What better way to end the London International Wine Fair then on a boat on the Thames, sipping claret (how the English used to and sometimes still do, refer to red Bordeaux) at the foot of Tower Bridge. Tony Laithwaite of Laithwaites thought that was as good a way as any and so we stepped onto a water taxi at Canary Wharf for the short trip up the Thames to Butler’s Wharf where Tony was waiting with the 2009 La Voyage du Chai au Quai.
The Irene, a restored 121 ft wooden sailing freighter had set out 11 days before from the quayside in Bordeaux with their cargo of 9000 bottles of specially made, limited edition claret, the way it was done for over 600 years until the advent of railroads when it became cheaper to send the wine by train. Tony wanted to recreate the voyage, complete with a 100 foot sailing ketch, her hold full to the brim with claret. Tony joined the boat in Guernsey for the final leg of the trip,but Le Chai winemaker, Mark Hoddy was on the entire trip and tweeted/blogged daily. You can find their exploits here .
The arrival of The Irene was not only to bring claret to London the old fashioned way but also raise awareness and funds for the Macmillan Cancer Support charity. There was an fine wine auction that evening at the Arches and Laithwaites hopes to raise £10,000 from the event.
The wine is a modern claret, not too heavy on the tannins with good fruit, primarily plums and blackberries, fresh on the palate with well integrated oak notes but beware, the wine is unfined and minimally filtered so it’s probably best to decant before drinking. It comes from one of the lesser known appellations, the Castillon Cotes de Bordeaux AOC which makes it exceptional value. It also hails from the chateau where Tony got his start in the wine trade as a student washing bottles. A good wine to have with Sunday roast, there were only 833 cases made so snap one up from Laithwaites before they’re all gone.