A fortnight ago wine lovers in Delhi were treated to excellent wines from Bordeaux at a dinner hosted by Brindco at The Aman. The evening began in the Cellar with Champagne Pommery to prime us for the wines to come, writes Reva K. Singh. After that we moved upstairs to the restaurant which was decorated with Autumn leaves in shades of russet gold, strewn on the floor and scattered on dining tables to seat four or six.
At first sight, I thought the leaves had been painted on the floor so beautiful did they look. Château d’Issan is a winery in the Margaux appellation of Bordeaux. The wine produced here was classified as one of 14 Third Growths in the historic Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855.
D’Issan was one of the earliest classed growth properties to develop an international reputation, with wines exported to many foreign markets. A letter from a Bordeaux merchant in 1723 recommended the wines for the cellars of the Prince of Wales. And Thomas Jefferson, who also held the wines in high regard, made a reference to the estate in a letter he wrote in 1787.
And here we were drinking these fabulous wines which are imported by Brindco and available to consumers in India at five-star hotels. Dinner comprised a four-course meal expertly prepared by the hotel Chef with Château D’Issan wines paired in consultation with the owner himself, Emmanuel Cruse II, who was present at the dinner with his wife.
In the course of its long history stretching back to the 15th century, Château D’Issan passed through several hands with fluctuating fortunes. Having recovered from phyloxera in the late 19th century, the estate went through a particularly bad spell in the first part of the 20th century, due to poor management, made worse by economic depression and war. During the Second World War, the château was occupied by German troops.
After the war, when the estate was purchased by Emmanuel Cruse in 1945, just two hectares of the estate were still under vines and the cellars were in a state of extreme disrepair. But the Cruse family was committed to restoring the estate to its former position of pre-eminence.
A lot of effort and money was expended to revive the estate. The vineyards were replanted with Cabernet Sauvignon on new rootstocks and new equipment was bought for the cellar. In time the château too, was restored and renovated.
The main vineyard which produces the grand vin, Château d’Issan, is situated close to the château. With typically gravelly terroir, it is planted with 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot at a density of 8,500 vines per hectare. The fruit is harvested manually and hand-sorted twice with a third sorting on a vibrating table in the reception area. Under the guidance of consulting oenologist Jacques Boissenot, it is then fermented under temperature control and typically macerated for 21 days. Malolactic fermentation is encouraged, before the wine goes into oak.
The grand vin, Château d’Issan (5,000 to 6,000 cases per annum), is sourced from vines with an average age of 35 years. The average vine age for the second wine, Blason d’Issan is 18 years. Most wines see between 16 and 18 months of oak before bottling.
The Cruse family still own the property today, with Eric Pellon working as technical director. The quality of the wines seems to be going up and up, by all accounts. And certainly the wines at The Aman dinner the other night were pouring very well. The menu with the wines served is given below.
Chateau d’Issan 2001
Basque Leek and Potato Soup with pumpkin and “Bacalao”
Blason d’Issan 2006
Roasted Rabbit Loin
With Almond sauce and “Papas Arrugadas”
Château d’Issan 1998
Braised turnips, sweet potatoes, carrots and beets with date sauce
Château d’Issan 1996 “Mongetes”
Catalonian white bean stew with grilled chorizo and spinach
Château d’Issan 1982
Roasted suckling pig with chestnut puree and braised figs
Orange-chocolate crunch with vanilla sauce and black sesame ice cream