I’ve always dreamt of owning a vineyard. Well, I say always, presumably there was a time when I was more interested in owning my own Transformers factory or possibly a Haribo plant. But in my adult life, a Bordeaux vineyard – and the French four-hour lunches that come with it – has to be the dream.
Clearly, unless I start getting a lot better at reading the stock market, this is not going to happen. Fortunately, there’s a company – CrushPad – that allows you the next best thing for a fraction of the price. For square mile regulars, you will already be in the loop, but let me fill any new readers in.
CrushPad is a state-of-the-art winery where you become the wine maker. First up, CrushPad sources the grapes, selecting parcels from more than 50 of the most coveted vineyards in both California or Bordeaux depending on your New/Old-world preference. An industry-acclaimed wine making team and leading wineries are then employed to make the wine. The real hook is that you can be as involved (or otherwise) as you like. You can even pick your own grapes if you have both the secateurs and the inclination. At the end of the process, you’ll receive a barrel (around 400 bottles) of your very own wine, which you can name whatever you like. I plumped for ‘Optimus Wine’ – but was overruled.
In 2009, the ever-affable Steven Bolger, president of CrushPad in France, came over to our offices – as he will to yours – to begin the process. Once you’ve decided what style of wine you want, you’re on your way. We chose a right-bank claret – and fortunately, CrushPad has just the grapes for the job.
There are plenty to chose from, but we narrowed it down to three: Le Ruisseau merlot – a stone’s throw from the demarcation line separating the Saint Emilion and Cotes de Castillon appellations; Pey Labrie merlot – representing the very best of Canon Fronsac; and Ikory Ouest cabernet franc – a parcel belonging to Chateau Tertre Daugay, one of Saint Emilion’s few Grand Cru Classé.
Not that the final blend was an easy decision. A year on from our first meeting, Steve returned with the first barrel samples – along with a good selection more – for us to begin the blending process. This is where the real fun begins. It’s like a school Chemistry lesson if Oliver Reed were your teacher. A multitude of different wines, plenty of altered ratios, and several red-toothed grins later we had arrived at our final decision.
That was, until one year later, when we travelled to Bordeaux for the second blending. A trip to Chateau Tessier, CrushPad France’s HQ, is worth it just to see how it’s done by the real professionals. And, after another year in barrels, our wines had changed enough to make it worth some subtle tweaks to our own blend. If you want to make a real holiday out of it, CrushPad also hosts its legendary ‘mash-ups’ – a great excuse to see your wine in its native land, meet some of the characters involved in making it, and visit some of the best vineyards in Bordeaux while you’re at it.
All of this is leading to one day – when your wine finally arrives. You’ll have chosen the grapes, you’ll have designed the label, you’ll even have picked the cork – so there are no excuses: if it isn’t any good, you’re to blame. Equally, you take all the credit if it’s a cracker.
So, judgment day. What does Mille Carré (“Square Mile”, duh) actually taste like? Well, after indulging in just enough of it to let the creative juices flow, but not so much that I couldn’t write, these were my tasting notes (sorry – they’re as purple as my tongue was):
“Sweet perfume and plums on the nose, it’s a smooth, sensual and seductive wine. Voluptuous and velvety, there are raspberries and parma violets in there – and a shaving of dark chocolate for good measure. Elegant, opulent and decadent on first presentation, it has that punchy backbone of cabernet franc coming through on the finish. It’s like a supermodel with a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. Needs a bit of downtime to stretch and relax those tannin muscles, then it should become as supple as Beth Tweddle on a bendy day.”
Wow. Apart from the fact I must have drunk a lot more than I thought, the wine sounds pretty nice, right? Well, you can’t have any. You’ll just have to make your own…
For more information on CrushPad, please go to crushpadwine.com