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How to get the best out of Bordeaux – Part 1: Beginning a voyage of discoveries

We sent Sarah, who deals with our research and development, to Bordeaux to check out new areas of interest. This is the first in this series of blogs about her voyage of discoveries . . .

Limestone in Lussac reflecting the sun's glare
Limestone in Lussac reflecting the sun’s glare

Nothing beats being in Bordeaux and I went at the beginning of September, just when the grape harvest was looming and Bordeaux was brimming with possibilites. It was hot (34°) and dry, with the land baking under deep blue skies. The chance to see this extraordinary wine making region in action was too valuable to miss as it was an excellent opportunity to identify new areas of interest. Exquisite cuisine, beautiful countryside and fascinating company came as an added bonus. The itinerary had caught our attention as it covered a couple of corners in Bordeaux that Nick had earmarked for investigation. So (armed with a sensible pair of shoes, a notebook and a list as long as your arm) I set off on a voyage of exploration.

Hotel Le Normandie, Bordeaux
Hotel Le Normandie, Bordeaux

Our group was made up of an interesting mix of professionals, with varying knowledge of Bordeaux wines, including Naked Wines, The Wine Society, Virgin Wines, Laithwaites, Asda and Goedhuis. We were guided by Alexander Hall, an old acquaintance of Nick’s, who runs Vineyard Intelligence and also teaches at the Bordeaux Wine School. Alex has lived in Bordeaux since 2004 and has a wealth of experience gained from working on his family’s estate in Marlborough, New Zealand as well as with several estates in Bordeaux. The trip was impeccably organised by Katherine Parsons of Summit SP (the promotion agency for Bordeaux Wine), and Marie-Christine Cronenberger of the CIVB (Bordeaux Wine Council).

Steep street in Saint Emilion
Steep street in Saint Emilion

Bordeaux just breathes wine, there is evidence of it everywhere you look. The trip was intense, involving early starts and late nights jam packed with chateaux visits. Thankfully we travelled in an air conditioned minibus. I think I was the oldest person there and if not, after 3 days of nonstop wine worshipping, I certainly felt it. But it was so worth it.

You get to see the wines in context; where they are born, deep in the lap of the land. We were whisked up twisty roads on hillsides dusted with vineyards and we travelled across the seas of vines that radiate out from the stately chateaux of the Medoc. We saw snapshots of Bordeaux that brochures can not give you; from sleepy hamlets snoozing in the sun to shady alleys in the city quietly oozing history. Beneath the serenity, behind closed doors, the wine industry was busy bustling.

Vines under scorching sunshine
Vines under scorching sunshine

We were whirled into a wonderland that gave us access to an amazing amount of wine tasting. At the end of it I didn’t know whether I could face another sip – I don’t know how Nick manages to taste his way through the hundreds of wines offered at Bordeaux’s En Primeur tastings every year!

I came back to the UK armed with a lot of useful tips on how to get the best out of Bordeaux for your money that I can share with you on Nick’s Blog – so watch out for the next instalment. I found some eye opening wines, unexpected gems in obscure appellations and some truly inspiring wine makers. I also came back with blisters on my feet but that’s the price you pay for getting over excited in Saint Emilion . . .

Itinerary

This is an abridged version of our itinerary so you can see what I will be covering in the next few blogs.

Narrow Bordeaux street
Narrow Bordeaux street

Day 1

Bordeaux Wine course at the Bordeaux Wine School

Lunch at the Gordon Ramsay restaurant Brasserie Le Bordeaux (Theme Bordeaux Dry White Wine) with Estelle Roumage of Chateau Lestrille, Agnes Bousseau of Chateau de l’Hurbe and Camille Alby of (meet with Agnès Bousseau) and Camille Alby of negociant Passion des Terroirs (Lucien Lurton & Fils).

Visit and tasting at Chateau Anniche (AOC Bordeaux Superieur, Rose, Liquoreux, White).

Visit, tasting and dinner at Chateau des Fougeres, Clos de Montesquieu (AOC Graves). Tasting: AOC Graves and Pessac Leognan (Red and White).

Day 2

Walking tour of the city of Bordeaux.

Visit, tasting and lunch at Chateau Laroze (AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classe). Tasting: AOC Saint Emilion and Saint Emilion satellite AOCs (Reds).

Visit and tasting at Chateau Tour de Grenet (AOCs Lussac Saint Emilion, Lalande de Pomerol, Saint Emilion, Bordeaux Superieur). (Reds).

Walking tour of Saint Emilion.

Visit, tasting and dinner at Chateau le Lau (AOC Graves de Vayres). Tasting: AOC Cotes de Bordeaux: AOCs Graves de Vayres, Castillon, Blaye, Bourg, Francs, Premieres Cotes. (Reds and Whites)

Day 3

Visit, tasting and lunch at Fifth Growth Grand Cru Classe Chateau Batailley (AOC Pauillac). Tasting: AOC Medoc: Pauillac, Margaux, Saint Julien, Saint Estephe, Haut Medoc, Medoc, Listrac, Moulis, Crus Bourgeois. (Reds).

Visit and tasting at Chateau La Peyre (AOC Saint-Estephe – Cru Artisan). (Reds).

2 thoughts on “How to get the best out of Bordeaux – Part 1: Beginning a voyage of discoveries

  1. Enjoyed your blog. I am a part-time wine tutor and I might find useful information there if I launch a wine appreciation course next year. Thank you. I’ll keep in touch.

    1. Thanks for your kind comment John, much appreciated! Please do keep in touch 🙂

      Cheers!

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