User login

The Saint of Sainte Foy

By: Darren Gall Posted: November-01-2009 in
Darren Gall

The Saint of Sainte Foy

When Joe Breen from the Irish Times first met Monsieur Yves Picant, owner of the Bordeaux Chateau Hostens Picant, he described him thus:

“Yves Picant is the kind of French winemaker you might imagine in a Fawlty Towers cameo. With his slicked-back hair, rounded torso, and eyes loaded with mischief and the rigours of the night before, he is just short of saying 'allo, 'allo to complete the theatrical picture.”

The description is more than apt, it is damn near perfect.

I first met Yves a few years back, in Hanoi Vietnam, where I was charged with looking after him for a few days and utilizing his presence to show off bit of wine. A call from the owner of the wine company came in to see how I was coping, here was my reply. “I’ve been spending long afternoons and marathon evenings in the presence of an irascible, cravat wearing, opinionated French Chateau owner whose only contentment is to eat in the finest establishments this city has to offer, drink the finest wines for the duration, show off when the opposite sex is present and when they are not, tell bawdy jokes! Needless to say, we are getting along extremely well. ”

However, the jovial, dry wit and sense of mischief-making should not throw you from the fact the Yves Picant likes to stir things up in pursuit of excellence, he is a passionate perfectionist with a glint in his eye.

Chateau Hostens-Picant is a splendid vineyard of 40 hectares, situated on the hills of Les Lèves and Thoumeyragues, in the middle of Appellation Sainte Foy-Bordeaux, about twenty kilometers ‘down-the-road’, east of Saint Emillion. This vineyard, a Member of Club Rive Droite (right bank), is producing sublime red and white wines. The second wine is Chateau de Grangeneuve, which offers amazing quality for a reasonable price.

The origins of the vineyard Hostens-Picant date back to 1460. It is interesting to note that in five centuries the castle has had only four families as its owner. Yves and his wife Nadine Picant are the fourth Family.

The vineyards of the region lie on an alignment of hills and plateaus that dominate the river Dordogne and the soils are mainly clay and limestone. There are 19 small communes in Sainte Foy Bordeaux, some of which are situated on the sites of Gallo Roman villas and neolithic remains. The appellation takes its name from Sainte Foy la Grande – an ancient 13th century bastide town. The region has an alluring rustic charm that many will recognize as the setting for the film Chocolat, starring Juliette Binoche, Johnny Depp and Judi Dench.

In the past, the wine producers took advantage of the proximity of Bordeaux to market their wines.
Then Yves Picant came to town and he was having none of that.

Meticulous replanting and retraining of his vineyard was his first undertaking, he then brought in the services of internationally celebrated winemaker Michelle Rolland and together the redesigned the winery into a modern winemaking facility and re-defined the benchmark for the wines of Sainte Foy.

The results have stunned just about everyone from within Bordeaux and without. The region was only given Appellation status in France in 1937 and that was only for sweet white wines until the 1990’s, when red wines were allowed to join the party as well.

That this concession was made largely because of the sheer quality of the red wines from Chateau Hostens Picant and the legion of important international wine critics and reviewers who kept calling them the ‘best buys in Bordeaux’, is a testament to Yves vision and determination.

Yves produces a Reserve wine known as Lucullus; the wine is only made in exceptional vintages and is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2005 is a dark, brooding beast, dozing under a blanket made of silk. The more you swirl, sniff, prod and savor this wine the more it awakens to reveal itself, dark fruits, wild forest berries, roasted nuts, iron filings, coffee grinds, undergrowth, cigar box, briary tannins and a lingering finish. This sleeping giant needs to be decanted for a few hours prior to taming it with your palate and a rare beefsteak, but it is well worth the wait.

There is also an exceptional dry white made from Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadet, The nose is pleasantly creamy, with distinct pear scents; very lovely and perfumed. Herbal and clean on the palate with a nice long finish.

I was absolutely delighted to hear from Yves the other day, he was calling to inform me that the 2009 vintage is well under way and so far conditions have been extremely favourable, the first ferments very encouraging and all going well, it will be a exceptional vintage. He also mentioned that he will be coming to see me on the 12th and 13th of November, when you will no doubt find us in the finest restaurants for the duration, telling tall tales and risqué jokes and drinking extremely well, you’ll be most welcome to come up and join us.

Published in the Phnom Penh Post, 7 Days magazine on Friday 30th October 2009.
Darren Gall has a regular weekly column in the Post and a monthly column in Asia Life Magazine, other regular articles can be found in Golf Magazine Vietnam and Time Out Vietnam.


Whats on! See our help pages - add your own events

This location does not have any events. Why not add one here!