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Saturday, 05 July 2008

Pilgrimage to Bordeaux's Finest Vines and Wines - Page 2

Written by Lies Ouwerkerk
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If you are a novice in the world of wine and wish to further your knowledge by immersing yourself in an acclaimed wine region and learn about viticulture the experiential way, the fabulous Bordeaux region in southwestern France may be the perfect destination. A variety of affordable and enriching courses and excursions to prestigious wine estates in the area are readily available, and the charming and picturesque city of Bordeaux, perfectly located in the heart of this wine region, offers countless additional attractions

In the wine processing areas of the estates, we learn about the basics of winemaking: destemming, crushing, maceration, alcoholic fermentation, devatting, and racking. Then we are led to the temperature-controlled vats of stainless steel as well as the oak barrels, all new and made in France (Limoges). It’s in these vats that the wine will age for about 16 months. At this point the wine is ready for sale. However, the bottles still have to lie down for another couple of years because most Médoc wines are usually only drinkable after they have aged considerably.

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In each estate we taste two different red wines, all consisting of mainly Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot varieties, with some Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc added as well. The full-bodied wines from Lanessan are Crus Bourgois Supérieurs of 1998 and 1999, whereas the deep-colored reds at Maucaillou are a lit bit younger and fruitier.

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The following day we tour the famous Saint-Emilion area, 40 km northeast of Bordeaux, and visit Château Haute-Sarpe and Château Beau-Séjour. Here, on the right bank of the river Dordogne, the soil is composed of limestone, sand, and little gravel, and the major grape is Merlot, most often blended with Cabernet Franc, which ripens about ten days later than the Merlot, helped by the heat of the stones under the vines. After an abundant lunch at Haute-Sarpe, accompanied by two rich grands crus classés from the Château, it is time to explore the romantic town of Saint-Emilion with its curvy, cobble-stoned alleys, steeped in history.

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As the story goes, the hermit Saint Emilion settled here in the 8th century to live a reclusive life in a cave on a limestone hill, now the site of a monolithic church. Over time, the site grew into a focal point of religious life and pilgrimage, eventually leading to the expansion of the town in the Middle Ages. But it was not until the mid-1800's that Saint-Emilion's wine trade, and subsequently its reputation, really started to grow. Since 1999, Saint-Emilion and its surrounding vineyards have been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the first time in history that a wine growing area has received such recognition.

 

 


As is the case with Bordeaux, Saint-Emilion is not only about wine. There are architectural treasures such as Romanesque churches, underground tunnels and catacombs. Hikers and bikers can enjoy a series of enchanting trails meandering through the vineyards and connecting the various wine towns in the region. And those with a sweet tooth can stock up on the unsurpassed, mouth-watering macaroons of Madame Blanchez, whose recipe has remained the same since the nuns launched it in 1620.

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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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