Wine is the first thing most people think of when they they think of Bordeaux and was the main reason we chose to come to this beautiful area. Thanks to Olala Wine Tours and Rene, our fabulous sommelier tour guide, we spent a wonderful day exploring wineries on both the right and left banks of Bordeaux.
Bordeaux’s Gironde Estuary divides it into three wine regions-Left Bank, Right Bank and Entre-Deux-Mers (literally the area between the seas, but it refers to the area between the river.) We visited three of the 10,000 wineries in the region.
Starting our tour on the Right Bank, we stopped at Saint-Emilion, a beautiful little town that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Walking around the quaint town, we saw a former convent that had “returned to nature” as Rene described it.
Leaving the village of Saint-Emilion, we went to our first tasting at La Tonnel Winery in the Saint-Emilion region.
Audrey, our host, told us about some of the techniques the organic winery uses to maintain the health of their vines without the use of pesticides.
One of the most interesting was what she called sexual confusion. They attach a little device to the vines that sends out pheromones that make butterflies think there are no mating possibilities for them in the vineyards. The disappointed butterflies go somewhere else to find a mate and don’t create problems for the vines or themselves.
Each plant is precious because it takes one plant to make one bottle of wine.
The barrel cellar contained 36,000 bottles worth of wine aging in French oak barrels. This winery only uses a barrel three times because newer oak affects the finished wine more than older oak.
Leaving the Right Bank ,we traveled to Chateau Haut Breton in the Medoc region of the Left Bank. We tasted their wonderful wine and learned their approach to wine making.
Rene brought a picnic lunch and the seven people in our tour group gathered in one of the winery’s lovely rooms to share it. All of the food was locally sourced and prepared. And, of course, there was wine.
After lunch, Marie, our winery host, demonstrated how toasting the oak used for making barrels affects the bouquet and taste of the wine. We smelled oak at different levels of toasting. The scent of the medium toasted oak reminded me of being in a sauna.
After our Chateau Haut Breton visit, we stopped at the Chateau Margaux winery for a photo op. Considered by many to be the most famous wine estate in all of Bordeaux, it produces some of the most expensive wine in the world.
Our last winery of the day was Chateau Dauzav in the Margaux region. Another Audrey hosted our tour and tasting.
A very successful businessman recently purchased Chateau Dauzac, and we could see the effects of the resources he was devoting to the winery. They developed barrels with transparent panels that allowed the winemaker to visually monitor what was going on in the barrel.
Each year they display art in their barrel cellar. Huge paintings hung on the wall last year and this year they featured a mobile representing a wine branch.
At the end of the tour we visited the wine library where they keep their oldest and biggest bottles.
Dinner at Home
After visiting beautiful wineries and tasting wonderful wine, we had our own wine tasting dinner in our apartment. Scott chose a wine from the Left Bank and one from the Right Bank for us to compare.
Choosing the cheese for our dinner and talking with the cheese shop manager, all in French, was a peak moment for me. As we were leaving, he told me my French was very good. I am sure he was being kind, but it made me feel great.
After dinner, we all agreed it was another lovely day in Bordeaux.