Already well-established in the Bordeaux region, enotourism is one of the driving forces behind the area’s modern, dynamic character. Incomparable experiences await you here ensuring your stay in the Bordeaux wine region is incomparable and unforgettable.
This past September, we hosted US wine bloggers from across the country for our annual Bordeaux Blogger Trip. On the itinerary? A full week of immersion including wine tastings, Chateau visits, dining excursions and a unique opportunity to get a behind the scenes glimpse of the Bordeaux harvest. (As we like to say around the Bordeaux HQ, it’s a tough job but someone’s gotta do it.) During their stay, we asked our Bordeaux adventurers to keep a short travel diary of their experience.
This week, our favorite Aussie Bordeaux Wine Buff and Chief Wine Officer, Tamara Gibb, takes us back to Bordeaux:
TAMARA’S BORDEAUX TRAVEL DIARY
What a truly spectacular start to our Bordeaux trip! The day commenced with a walking tour of Bordeaux, meandering through the streets and alleys, past countless magnificent monuments, and pristine wine stores. Then onto the bus bound for Cap Ferret. A delicious lunch of foie gras and goat’s cheese washed down with Chateau Landereau, Entre-deux-Mers White and Rosé. We continued with a boat trip through Cap Ferret basin finishing with a tasting of exquisite oysters in the most sublime setting, overlooking the basin, in a little fishing hut. A perfect day. Looking forward to our wine class tomorrow at the CIVB with Maxine.
An early start today with a masterclass at the CIVB given by the wonderful Maxine Colas. We tasted some fantastic examples of very affordable, everyday drinking wines. It was then off to Chateau Biac in Cadillac. What a wonderful property and the Asseily family couldn’t be more dedicated and passionate about making great wines. We had a lovely lunch on their terrace overlooking the Garonne enjoying the Chateau Biac 2011, matured for 14 months, elegant and powerful plus the luscious Secret de Biac made in a 500ml bottle. I loved being back in the area, it brought back fond memories of my time spent there during the 1999 harvest at Chateau Lezongars.
Today was spent in the Medoc, an easy drive from the center of Bordeaux. We were eager and poised to help Martine Cazeneuve kick off the harvest by picking the Merlot at Chateau Paloumey. On arrival we were told that the Merlot wasn’t quite ready so we had to settle for a walk through the vineyards and a tasting instead. We enjoyed wines from Chateau Paloumey and their other property Chateau La Garricq from Moulis. It was then onto Chateau Mongravey in Margaux for a tour and tasting with the magnificent Karin Bernaleau, a fabulous ambassador for Margaux and Cru Bourgeois. Our last stop for the day was at Lynch-Bages where we got to become blenders for the afternoon. We split into 2 teams, girls versus the boys – good effort boys but of course the girls prevailed!
One of my favorite places to visit, Saint Emilion, a medieval town an hour from Bordeaux, the land of macaroons and Merlot! After a tour of the town, and a chance to walk off the foie gras and confit from the night before, it was off to visit Nicolas at Chateau Maison Blanche. An interesting tour and tasting of some terrific bio-dynamic wines. I loved the 2011 vintage, well balanced with ripe, juicy blackberry fruit and a soft, elegant finish. I hope we see them soon in the US market! It was then off to visit Chateau Coutet, before heading to Chateau du Tailhas in Pomerol where they had already started harvesting. I just pray that the rains (and especially hail) hold off over the next week so all that lovely Merlot, & Cabernet Franc can reach optimal ripeness.
Image courtesy of Maxine Colas
Last month, we hosted US wine bloggers from across the country for our annual Bordeaux Blogger Trip. On the itinerary? A full week of immersion including wine tastings, Chateau visits, dining excursions and a unique opportunity to get a behind the scenes glimpse of the Bordeaux harvest. As we like to say around the Bordeaux HQ, it’s a tough job but someone’s gotta do it.
Landing into Bordeaux-Merignac Airport, it’s hard to ignore the culture of wine that surges so deeply in this region of the world. Ignore the flashier marketing stunts, a life size bottle of Grand Cru looming over the luggage carousel, decorative grape vines amidst the concrete maze of airport, and take a moment to speak to the people. Wine touches everyone here.
For the next few weeks, we’ll be highlighting our adventures in Bordeaux through a series of posts about the experience. With Bordeaux’s harvest in full swing, we bring to your our first installment…
HARVEST IN BORDEAUX
It’s a balmy 84 degrees. The weather feels surprisingly warm for Fall. My driver and momentary tour guide, Michael, informs me that I have brought with me the American sunshine (along with my abysmal French accent). The week prior to my arrival, Bordeaux was hit with an unexpected cold front. By now, Bordeaux’s winemakers have become accustomed to the year’s temperamental weather. No doubt, 2013 has been challenging for the region. Everywhere we go the running quote seems to be, “We had no Spring.” Yet, winemakers are adamant that weather conditions will not affect the quality of the future wines. And, should their level of passion, pride and savoir-faire be any indication for the argument, we’ll certainly side with them on it.
In and around Bordeaux, the energy of the season is still palpable. Autumn brings a magical blend of anticipation, excitement and anxiety. It’s the season where, literally, the fruits of labor and love can finally begin the crucial, vintage defining process of being realized into works of art.
Two of the Three Graces Fountain in Place de la Bourse, Bordeaux City
Harvest in Bordeaux is a community affair, steeped in tradition that began centuries ago. In the heart of Bordeaux city, the majestic fountain of The Three Graces heralds the start of harvest and bubbles red as a symbolic gesture of good fortune for the region’s winemakers.
The village of Saint-Emilion on an overcast morning.
Across the Garrone river, the local wine brotherhood, Jurade de Saint-Emilion (founded in the 12th century), marks the occasion with a ceremonial announcement atop King’s Tower. Meanwhile, in vineyards from the left to right bank, vintners and vignerons rely on expertise, instinct, science and Mother Nature to help define their course of action.
Once harvest gets underway, the sleepy, idyllic vineyard transforms into a non-stop hive of activity. While some of the Chateaus we visited have patiently delayed harvest as their grapes continue to mature, some have tentatively begun their harvest, particularly of merlot, an early ripening varietal.
Driving through Medoc, scenes of harvest have begun.
Harvest teams, usually comprised of family, friends, neighbors, traveling students and migrant workers, are divided into pickers and sorters. Throughout the day, the pickers line the vines with shears and baskets in hand, methodically clipping bunch after bunch. No grape left untouched! An average size vineyard in Bordeaux (15 hectares/37 acres) will employ anywhere from 20 – 40 workers to hand-harvest grapes, staggered throughout the two to four week season.
Château Biac during 2012 Harvest. Image courtesy of Château Biac.
Where natural elements such as hail, rain and disease can pose the biggest threat to crop, oxygen is the winemaker’s most formidable enemy. Therefore, teams must move quickly and efficiently once the grape has been removed from the vine. The just picked grapes are transported to a destemmer, which will detach the grape from its stem.
At Château du Tailhas, grapes are loaded into this destemmer.
There, they are run through a conveyor belt where the sorting team awaits. Rot-ridden grapes, extraneous debris, small insects and the occasional furry friends are sorted out by hand before the quality grapes are sent off to be crushed and macerated into juice.
Three generations of family & friends sort Château Mongravey’s 2013 Merlot Harvest.
There’s no doubt that modern technologies have made their way into the harvest process and vineyards are utilizing these equipment and tools to help them produce wine more efficiently. Some of these technologies include mechanical grape harvesters, machines that run through vine trellis and essentially shake grapes off the vine, a time saving option compared to the labor intensive practice of hand harvesting and also incredibly useful in the face of an impending, unexpected storm. Optical sorters use photographic technology to magically separate the good grapes from the bad and the age old tradition of crushing grapes has long been replaced with mechanical pressers. That said, Bordeaux’s wine producers continue to rely on best practices that have been passed down through generations with hand harvesting and sorting still prevalent throughout the region.
Harvest lunch at Château Biac. Image courtesy of Château Biac.
Anxiety over vintage aside, the romance of harvest is still very much alive in the heart of Bordeaux. Daily lunches with the harvest team over a glass of wine (of course) remain an integral part of the tradition as does the passing of heritage from generations of families to a new wave of owners and eager, young wine making students poised to carry the torch of Bordeaux into the future.
As the Bordelais head into the final few weeks of harvest, we recommend you follow our wonderful guide Maxine Colas at @bordeauxwinenew or #bdx13 on Twitter for on the ground reporting and photos from the harvest.
Next week: A Slice of Saint-Emilion Terroir
During his long hours sitting among the vines, Warrender was particularly struck by the industrious activity going on around him. “I was terribly impressed by how hard people work there,” he remarked. “The vineyard workers were absolutely charming – in fact one of them ended up coming to work on our sheep farm.”
While many of these estates have been regularly depicted in a range of media over the centuries, Warrender lamented what he feels is a modern preference for commissioning photographic representations.
“The thing about wine is that it’s such a craft and has such a strong tradition,” he observed. “From my point of view it’s a great pity that they’ve got themselves terribly involved with photography. Ideally it’s a terribly artistic place, where three drawers looking at the same view could give very different interpretations.”
Check out more of Warrender’s illustrations below and head over to his homepage to view and/or purchase all 26 prints of the collection, Fruits of Labour.
Whether you’re traveling on foot, bike, boat, plane or train, these sleek and stylish products make it easy to be mobile with wine.
Need we say more? This wine sippy cup from The Product Farm is a spill-free solution when you’re on the go. That said, drink responsibly!
Are you an urban traveler headed to a dinner party or picnic? This Bicycle Wine Rack ($34) is both functional and stylish!
As far as wine travel mishaps go, there’s nothing worse than a burst bottle in your suitcase. These options from JetBag (3/$16.99), VinniBag ($5.50) and Bottle Bubble ($4.95) apply the basic physics of padding, air and bubble wrap, respectively, to help protect your wine souvenirs.
These hard and soft totes are the perfect accessory to any outfit or occasion. The skybar Wine Traveler ($19.99) comes in an assortment of four colors and its hard shell claims to keep pre-chilled wine cool for hours. The MAPTOTE comes in two sizes, fit for one ($15) or two bottles ($22) of wine. Though you can choose from an assortment of 13 maps, our obvious favorite are the Bordeaux map totes.