Discovering Bordeaux, la belle endormie.
By Stephanie Irwin
Behind the facade of magnificent Haussmann buildings of Bordeaux’s exquisite city centre there lies a world removed from this ancient and once world renowned port city of commerce and trade. It is the birth place of a tradition of wine making going back to the Roman times, the time of Christ and it is imbued today through the glimpse that any tourist can undertake, into that magical and sensuous universe of wine making and wine culture. To explore this for myself I ventured out on a hazy summer day with Camille of Bordeaux Wine Trails, to experience for myself what had as of yet escaped me in my four years as a writer in Bordeaux. Beyond ordering wine in restaurants and sticking to familiar names I longed to recognise and decipher the sumptuous variations in tone, depth and flavour to be offered by the regions greatest export.
The half-day excursion through the vineyards of Saint Emilion, outside the city, gave us rare and personal insight into the evolving history of wine in the area, and for the first time I was able to really feel and know what it was to be a devotee of this heritage. What made the journey great value was the sense that to this team of guides, wine is more than a job, it is a vocation and with each new fact or anecdote we were invited to question any and every aspect of the regions wine tradition. The half-day tour of Bordeaux Wine Trails offers the novice enthusiast or seasoned traveller or tourist the chance to explore enough to wet the palette without being overwhelmed by information or facts.
Rather than trying to take in an encyclopaedia on wine, I felt immersed in a visceral way with wine history. With a private air conditioned bus, we were a group numbering eight who set out after lunch with Camille behind the wheel, recounting in charismatic detail all the way, what it truly was to live and breath wine and wine making, so that by the time we reached our first stop, the spectacular Chateau Pessac you felt ready to drink it all in. With poplar lined avenues and vineyards of lush green as far as the eye could see, it was my first chance to explore a functioning grand cru house, where I got to touch, taste and know what made their wine unique as appose to anyone else’s.
After that a relaxing stroll through Saint Emilions winding cobbled streets was followed by a true one-of-a-kind treat for any wine tourist – a chance to meet a third generation wine maker first hand, in our case, the charming Luc of Chateau Thaillais, who not only proved a remarkable guide but made you feel, when you tasted his families wine, that you were glimpsing what lay beyond the curtain of history, secrets and traditions that make french wine the greatest in the world.
By the end of the afternoon, as the brilliant white sun began to fade across the vineyards, I felt a wave of gratitude, that with Bordeaux Wine Trails I had had so much more than a cookie-cutter tour like any other, instead I had had an enlightenment and for me words like terroir, merlot, grand cru and vine now sounded more like prayer than mere words.
Discover the remarkable, budget-friendly and tailor-made tours offered by Bordeaux Wine trails today and experience for yourself the world greatest wine producing region.