!
As well as being organic, Chateau La Tour de Chollet’s wines are also vegan. I know it might seem bizarre that something made from fruit, the humble grape, wouldn’t be vegan but many wine makers use animal based compounds to help remove unwanted particles and ensure the wine is completely clear.
Egg whites are used, as is something called isinglass which is derived from the bladders of fish. Vegan friendly alternatives are becoming more widely available and Kirstie told us they use pea protein.
Wine range and availability
Chateau La Tour de Chollet makes a full range of wines.
- Two types of red – Prestige which is matured in french oak barrels for up to two years and Classique which is matured in tank and then in bottle.
- White, using the traditional Bordeaux blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc.
- Sweet, but only in years when the conditions are right.
As well as buying directly at the door, their wine is available online to UK and France on their website. There are also a number of restaurants, pubs and wine shops in UK which stock their wines, these are listed on their website.
There were quite a few wine highlights for me from Chateau La Tour de Chollet.
I liked a couple of their reds so much I plan to make them the backbone of my Christmas wines.
Chateau La Tour de Chollet 2012 Cuvée Prestige is a soft smooth red wine. Elegant with blackberry and cherry fruit flavours and a long finish. Great with meat and elegant enough to work well with the varied flavours in a traditional Christmas Day meal.
Chateau La Tour de Chollet 2014 Cuvée Prestige is a big powerful winter wine. Plum and cherry fruit flavours balanced with toasty oak and spice. This wine would be great with a delicious meaty dish like stew.
Their rosé became such a firm summer favourite we had to restock when we went back for our second tour. Made from 100% Merlot, it bursts with strawberry flavour and a touch of cream. For those who might remember, it brought back lovely memories of a favourite childhood ice lolly, the Strawberry Mivi.
Chateau La Tour de Chollet Blanc Sec: We tried (and bought)! both the 2017 and 2018 white wine.
Despite both years being made with the same 50:50 proportions of Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc the finished wines tasted subtly different. With the 2018 the floral elderflower of the Sauvignon Blanc seems to dominate whereas with the 2017 the citrus and apricot of the Sémillon come to the fore.
I had an enjoyable and interesting tour on both occasions, friendly and approachable. They coped well with different ages and levels of interest in wine and wine knowledge.
I loved their wine, particularly their red cuvée prestige and rosé wines. Their white wine was also a hit with the family.
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