On this day in 1960 one of my favourite French authors, Albert Camus, died in Villeblevin, France. To honour the great writer and journalist this post will be about visiting Bordeaux. Although a tentative link to Camus, as he was born and grew up in Algiers, he did in fact move to Bordeaux with the Paris-Soir staff in around 1941. So although the post has no strong connection to the author it offers a transition from Camus to Bordeaux to the beautiful wine trails in this region.
The 1000 sq-km wine-growing zone around the city of Bordeaux is, including Burgundy, France’s most important producer of superb wines. There are over 5000 chateaux, which are also known as domaines and these refer to the properties of the area where the grapes are grown, picked, fermented and matured. The smaller of the chateaux allow visitors to walk-in but you will need to make reservations for the larger ones.
To begin your tipsy journey head to the main tourist office and book the cheap but edifying introduction to wine and cheese course. The classes are small and you will spend the afternoon sipping a variety of exquisite wines and nibbling cheese straight from the cellar.
Those who take the vine more seriously may enjoy enrolling at the Ecole du Vin within the Maison du Vin just across the street from the tourist office. The classes range from beginners to advanced. You will be tested on your knowledge, nose, taste and vocabulary.
Guided tours generally start around 50 euros per adult but prices vary depending on the day, the distance and the chateaux. If you’re feeling more adventurous, take on the wine trails solo. The Maison du Vin de Bordeaux will supply you with a free, coloured-coded map detailing production areas, addresses and all the necessary grape know how.
For wine you can take home and brag about, you must visit either Bordeaux Magnum or the striking l’Intendant. Each of these stores sells a gargantuan assortment of wines; from sharp fruity whites to deep, autumnal reds, plus some of the bottles are art themselves. Climb the serpentine iron stair case spanning four floors and choose from the encircling shelves of wine inside l’Intendant.
A unique experience in which you will literally plunge into the regional grape juice can be found at the Spa de Vinotherapie Caudalie. Winey delights such as red wines baths, Merlot wraps or Cabernet body scrubs sound like a wine lovers fairytale but they really are on offer here. Apart from the frivolity, grape extracts have been found to contain anti-aging and blood-strengthening qualities so this is an entirely guilt free pleasure.
But for all of these courses, spas and day trips if what you really wish to do is grab a bottle of red, a slice of cheese and some crusty bread then head to a local market and you will find the best and cheapest produce for an afternoon picnic.