An early summer in Europe and we couldn’t resist the chance to get away for a few days in Bordeaux to enjoy a tour of the finest French wine country.
From Paris we took the TGV to Bordeaux, a beautiful city from the moment you step out of the station. We arrived at midday, a day later than the main group (3 other couples from the Moscow YPO) and so we went directly to meet them for lunch … to the spectacular city of St. Emillion.
We went directly into a beautiful courtyard restaurant and were acquainted with our group. We had to jump in at the deep end and catch up with the drinking, and it began with a lovely light chilled Rose on this beautiful day with excellent surroundings washing down an ample Entrecote steak.
To work off this heavy start, we continued on a tour of this historic village. St. Emillion was the first entire village to get protection under UNESCO and it is easy to see why. The impressive monolithic cathedral, the underground caves and the cobblestone streets make this a lovely place to roam around or just sit back and enjoy as the world passes by.
We didn’t have that luxury though. We knocked back our espressos and it was off to Chateau Petit Villages. This small “boutique” Chateau was a good place to start. Modest in name, they make a fine Pomerol and seem to have modernized themselves to bring production techniques into the 21st century. The astonishing thing I learned all along was the cost of failure for a crop. Wine making has become a science as much as it has always been an art!
Following this, we went to check in the hotel and then immidiately left for dinner. A simple restaurant on the river embankment that was packed. It certainly seemed popular, and my grilled prawns would vertainly have been one of the reasons for that.
Chateau Margeaux, which has become an appelation in its own right, is a beautifully maintained property and Chateau Latour produces a lovely deep Pauillac and the landmark tower on the property adornes each bottle.
The next (last day) was to be a real treat. We again had an early start to see the very exclusive Chateau Yquem. I had never heard of it, but we were told that this was the one not to miss. A Chateau draped in history and now owned by LVMH (we were told that Bernard Arneux comes twice a year to spend a week with his family here), the grounds are spectacular and the quality of the wine produced here is as near to perfect as you can get. This relatively small Chateau produces a beautifully sweet wine, that can not only be treated as a dessert wine, but a perfect accompaniment for strong or spicy foods. Here, each grape is individually plucked by a team of expert pickers who are constantly walking up and down the vinyard. There is no bunch picking and sorting here. There is no relevance of vintage here either. The wine has a window to be drunk either 2 years after bottling, or thereafter, 10 years after bottling (and a window each 10 years). It doesnt matter which year you buy, as Chateau Yquem has exacting standards. In their longer than 100 years history, there have been a handful of years where the Chateau has not produced any wine. The philosophy of this vinyard is simple. If the wine isn't perfect they don't bottle it. It will simply be a gap year where there is no Chateau Yquem produced. That takes discipline, but it seems to have paid off over the years, as people now know that any bottle of this fine wine is "guaranteed" to be good. That is why this is the only wine to attain the classification of Premier Cru Superieur.
So, very satisfied, we headed back to the hotel for an afternoon of relaxation before a sumptuous meal at the hotel in the evening. Craving some "saucy" food, I picked out the Beef Strogonoff on the menu straight away, and it was perfect !
I go home feeling relaxed and well educated on a subject I, frankly, knew very little about. I will drink each bottle of wine in future with a greater understanding of what goes into its production process and also with fine memories of a thoroughly enjoyable trip.