When the brothers Walter and Alfred Gilbey bought Chateau Loudenne in 1875, they caused a stir in the Medoc by spending almost three times as much as the purchase price on new cellars and equipment. Today, Martin Bamford, head of Gilbey's France, is making his own innovations. He is developing a unique museum of viticultural and cellar artifacts used in the Bordeaux region over the past 200 years.
Most recently, he has refurbished the vintners' kitchen with rustic furniture and antique cooking utensils and opened it to visitors. La Cour Pavillon Vintage Kitchen is the place where the pickers have their traditionally hearty lunches during the harvest. For the rest of the year, staff and trade guests lunch at the long trestle tables. Other visitors are welcome to take potluck at a charge of 50FF ($10), which includes the house red and white wines, La Cour Pavillon.
Good fences make good neighbors -- in wine, too. Austrain wines have long suffered in the international market place from their proximity to German. It's assumed that they have the same light, fruity qualities. "Not so," says Rosmarie Scully, the U.S. representative for Klosterkeller Siegendorf. "Austrian wines are generally drier and fuller bodied. They are wines to have with food." Some 80 percent of Austrian exports do to Germany, satisfying the German demand for variety in much the same way as do the wines of Alsace on the western border.
The Austrian industry received a shot in the arm when the government introduced a federal wine law in 1961. Grape varieties, vineyard and cellar practices and labeling are all controlled by the law. A wine seal, a red and white band in a traditional "Romer" glass, is proff of authenticity.
Klosterkeller Siegendorf is a privately owned winery in the Burgenland, on Austria's eastern border, an area with a particularly reliable climate. Jost von Hopler, the winemaker, manager and Scully's brother, is very much in awe of modern fermentation techniques and produces well-balanced estate and regional wines. As ideal summer drinking, try these examples of his whites:
'77 pinot blanc (Weissburgunder), at $5.99
'79 riesling kabinett, at $3.29, and as a good buy in magnums at $5.99
'77 gewurztraminer kabinett, at $5.99
And, to show that the Austrians also make delightful sweet wines, at very fair prices:
'76 pinot blanc trockenbeerenauslese, at $11.99 for a half-bottle
'78 gewurztraminer beerenauslese, at $14.99. It's unusual for the gewurztraminer grape to be attacked by botrytis, and 1978 is the only time von Hopler has made this wine.
It's worth noting that prices should be a little lower by late summer, when the local disribtuor receives a direct shipment from Austria.
Woltner is the legendary name behind the jointly owned chateaux of La Mission Haut-Brion, La Tour Haut-Brion and Laville Haut-Brion, in the Graves. And, to set the record straight, here are the names of all the present owners, all of whom are related to the late Henri and the late Fernand Woltner:
Madame Madeleine Woltner le Gac: Henri's daughter, Nicole Woltner Zurrer; and Fernand's son, Pierre, and daughter, Francoise Woltner Dewavrin.