By now, my love is of France and all things French is well documented. However I have always been reluctant to visit Bordeaux. There is no real reason, except the well documented rivalry between Burgundy (Bourgogne to be exact) and Bordeaux, my heart has always been with Bourgogne. Bourgogne is renowned for being a culinary and wine epicenter. The culture embraces , relishes and celebrates its famous dishes and wines with gusto. Food fads (looking at you quinoa) and calories counting don’t have a place in Burgundian culture. There wines and wine making are known the world over for their velvety smoothness, complexity and all around amazingness. So why would I go to Bordeaux?
Bordeaux and Bourgogne are the best known and most revered fine wine producers from France. They are held in the highest esteem (and price tags) the world over. Bordeaux is known for its Chateaux and large vineyards on the west and south (ish) corner of France. ( It is also known for the Merlot grape,as well as Cabernet Sauvignon, and Sauvignon blanc) Bourgogne is known for its Domaines and small vineyards on the east and north (ish) corner of France ( it is known for its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes ). Both regions produce amazing and sometimes unpredictable wine. In short as the World Atlas of Wine states “If Bourgogne is sensual, than Bordeaux is cerebral.” So why would I want to go there?
Well as its turns out, World Atlas of Wine does not mean this as an insult, so the answer is lots and lots of reasons. Bordeaux is a wonder. But just how did I get there? Well as it turns out @benton8tor has a thing for rather intense borderline insane drives. He wanted to drive through the Pyrenees and the best place to start from that has an airport connecting to Rome is Bordeaux (side note: It is Ryanair that flies from Rome to Bordeaux, though the staff are very kind, the airlines policies are terrible so there is a good chance you will pay another regular airline ticket price for extras, I DO NOT recommend them, there are many other airlines regular or budget that are infinitely better any one from City Jet, East Jet to Air France or British Airways, Many other better airlines fly to Bordeaux, rant over)
Arriving somewhat hesitantly in Bordeaux, my sulky mindset was determined not to like it. This took about 45 seconds before I changed my mind. Arriving at the luggage carousel is a giant bottle of Bordeaux wine (yes it is fake). Could these be my people too? Bordeaux is a beautiful city, old with stunning architecture but surprisingly easy to navigate. Upon arriving at our hotel the Best Western Gare St Jean http://www.hotel-bordeaux-saint-jean.com/en/ We were pleasantly unsurprised at their amazing wine selection. Yes these definitely are my people too. Our room was modern, clean and quite pretty. The hotel itself is full of old world charm and beauty. Just like Bordeaux itself.
We were able to settle in and the hotel staff recomended some wines from Bordeaux to start us off. Tasting wines from St Emilion and Pomerol on the right bank of the Medoc, I was surprised at how good they were. I had always believed unless you paid top dollar (which I can not afford) Bordeaux wines were boring. Not at all, these wines were amazing! Velvety and silky. I had to have more. I then tried a Saint Julien from the left bank. Also great, albeit different than the right bank with more tannins and spicier? flavours present. What the what? Even more surprising I thought Bordeaux food was also rumored to be boring. Again not so, my amuse bouche snacks of olives, tapenades and nuts were surprisingly tasty. Bordeaux was slowly sneaking its way into my heart.
We toured the city and its quaint but robust shopping in the centre, beautiful churches and walked along the River Garonne. Walking along the river is not only beautiful there are some amazing almost hidden restaurants and wine bars to sample the amazing Bordeaux wine.
Cafe du Levant is a Belle Epoque esque restaurant near the train station. It is worth a visit for the decor alone but as I was starting to discover its wines were amazing. Stick to local specialties like steak with bordelaise sauce or fish. http://cafedulevant.ch/
Unfortunately for me, we were off too soon to to the Pyrenees ( but not before sampling the Sauternes YUM!!!) and I was full of regret, regret for my snobbish preconceived notions preventing me from going to an amazing place, trying amazing wine and tasting amazing food. Regret for not enough time and most of all regret for not having enough time to visit the chateaux, the villages and taste more wine.
Bourgogne has my heart but Bordeaux? Well Bordeaux has found its rightful place there too. Both regions are a love letter to wine and too life. Neither should be missed and with that, Bordeaux, Toute le monde.