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by Wendy Narby
Chateau Marquis de Terme walked away with the top award for the Global Gold Best Of Wine Tourism in Bordeaux at the end of 2016. Their original 'Best Of' win was for Innovation in Wine Tourism. They have really embraced wine tourism since their renovation with the arrival of director Ludovic David in 2009. They have an open door policy with receptions rooms for groups and different tours including food and wine tastings for wine tourists.
Vineyards are pretty adaptable catering to the interest of the visitors. Subjects include the history of the property, as most Bordeaux vineyards have a long and fascinating story to tell, wine making, barrel ageing and of course the tasting.
The actual vineyards, the fields of vines, don't always get a look in. In recent years the role of terroir, the responsibility of the winemakers to look after it in an ecologically sound way and the management of this terroir in a plot-by-plot fashion (Precision viticulture) is at the heart of wine making. The emphasis is all about growing as perfect a grape as possible and getting it safely to the wine cellar so the wine maker can then work his or her magic on the best possible raw material.
To do so, the matching of the varietal to the soil is all-important. The terroir of the left bank, where Margaux is situated, is usually described as gravel, compared to the clay and limestone soils of the right bank around Saint Emilion for example.
But there is so much more to it than this. To understand the variations in the soil that can make all the difference to wine you need to get out there and take a closer look.
Welcome to Marquis de Terme for their unique ampelography tour. This unique tour was the deciding factor for their winning the Best of Wine Tourism award to innovation.
Ampelography is the branch of botany specifically about the identification and classification of vines. Château Marquis de Terme is perfectly situated at the heart of the Margaux appellation, a classified growth of 1855 surrounded by other classified growths. The plots belonging to the vineyard are spread throughout the appellation over 4 four different types of soil; gravels of different dimensions and clay, each identified thanks to precise soil analysis. Each type of soil is deemed best suited to one of the four different varietals that make up the blend of the chateau wines.
After all, blending is one of the signatures of Bordeaux. These Bordeaux blends are always mentioned during the tastings but why we blend in Bordeaux rather than creating mono varietal wines is not always made clear. If you really want to understand this, there is no better way than to go into these plots of vineyard and see for yourself.
On your bike then! Reflecting their environmental values, demonstrated by their ecological certification, these tours are conducted by a guide leading you across the vineyards of Margaux on bicycles.
It's a great way to understand the appellation as a whole and not just Chateau Marquis de Terme. Margaux is the largest of the 'village' appellations of the Medoc, known for the complexity of its terroir. Up close you will really see how different viticultural techniques are adapted to each plot, from pruning to harvesting dates, aiming to producing the best grapes possible.
Back at the chateau, wine making is explained, a tour of the cellars showing how the characteristics cultivated on each of the plots you visited are preserved through precision wine making and barrel ageing. And after all that pedalling you will have worked up a thirst for the tasting.