Wednesday, March 21, 2012

In the Wine Capital of the World: the City of Bordeaux, France

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller at the Bar a Vin a Bordeaux

The city of Bordeaux is a jewel, with vestiges from the Roman era and medieval town gates.  However, the 18th century was its golden age. Victor Hugo once said: “Take Versailles, add Antwerp, and you have Bordeaux.”

Bordeaux is often referred to as "Little Paris". Baron Haussmann, a long-time prefect of Bordeaux, used Bordeaux’s 18th century, big-scale rebuilding as a model when he was asked by Emperor Napoleon III to transform a then still quasimedieval Paris into a “modern” capital that would make France proud.

The city was ruled by the English for a long time, which is why Bordeaux seems to have an "English flair". After the marriage of Henry II to Eleanor of Aquitaine, Bordeaux came under English rule between 1152 and 1453. It was then that the British first developed their taste for Claret, as the red Bordeaux wine is called in the UK.

The city has recently been classified by UNESCO as an “outstanding urban and architectural ensemble”.Bordeaux  has a million inhabitants, including a lively university community of over 60,000.

Bordeaux is a flat city, built on the left banks of the Garonne. The Garonne merges a dozen kilometers below the city with the Dordogne to form the Gironde, which is biggest estuary in France.

 Pictures: Bordeaux

The two main entertainment spots are: (1) Formerly inhabited by wine merchant warehouses, the docks (les quais) are now home to gardens, bike and skate paths, boutiques, museums, cafés, bars and restaurants. (2) La Victoire is the other area for entertainment: Historical monuments meet student life and bars. Most of the pubs and bars of the town are here. Virtually, all the shops in the surroundings of this area are bars.

Bordeaux City’s Vineyards

The outskirts of the city of Bordeaux are the birthplace of the phenomenal Bordeaux wine boom. It was here – in the Graves - that the region first gained its reputation, as early as the 14th century – hundreds of years before Dutch wine merchants and producers drained the marshes of the Medoc. In the Middle Ages, much of the Claret - as red Bordeaux is called in the United Kingdom - shipped to London was grown within in easy distance to the Quai de Chartrons in Bordeaux.

For centuries, Graves encompassed all the vineyards south of the border with the Medoc, in a great sweep around the city of Bordeaux with the exception of the sweet wine appellations of Sauternes, Cerons and Barsac, which are nestled within the boundaries of the Graves, but are independently recognized because of their outstanding noble-sweet white wines. But in 1987, the Pessac-Leognan appellation was carved out of the northern end of the Graves, encompassing Graves’ most respected producers.  The four key producers in Pessac-Leognan are Haut-Brion, La Mission Haut-Brion (both in American hands), Laville Haut-Brion and Pape Clement (named after Pope Clement V, who ordered its original vineyards to be planted in the 14th century).

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller at Chateau Haut Brion and Chateau Pape Clement

Interestingly, these chateaux are within the city limits of Bordeaux and well within the Bordeaux beltway. This is the most urban wine area I have seen in Bordeaux and perhaps in the whole world. Indeed, the vineyards of Haut-Brion, La Mission Haut-Brion, Laville Haut-Brion and Pape Clement are surrounded by suburban development.

The Quai de Chartons and the Negoicants

Two hundred years ago, négociant offices lined the Quai de Chartrons on the Garonne to allow for easy loading and unloading of wine barrels heading to England, but also to other parts of northern Europe. Few négociants remain in the Chartrons area now, but we plan to visit their modern equivalent, Millésima, at the other end of the city, when we come back in September.

Bar á Vin - The Wine Bar in the Maison de Bordeaux 

An excellent place to enjoy Bordeaux from different regions by the glass is the Bar á Vin, the wine bar in the Maison de Bordeaux (of the Conseil Interprofessionnel Du Vin De Bordeaux (C.I.V.B.)), right across the street from the Tourist Office and just across the tramway tracks from the main Quinconces Square. However, if you interested in wines in the higher price categories, do not go there, as the Bar a Vin only serves Petites Bordeaux.

Pictures: Bar a Vin in Bordeaux

Plateau des Fruits de Mer and Arcachon

Bordeaux City is also an excellent place for fruits de mer. Remember, to the west of Bordeaux is the Atlantic Ocean and the sea-side town of Arcachon, noted for its oyster production. Near Arcachon is the biggest sand dune in Europe.

Picture: Plateau des Fruits des Mers

Hotel de 4 Sœurs, the Opera and Richard Wagner 

We stayed overnight at The Hotel des 4 Sœurs, set in an authentic XVIIIe century bordelais building right next to the Opera. This establishment is a real institution in Bordeaux – Wagner took up residency there in Mai 1850.

Pictures: Bordeaux at Night with the Opera House

In September with the Weinfreundeskreis Hochheim

Picture: Bistro Les Negociants

We will come back to Bordeaux City in September with the Weinfreundeskreis Hochheim, to have lunch at the Bistro Les Negociants and to visit Millésima.

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  1. I should have checked out Max Wine Gallery and Cellar schiller-wine

  2. Le Bistro du Sommelier is the favorite bistro of Susanne Werth-Rosarius, opposite of the Intendant.

  3. Die gehen nämlich am liebsten da essen, wo es nicht nur gutes Essen gibt, sondern auch eine gute Weinkarte. Und im Bistro du Sommelier da ist die Weinkarte super, manchmal, wenn man Glück hat, setzt der Wirt alte Bordeaux auf die Karte, die man sogar noch bezahlen kann.

  4. Auf derselben Straße wie Millésima fast gleich daneben ist übrigens auch ein super Jazz-Lokal (Le Comptoir du Jazz - Restaurant, Bar, Concerts)

    Natürlich kann man in Bordeaux auch in richtigen Restaurants gut essen. Beim Ramses, sagt der Herr susa.

    Und es gibt viele Bars, wo man Wein offen ausgeschenkt bekommt und eine Kleinigkeit dazu essen kann. Und guten Käse gibt es bei Baud et Millet, aber denen ist nicht auszureden, dass man Käse mit Rotwein essen muss. Es gibt aber auch Sauternes da. Und zum Käse kaufen gibt es natürlich nur eine Adresse: Jean d'Alos.

    Apropos Sauternes. Das ist ja der Lieblingswein von meiner Luzie. Und in Sauternes gibt es ein Restaurant, die kochen ein ganzes Menü und dazu gibt es nur Sauternes.

  5. Hier ist das link zum gesammten Posting: