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by Wendy Narby
Château de Reignac is a familiar name in the 'Best Of' family. Ideally situated in the Entre deux Mers, halfway between Bordeaux and Saint Emilion, the property is firmly on the wine tourism map.
Constant innovation means they previously won the 'Best Of Wine Tourism' award for Innovation in 2016 and now they have done it again with another Gold award in 2018 and a World 'Best Of' award for their innovative experience.
So what's new in 2018? This year's innovation is how you tour - on your bike! A two and a half hour trip in the saddle will take you through this large 135ha estate, giving a thorough and detailed understanding of the range of terroir. And range there is. Being close to the confluence of the Garonne and Dordogne rivers, the highest outcrops of de Reignac's vineyards are strewn with gravel similar to that found in the Medoc and Graves. Limestone and clay dominate other plots of the vineyard, a terroir associated with the top vineyards of Saint Emilion. Here at one property, you can discover the full range of soils that Bordeaux offers and the grape varieties that are adapted to each terroir. It's a mini Bordeaux all in one place.
You will be deep in the natural environment as, at de Reignac, bio diversity is very important. For the last two years they have worked closely with INRA (The French National Institute for Agricultural Research), studying and improving biodiversity. Their objective is to reduce the number of treatments in the vineyard by using natural predators including a fungus which is a hyperparasite of the powdery mildew, Odium, a major problem for the vines in the damp Bordeaux climate.
You will also see the diverse crops they plant as green fertilisers: linen, mustard, clover and forage turnips bringing natural fertility to the soil without using chemical fertilisers. If you visit in winter you'll see new residents in the vineyards: sheep from the local shepherd - looking for those turnips perhaps?
It's not all outdoors; the tour ends in the cellar and tasting room with a unique tasting, grape variety by grape variety, straight from the barrel that will allow you to really understand the influence the terroir you have just seen has on the grapes. This will help you understand the very essence of the iconic Bordeaux blend.
There are more classic visits on offer for the less outdoor-minded and a range of tastings held in the unique tasting tower, an ancient pigeon house from the XVI century converted to host intimate groups. A vertical tasting takes you through a range of vintages and a horizontal tasting across the full range of wines the chateau produces.
My favourite tour remains the summer tour of the scented garden. In the beautiful chateau garden and historic greenhouse, designed by Gustave Eiffel, you will discover plants chosen for their aromas that echo those found in the red and white wines of the property. It's the perfect interactive exercise to get the olfactory senses up and running before the wine tasting! And if the cycling, smelling and tasting has worked up an appetite you will be welcome to stay on for a light tapas lunch or a picnic in the gardens as well as more classic lunches for groups.
They might be back again next year as the innovations continue: They are equipping the cellars with interactive tactile screens that will allow visitors to understand the different wine making operations that take place throughout the year.
And don't forget Reignyx the cartoon character and mascot created by Nicolas Lesaint, technical director of the property. Reignyx acts as guide taking young and the young at heart, through the grape growing and wine making process sharing the day-to-day life of the vineyard. It was the international appeal of Reignyx that seduced the Best Of Jury for the international award, making innovation accessible to every age.