Posted by Lisa Hill on October 11, 2010
On Saturday, we set off for another wine tour, this time of the historic Chartron wine district of Bordeaux and then to the Medoc district.
We started off with a walking tour through what used to be a thriving port but is now a picturesque tourist mecca. The old wine shops have been converted to antique shops and restaurants, and there is also a banking and business district further away from the river. Old buildings have been cleaned up and there is now a wide promenade for pedestrians to stroll along in the sunshine. It all seems very peaceful but we have seen a painting of the harbour full of ships so we could easily imagine what it used to be like.
When Bordeaux was under English rule in the middle ages there were special concessions for Bordeaux wine, but before methods of preservation were invented it could not travel far without spoilage. Apparently it was actually the Dutch who discovered how to use sulphur to preserve the wine, and the English who invented glass bottles – and then of course along came branding and labelling to differentiate amongst the producers.
There is only one house left which shows a distinctive style of Dutch architecture – which is interesting because it was actually the Dutch who dominated this area with their effective banking systems and sound business and marketing skills. Even at times when Protestants were oppressed in France, these Dutch merchants were left alone because of their value to the economy.
We then went to the wine museum. It was quite interesting but the guide there was unnecessarily rude and unpleasant about the English, which suggests that the people of Bordeaux have failed to move on in the modern world if this is how their representatives feel free to behave to their visitors.
From the museum we went to a leisurely lunch. We shared our table with a very nice young man from Norway – an interesting coincidence because at yesterday’s wine tour lunch we had met another very nice young man from Norway. One of the pleasures of tours like this is the interesting people you meet from all over the world. As well as the Norwegians, we also chatted with Canadians, Americans, English, Mexicans and Japanese – but we were the only Australians. We did, of course, take the opportunity to invite these wine-lovers to visit. Naturally we spruiked Victorian wines and Melbourne as a gourmet destination, but we also explained about wines from the Hunter Valley, Tasmania, WA and the Barossa Valley because wine is marketed overseas simply as wine from ‘South East Australia’ without differentiation.
The lunch was at a specialist cheese restaurant and it was paradise for a cheese lover like me! We had chevre soup for lunch – very thin slices of goats cheese in a mild stock, served with delicious bread and a good red merlot/cabernet franc wine. There was a confit of duck for main course, and one of those lovely French apple pies for dessert, but in between came the cheese course…
We went down into the cheese cellar where there were about 100 cheeses for us to choose from. There were all kinds of washed rind and stinky cheese, brie and Camembert, firm cheddar-type cheese, and dozens of different goats cheese. We were free to select as much and as many as we liked, and it was very tempting indeed!
After lunch we boarded a coach and set off for Medoc. It’s flat country, and not especially scenic except for the occasional chateau, but it was pleasant enough once past the industrial suburbs. We went to two wineries and sampled their wares, enough to know now that we like three wines from Bordeaux: St Emilion, Medoc and Graves!
Back in Bordeaux, we had a simple dinner at a cafe not far from the tourist office and got back to our hotel just as the rain came down!