La Fête de la Fleur is literally a party to celebrate the flowering of the vines. This normally has taken place in early June and is a good indication for the harvest to come. The pollination and the flowering will have important consequences for the size and health of the grape bunches which will gradually be formed in the coming weeks. This year the weather has been incredibly warm throughout early Spring and the growth on the vines is significantly advanced....some say 3 or 4 weeks earlier than normal. There is a loose rule that harvest takes place approximately 100 days after flowering. If this is the case then some of the Bordeaux Chateau owners might have to shorten their summer holidays!!! Harvest could be very early this year ( possibly the earliest since 1893).
The Fête de la Fleur dinner is organised by 'Les Commandeurs du Bontemps', who are a group of invited dignitaries and 'movers and shakers' in the Medoc, Graves, Sauternes and Barsac area. Each region has this kind of group....La Jurade de Saint Emilion or the Gentilhomme de Fronsac.
Emmanuel Cruse the owner of Chateau d'Issan in Margaux is the 'Grand Master' of the Commanderie du Bontemps. Before the dinner there were 48 people intronised into the Commanderie...they have to swear that they love Bordeaux wines etc etc.!! These people are proposed by Chateaux or negociants or by fellow members of the Commanderie. It is a good way to get a global reach for Bordeaux wines and to make people feel special.
The Fête de la Fleur takes place at a different Chateau each year and although it is a great honor for the Chateau, it can also be very expensive to host. The Chateaux all contribute and each table is paid for either by a Chateau, negociant or broker. The wines consumed at the dinner are also offered by various Chateaux. A figure that I saw recently estimated that this event cost €1.3 million.....for one dinner!
Chateau Lascombes is owned by the American Private Equity company Colony Capital, headed by Tom Barrack. Mr Barrack has invested $45 billion in property and assets around the world. He has owned the Chateau for 10 years and now he wants to sell. There were many rumors at the dinner for various interested parties. Chateau Lascombes has been under performing for a while, but it is still a 2nd Growth Margaux estate. There could be potential! Mr Barrack gave a brief, but eloquent speech, followed by Monsieur Alain Juppe, the active mayor of Bordeaux and the popular French Foreign Minister.
Then we tucked in to an astonishing dinner prepared by Eric Frechon, the 3 star Michelin chef from the Hotel Bristol in Paris.
Caviar d'Aquitaine, Puree de pomme de terre aromatisée au Haddock
Selle d'Agneau en croûte de nori, Gnocchi aux herbes, purée de colrave
Entre le saint nectare fermier et le brie de truffé
Ananas gelée caïpirinha, sorbet banane-passion, petite meringue
The wines were also excellent:
Chateau Haut Brion Blanc 2006 from Magnums....apparently we drank 1/3 of the entire production.
Chateau Lascombes 2005 from Imperials and from Magnums....the magnums seemed much more rounded and smooth than the Imperials.
Chateau Leoville Poyferré 2000.....best red of the night. Absolutely delicious. Maybe this would have worked better with the lamb rather than the Lascombes.
Chateau Yquem 2008.....delicious as always, but a slightly strange vintage choice...neither very old and evolved, but neither very young and fresh. No complaints..it was sensational.
Then there was coffee in the grounds to the Chateau and a large bar that served Champagne Pol Roger all night. There was an Opera singer belting out her stuff from the top of the Chateau and a hot air balloon hovering around with a gymnast doing a magnificent performance.
It was very amusing to see the great and the good from Bordeaux throw some shapes on the dance floor in to the wee hours.