Bordeaux has long had a reputation as a town that takes itself very seriously - too seriously perhaps - but no more. The history and culture are still here but UNESCO classified Bordeaux has shed her dowager frocks and the city of wine has become fun, lively and an award winning holiday destination. Welcome to Bordeaux, vintage 2016!
The Bordelais love their wines, and it shows. It’s a city that lives and breathes wine - from the towering new temple to world wine - the Cité du Vin - to tiny restaurants dedicated to matching food with the perfect claret - you’re never more than a step away from the urban wine trail.
Entre Deux Mers takes its name from its location - the region in nestled between the Garonne and the Dordogne rivers, and lies to the south and east of Bordeaux. The region has a long wine producing history; the earliest vines were planted by the ancient Romans, 2000 years ago. Wine produced by the Benedictine monks in the middle ages, initially for religious purposes, established Entre deux Mers reputation; pilgrims on the route to Santiago de Compostela resting at the Abbey would be offered the sweet white wines produced by the monks. The remains of their 11c Abbey La Sauve Majeure have been declared a protected site by UNESCO.
Larger than the Medoc but producing half the amount of wine, Graves forged a reputation for claret in England, with trade dating back to the marriage of Eleanor d’Aquitaine and the English king in the 12C. Wine production in the region, which stretches from the left bank of the Garonne to the forest of Les Landes, dates back to the 1st century. The name comes from the region’s gravelly, pebbly soil which is perfect for grape growing.
And then there’s neighbouring Sauternes. In the 1855 classification of Bordeaux, the Medoc was the source of all but one red wine - but Sauternes was the source of all the golden whites. The most famous of them all, Yquem was singled out as a Premier Cru supérieur and the rest of the classified chateaux were divided into two categories. The 3 appellations are Graves, Pessac Léognan and Sauternes-Barsac.
The D2 which runs from Bordeaux up and along the length of the Médoc peninsula is the wine lovers equivalent of Route 66. Eight of the most famous Bordeaux appellations can be found in on the peninsular which is bordered by the Gironde estuary to the east and by the Atlantic ocean on the west side. Vast manmade forests protect the vines from the buffeting winds to the south.
St Emilion is renowned not only for its wines but for the town itself, dominating the Dordogne valley from its hilltop position. This vineyard make up the first vineyards in the world to be awarded the title of ‘Cultural Landscape’ by UNESCO on the World Heritage List in 1999 as a historical landscape that remains intact and continues as a working activity.
Nearby Pomerol is much smaller but shares its Roman history with that of St Emilion with the tiny appellation of Lalande de Pomerol at its northern tip. A stone’s throw from Libourne, the principal town of the region, and the convergence of the rivers Dordogne and l’Isle, lies Fronsac with two main sectors: Fronsac and Canon Fronsac.
Bourg and Blaye are justifiably proud of their wines and their rich heritage. Blaye alone has 700 wine properties over 6000 acres which welcome visitors to try their wines and explore the region. The region also boasts the prehistoric caves, the Grotte de Pair-non-Pair at Prignac-et-Marcamps which are definitely worth a visit between tastings!
Inspired by the Cité du Vin downriver in Bordeaux Bourg is in the midst of a wine tourism renaissance. The winegrowers in both regions have a reputation for being family friendly - most of the properties are family owned and the tours and tastings are run by the winemakers themselves. A wonderful region to explore and to learn about wine and how it is made.