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Grape harvesting on the slopes of the Cotes de Bourg

Co-organised by the Pays de la Haute Gironde and the wine syndicate of Côtes de Bourg, this “discovery of the harvests” day had, as its objective, to promote the Haute Gironde wine growing areas.

This year saw a gathering of 8 Norwegians, 4 Columbians, 4 New Zealanders, 3 people from Hong Kong, 4 from Quebec and 1 from England. So, 24 people in all who had come together to discover what goes on behind the scenes in Côtes de Bourg wine harvesting.

We were received by Monsieur de Cosyns at the Château Grand Launay at Teuillac. It is a family property of over 26 hectares (nearly all of it under one tenant) in Côtes de Bourg wine growing area; it became organic in 2009. Even though the weather was rather inclement, our tourist/grape pickers for the day were delighted to set off and harvest some grapes under the shelter of their umbrellas…

Then we went off to visit the facilities, from the stalk remover/crusher to the barrel cellars. We were able to have a taste of the “juice” of the whites which had been put into the tanks only a few days ago and which had just started its fermentation.

After a little apéritif of 100% sauvignon gris, we had lunch on the estate with Châteaux Grand Launay wines. Growing sauvignon gris is a strategic choice due to the thickness and toughness of its skin – particularly important when you have chosen to opt for organic farming, Monsieur Cosyns explained to us.

The first wine was chosen particularly for its fruit – Château Grand Launay (70% merlot and 30% malbec). 50% of the volume spends 6 months in a one year old barrel.

The second was a more structured wine, Château Grand Launay – Réserve du Lion Noir 2010 (90% merlot and 10% cabernet Franc). 12 months in a new barrel for 50% of the volume and in a one year old barrel for 50%.

To round off this great day, Monsieur de Cosyns invited his guests to come and try some of the “Réserve du Lion noir” 2012. This wine is in the process of developing directly in the barrel and will be bottled around June time.

On the way back, we made a brief stop in Bourg village to do a bit of sight-seeing around the port and the charming 19th century public laundry/wash-house.

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To go further : What is "Côtes de Bourg"? Where is it?

The wine appellation lays on the right bank of the Dordogne and Garonne rivers, about 35 km north of Bordeaux. The appellation Côtes de Bourg extends over 15 villages.


Historians place the wine-producing vocation of Bourg around the 2nd century, namely the Roman period and from the Middle Ages, Bourg was an important wine port, ideally located on the edge of the estuary for its river trade.

We find the appellations " Côtes de Bourg ", " Bourg " and " Bourgeais " since 1920's, which makes it one of the oldest of the Bordeaux wine region.
On September 11, 1936, the appellation was approved for red wines and in May 1945 for white wines.

Most of the wine produced is red : about 3950 hectares of red vines against about 30 hectares of white vines. I can only advise you to try the dry white wines from Bourg and even more perhaps those that have been aged on lees! Yummy!

For the reds, you will find the traditional Bordeaux grape varieties with a dominant of Merlot but what makes the Côtes de Bourg wines so special is the wide use of MALBEC in the blend which is known for giving a special  spicy side to the local wines.

Today, about 400 winegrowers produce Côtes de Bourg wines. Here, we talk about small family vineyards with an average surface of about 10 hectares.

The very hilly landscape has earned it the nickname "LA PETITE SUISSE GIRONDINE". This denomination let you guess the topography in hillsides parallel to the Gironde estuary. Moreover, the french word "Côtes" can be translated by "slopes". 

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