August 25th : Bordeaux, France
We’re going to cover the overview of what we did, then delve into details about the wine, the region and the cuisine. So stay tuned, we’ve lots of ground to cover!
We woke early (6:30 am) as we had to use the Metro to transit from Montreuil to Paris’ Montparnesse train station in order to catch a country train (high speed express train) to St Jean station in Bordeaux, which is in the Aquitania region (south west France), on the bank of the river Gironde.
In case you did not know, Bordeaux is a major wine producing region in France and produces primarily red wine blends and some white wine (and dessert wine) as well. It is divided into regions (or appellations) which produce a very specific style of wine.
The climate and geography of the region is particularly suited to the production of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc varieties.
The train left the station at exactly 8:45 am as scheduled and had us arriving in Bordeaux on around 12:00 pm.
The train journey itself was incident free, and allowed us to view far more of the French countryside (which is beautiful) then we could have otherwise appreciated via other modes of transport (flying, or by cruise liner).
The weather on arrival did not bode well for us – slight rain and noticeably colder than in Paris. We were a bit lost after we had disembarked, not helped by the fact that the office of the local tourism board was closed for lunch at the time!
With no map and a minor grasp of the French language, we eventually worked out how to catch the local tram into the heart of the city.
By 1 pm we had checked into the hotel (Hotel Majestic) which was one block from the Tourist Bureau and some of the major sites and attractions.
Since it was still overcast with a slight degree of rain, we decided to go to the Tourist Office first to obtain maps and info first.
As luck would have it, we arrived at the office at 1:15 pm and were able to book a tour (“Chateaux & Terroirs: The great Bordeaux vineyards”) for 1:30 pm – we’d actually not planed on having us in the city by that time, so had not planned anything for the afternoon in advance.
We visited two vineyards from the region – two smaller establishments by Bordeaux standards.
Along the way we were able to view the local countryside and the many small towns and villages which dot the hills and valleys of this beautiful land.
One of the attractions included the remains of a large medieval abbey (Abbay de La Sauve-Majeure) which is east of the town of Creon. We also noted a large amount of sunflowers being grown in the area along with wine and other crops.
At the first vineyard (Cheteau de Castelneau) we were met by the owner who was a real character. He explained their process of producing wine as well as the history of the property.
The detail was impressive and both French and English was used to communicate the information clearly and accurately.
The Chateau itself (meaning “new castle”) was a smaller French medieval castle which had been modified (to look less like a castle) during the time of the French revolution.
We were able to sample the wine produced before heading onto the bus to our second location. The next vineyard was a little more modernised and had a larger range of vats and cellar space. It sat at the foot of a large (now in ruins) castle overlooking other estates.
Our vineyard representative was not the owner, but was able to successfully discuss the wine making techniques used by the vineyard.
After touring the facility we were again able to sample the wine before proceeding back to Bordeaux.
Once back in Bordeaux, we did some shopping with the local wine merchants and picked up additional information (maps, etc) from the Tourism office before heading off to dinner at a local French restaurant, Le Belle Epoque.
Despite our lack of French, we managed to order from the menu a few lovely dishes and a fabulous dessert.
We ate until about 9:30 pm before walking off dinner in the local city district and returning to the hotel for some much needed rest and sleep – in air conditioned comfort!