Bordeaux, France. It’s been chilly since we arrived with scattered clouds and spectacular bursts of sunshine that explode upon the brilliantine facades of the Royal Palace and other government buildings that form the famous Port of the Moon entry to Bordeaux along the crescent docks of the Garonne River.

Port of the moon

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And, yes, that is water you see in the foreground reflecting the city lights beyond. The Garonne River has been the lifeblood of this city for over two thousand years since its first incarnation as a Roman border port. In fact, the city’s name is derived from two words, border and water, Bordeaux.

Today, what the Garonne River does best of all is divide the famous wine districts of Bordeaux into two distinct growing climates: the Right Bank where the Merlot vines ripen in the rich, damp earth, and the Left Bank where Cabernet Sauvignon grapes luxuriate in the warmer, dryer, gravely soils. Two growing regions separated by a quarter mile wide river. Two growing regions that have made this city a world renowned wine capital.

Fountain

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Bordeaux was recently named a Unesco World Heritage Site not only for its remarkable architecture of cathedrals, buildings, and fountains born in the Age of Enlightenment, but for the “enlightenment” itself that percolated here in the vibrant philosophies of Spinoza, Locke, and France’s own, Voltaire. This is a city whose intellectual reach was global, influencing folks like Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin and instilling revolutionary vigor.

Nettie and I came to see and hear all this in Bordeaux; but like the Founding Fathers themselves, who received annual shipments of Bordeaux’s famous “red claret” in cases crossing the Atlantic, we came to Bordeaux for the wine, my friend, for the wine.

And it’s everywhere you look…from the lowliest street-side market, to the fashionable wine shops where $1000 bottles of Lafite Rothschild are not uncommon, to the grand vineyard chateaus of Medoc, Mouton, Latour, Cantemerle, and Margaux.

The variety, styles and complexity and sheer volume was dizzying. We decided we needed help to get our heads around the subject so we took a tour into the vineyards themselves with ten other travelers on Sunday morning. Here’s what we found out…

…you come home intoxicated, not only from the wine but from the beauty and majesty of the wine-making area.

The vineyards here are very different from other vineyards Nettie and I have seen before in Piemonte and Tuscany in Italy, or Napa & Sonoma, or Santa Inez & Paso Robles…none have palaces (referred to in this region as Chateaus) watching over them. Built from the sandy limestone substrate of rock the forms the foundation of the Right Bank, the magnificent homes and working buildings punctuate the landscape with beauty and an kind of imperiousness that is welcoming…even if a bit intimidating at first.

Chateau

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Oh sure, you can say it’s pretentious to have these magnificent edifices watching over the common fruit of the vine, but perhaps you have not tasted the mighty Bordeaux wine that has made this region so much a part of Western Civilization. Yes, I say “a part of civilization” because Bordeaux has absorbed centuries of time in plying the wine trade among diverse nations. And through the juice of the grape, disparate countries, from frigid Siberia to sweltering Sumatra, and the people who inhabit these countries, have come to understand a common theme…wine is the mortar that holds a people together.

vineyard

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Through the breaking of bread, the sharing of a meal, the opening of a cask or amphorae or carafe or a simple bottle of wine, people reveal themselves to be as one. They commune at the table or the bar or the poolside or the ocean side in this millennium as in any other. They can lower their swords, raise their goblets and say, “Salute” “Salud” “To you health.” And for the moment at least, the past is forgotten, the future has not yet occurred, and the present is all that is important.

Seafood Platter

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And how does such a day at the vineyards conclude? Well, if you’re in Bordeaux where the Garonne River flows to the Atlantic still rich with its bountry, then with a platter of fresh seafood and a bottle of Bordeaux wine of course!

I’ve posted a selection of photos both of our day in the vineyards and in the city of Bordeaux. Click here:

Bordeaux Selection

I hope they stir your imagination and provide some impetuous to travel to this wondrous region of the grape.

Cheers from Bordeaux!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 Responses to It’s The Wine, My Friend, The Wine

  1. Mary Eliahu says:

    Hi there! I’m drinking two and half buck chuck and enjoying the trip-Keep your photos and lovely commentary coming-love them-and I don’t have to fly just visit my local Trader Joes and turn on my computer and travel vicariously with you- No shit I love you guys! Enjoy every moment!

  2. Virginia says:

    I’m getting ready to leave the home office for the day, but before doing so, I took a little ‘visit to France’ via your wonderful photos. Tres belle! Merci beaucoup!

  3. Hugo says:

    Le manifique!

  4. nancy says:

    What a great trip!!! Drink up!

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