June 5 and 6, 2017
On June 5, we had an unusual way of arriving in Bordeaux. We docked in Le Verdon just for a few hours and to let people who were going out on tour depart from that location. This is because the Garonne River has such drastic changes in tides and we need to go on that river to our port in Bordeaux. We were not going out on tour since we had planned a dinner with Alan and Beverly in Bordeaux and we wouldn’t have been back in time. We had a pretty relaxing morning on the ship and about 1 PM, the ship sailed on the river up to Bordeaux. And it was a beautiful trip!
Unfortunately before we left, one of the crew who was working on the gangway fell and broke both legs. Here is the ambulance taking him to the hospital.
We have been in Bordeaux before but this new wine museum was not open last time. And we do remember the bridge that has the middle section that raises to allow us to pass under it!
The Bordeaux metropolitan area is the 6th largest urban area in France.It is the world’s major wine industry capital and home to the world’s main wine fair. Wine has been produced here since the 8th century. The historic part of the city is on the UNESCO World Heritage List as “an outstanding urban and architectural ensemble” of the 18th century.
We love that the ship docks right next to the city and the walkways are full of people watching, skateboarding, biking, running, etc.
We arrived about 6:30 and we had a dinner reservation at Le Quatrieme Mur in the Opera House. We walked over and decided to sit out on the outside porch area. What a delicious dinner! And the wine was out of this world – Here are some of the dishes we enjoyed:
We had a nice walk back to the ship and enjoyed that it was still light at 10 PM!
Here’s a sign we liked:
Bordeaux has about 287,000 acres of vineyards and produces about 960 million bottles. This is more than all of the wine produced in Australia! Here it is about 80% red wine. There are 8000 wineries but only about 200 are known worldwide.
The city of Bordeaux is often referred to as “little Paris” and the same architect designed both.
Today we decided to take a tour to the St. Emilion wine area. Last year we went to the Medoc region.
Our guide today was Bridgette.
It was about a one hour trip to Saint Emilion. On the way we saw miles of vineyards, interesting chateaux and beautiful landscapes. Bridgette told us that lots of the vineyards are built on hills and that poor soil makes the best wine. This was not known in the early days of growing grapes, but the farmers needed the low land to grow wheat so the grapes were planted on the hills. In fact, it is against the law to irrigate!
We learned back in Porto that some wines are still stomped in order not to have the seeds crushed which can create a bitter taste in the wine. Bridgette reinforced this. Only boutique wineries do this, though.
There are about 1000 wineries in Saint Emilion. In France you get blended wine that is sold by the area it is grown and not by the type of grape.
Often you see roses planted at the ends of rows of grapevines – here and in most places we have visited. This sometimes notes what kinds of grapes are planted but more important, roses are prone to the same disease that grapevines get, but the rose bushes get it earlier, so it is kind of an early warning system!
Saint Emilion is a preserved 13th century medieval village and is famous for its red wines. The most outstanding attraction is the Eglise Monolithe, a 12th century church carved into a cliff above the village. The monks carved the limestone and it was used to build the other buildings. They built the church underground to hide it from the barbarians who raided churches. It allowed the people to practice Catholicism in a semi hidden place. It was absolutely fascinating to think of the work it took to build it. The 13th century Trinity Chapel built above the underground church, is a tribute to Saint Emilion, the 8th century monk for whom the town is named.
We toured the church, the catacombs and the chapel. Very unique and so interesting, like nothing we have ever seen before.
Because the stone is limestone and it holds water, the columns needed to be reinforced with these metal braces. The bracing will eventually be removed as they have discovered other ways to strengthen them.
There is a wonderful view of the town from the area around the clock tower.
After some time wandering around the town (and purchasing some wine) we headed to our visit to the wine chateau and our tasting. Here are some more views of the town – very charming.
The Chateau de Ferrand was our destination. It is owned by Baron Bich (of Bic pen fame!)
We saw how they trim the vines:
We were met by Charlie, the head sommelier, who took us to the vineyards (100 acres) and then to the cellars, then to the tasting room.
The most unusual things about this winery are that they use concrete vats and that they keep wine here to age in the bottle, then sell it at the price that it was originally. So the 2006 vintage still sells for around 33 euros. Charlie says this is almost unheard of but that the Baron believes that many people don’t have the inclination or the cellar to age wine themselves and this makes it available. We tasted two reds, and both were good.
Beautiful visit, both the town and the chateau. Will love to come back.
We did a long walk when we got back to Bordeaux. Next stop Lorient, France.