The last several days I have fallen in love….. with St Emilion, France. The place, the wine, the experience were ‘tres magnifique’ for our first day in the Bordeaux region.
Steven and I are touring the west coast of France and have 5 days in Bordeaux to explore the wine and the culture. Staying in Libourne, a small town just east of Bordeaux city, it was a quick drive to the picturesque town of St Emilion.
We were well advised to visit the Tourism office first to get a local map and to find out about the local tours. We had 2 ½ hours to wander the town before the next English speaking tour would take us into the catacombs of the monolithic church. The church was built out of one stone that was excavated from the catacombs below.
Our wandering through the town took us past many a wine store and we were delighted to find that they did offer free tastings. Our first tasting was thrust upon us as we wandered in to see what was happening within one venue. We found ourselves tasting wines alongside a couple from New York enjoying their honeymoon in France. They gave us a good tip on a place we might try to reserve a private tasting.
We then continued to wander through the cobblestone streets, some at precarious angles that took some effort to stay upright. It was challenging walking past the sweet fragrance of French pastries, but we did it without succumbing to temptation this time.
Our wanderings took us to a little corner wine store called The Wine Buff with the sign, “Irish spoken here”.
With Steven’s Irish roots we thought we just had to take some photos and be on our way. 90 minutes, several tastes of wine and many a yarn later we were still there and we had to rush to leave so that we could make it to our 2pm tour.
Paddy O’Flynn, is the founder of The Wine Buff, with a mission to ‘help wine drinkers discover wines that are natural, well-balanced and have a sense of place.’
Originally set up to import wine from Bordeaux to Ireland, Paddy opened his store in St Emilion in 2014 and was there to introduce us to some delightful wines.
We started with two wines from Mas du Novi which is from the Languedoc region. The first was a Rose, Lou Resat, which was very light in color and had a refreshing taste perfect for light afternoon summer drinking. The second was a Chardonnay, Lou Blanc, which was delicious buttery in a light fashion. To me it was easy drinking with a complexity of layers.
Paddy then introduced me to a Sancerre wine from Pierre Morin which I found sweet and fruity yet smooth. It is a Sauvignon Blanc.
It was onto the reds and the first was a little dry for me. It was a 90% blend Merlot with 10% Cabernet Sauvignon from Domaine La Tuque Bel Air. I was surprised how dry it was for such wine, and then Paddy explained to me – the red wine gets its red color from the skin of the grape. The longer the wine stays in contact with the skin, the deeper the color red. If a wine is deep red color and is not dry, then you may have to question what has been added to give the wine that deep color. Interesting, no?
Paddy was getting an idea of what I would appreciate and brought out the Chateau La Fauconnerie 2014. I savored the bouquet for some time – a rich scent of cloves. Steven got more of a campfire scent. The taste was equally delicious – rich, smooth, a touch of oak. Mmmmm.
Paddy asked me what I might expect to pay for such a wine and I thought 35 euros and he surprised me with a price tag of $12.99 euro. I’ll take a couple of bottles home please!
He then brought out the 2012 version of this wine that was double the price, and well worth it. It was richer, smoother with hints of pepper and more complex.
During our visit we met Clay, from Kansas USA, on his third visit to St Emilion and quite the regular at The Wine Buff. He was extremely knowledgable of wine and we immediately connected.
We arranged to meet back at The Wine Buff the following night for further tastings with Paddy.
We brought some cheese, bread and chocolate and set up in the cave of the store and proceeded to taste the same reds again, along with several new ones.
Interesting, this time on tasting the Domaine La Tuque Bel Air I had a whole new experience. Since we did not precede this tasting with any sweet white wines, I found that this 2011 wine was no longer dry. It was even a little sweet this time, and I got a distinct hint of a tobacco. Quite an enjoyable wine.
Most notably, Paddy opened and decanted the Chateau Haut-Tropchaud Pomerol 2011 which I had heard much about. It was superb and retailing for only 50€, it really is an incredible value. Dry and oaky, I tasted hints of blackcurrent and a smoky taste that I could best liken to the smoky chinese tea, Lap Sang Soo Chong.
The thing about this wine is to note the complex layers that come out with decanting, waiting between sips, having some cheese, etc. Paddy informed us that if you know all there is about a wine from the first few sips, then it’s not that good a wine. This wine will improve with age, and will be good to cellar for 5 to 10 years.
My nose, my tastebuds and my mind feel so enriched by my time with The Wine Buff. We took advantage of shipping and saving on VAT to order a mixed dozen and will be making sure to keep some of these wines for 5 to 10 years.
With the motto “Extraordinary wines at ordinary prices,” I suggest that you check out The Wine Buff if you are ever in St Emilion, France or Ireland. Paddy is extremely knowledgeable, honest and fair about not just the wines that he carries in his store but countless others as well. He is personable, funny, and a joy to talk to because he is a charming story teller. Steven and I both agree, that we have truly made a great friend for life and can’t wait to have Paddy, his wife and family as guests at our home in Maui.
Au Revoir from St Emilion,
Annette & Steven