Bordeaux is one of the most renowned wine regions in the world, yet not long ago it wasn’t a place you came to for wine tourism. The gates to Bordeaux’s majestic chateaux were firmly closed and the majority of the wine is sold En Primeur (a system of pre-selling the wine long before its ever even bottled that has been in practice since the 1600s). And you could forget about ever staying the night in one of these castle like châteaux. But times they are a-changin’, as we recently discovered with the Bernard Magrez Luxury Wine Experience at Château Pape Clement.
The 5 Senses Tour at Château Pape Clement
Sight, sound, smell, taste and touch: our five senses work in unison to help us navigate the world around us. Two different dinner in the dark experiences, where you dine in a pitch black room and on a surprise menu if you choose, have taught us just how much we rely on our five senses.
I’d never thought too much about that in relation to wine tasting…until our 5 Senses Luxury Wine Experience at Château Pape Clement.
We’ve been on a lot of unique wine tasting tours. That is, unique in that the traditional tasting where you know exactly what you’re about to drink is combined with some adventure activity like kayaking to a wine tasting or hiking a multi-day hike through the vineyards along the Rhine. But our 5 Senses experience at Château Pape Clement was unique in a different way; it really made us stop and think about how our preconceived notions play a part in what we think of the wine.
My favorite time to visit wine estates is when the grapes are ripening on the vine and our tour began with a walk through the Merlot vineyards. First planted in 1300, these vineyards are the oldest planted vineyards in the Bordeaux region. And it was Bertrand de Goth, better known as Pope Clement V, who planted red wine grapes here when he served as the Archbishop of Bordeaux.
Walking the grounds of the estate, we notice strong religious symbolism everywhere and that is attributed to Pope Clement. He even lent his papal name to the vineyard before passing it on to his successor, Archbishop Cardinal Arnaud de Canteloup. The estate stayed in the possession of the archbishops of Bordeaux until the French Revolution in 1789. And though it changed hands many times before Bernard Magrez purchased it in 1985, many of the religious relics were preserved.
Moving in to the cellar, the sights began to mix with the scents as the undeniably delicious scents of wine wafted from the barrels.
Have you ever tried to identify something by its scent alone? We were presented with satchels and asked what we thought the scents were. It’s a skill to be able to identify the individual scents in wine. For me, I always know the scent but few I am confident I can actually name. Coffee is always easy; chocolate is surprisingly not.
And with that, it was time for our first tasting right there in the cellar.
Bordeaux wine is a blend of predominately Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. The blending doesn’t take place until after the fermentation has been completed, and in Bordeaux this is usually around February or March following the harvest. To understand the individual components that go in to a Bordeaux blend, we tasted Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon barrel samples and discussed the differences.
The black fruits and jammy qualities comes from the Cabernet Sauvignon; the red fruits and leather flavors come from the Merlot.
Smell, Taste and Touch
Moving in to the gorgeous 13th century château, we sat down to my favorite part of the wine tasting experience. A set of black wine glasses were set next to wine bottles fitted with black sleeves to disguise what was in them.
It was the first time I’ve ever done a blind tasting where I couldn’t even see the wine I was about to drink. And believe me, I tried by tilting the glass every which way. Sitting in a Bordeaux château, I suppose you just assume you’re going to drink red. Bordeaux is a predominately red wine producing region, after all.
I’m going to leave you in suspense of which color of wine was actually in the glasses. I will say that in hindsight Bordeaux wine bottles have a distinct shape, and I should have immediately known from that alone that it wasn’t a Bordeaux wine. You’ll just have to take the 5 Senses Tour yourself to experience how your mind can play tricks on you when you assume you’ll be drinking a red wine.
Perhaps the most interesting experiment, though, was how the sounds around us influence our opinion of wine. In another room of the château, we sat down to three glasses of wine. This time, they were clearly all red wines.
We were asked to close our eyes and listen to a soundtrack. With each soundtrack, we also tasted a wine and were asked to write down what we thought of the wine. We listened to the sounds of the countryside with birds chirping, an urban city with cars honking and the beach with waves crashing.
Again, I won’t give away the secrets of this 5 Senses Tour, but I will say that the sounds definitely affected my thoughts on each of the wines. This study published in the British Journal of Psychology states that the emotional connotations of music alter your perception of the taste of the wine and I couldn’t believe how much the different soundtracks affected what I thought of the wine.
Stay at Château Pape Clement
You can wake-up in the midst of the Grand Cru Classé vineyards in one of the five gorgeous guest rooms with en-suite bathrooms at Château Pape Clement. And you won’t be handed your key and simply sent off to room number three. Each of the five rooms is named after Bernard Magrez’s cuvées: Le Clos des Songes, Mon seul Rêve, LaTempérance, La Sérénité, and L’Égrégore.
Mr. Magrez’s office is in Château Pape Clement and, if the 80 year old wine magnate isn’t traveling between his wine estates around the world, you very well may run in to him in the halls. He even leaves each guest a personal welcome note in your room.
Breakfast is served in the same lovely room where we had our sound wine tasting and the resident peacocks know when it’s breakfast time. They’ll most definitely pay a visit and look for a few snacks.
Know Before You Go
Château Pape Clement also offers a transfer in their Rolls Royce, which can be arranged separately or as part of a package getaway through Luxury Wine Experience.
If you also have purchased a Bordeaux Metropole City Pass, you receive a complimentary bottle of wine for each booked and paid for visit or workshop at Château Pape Clement.