Learning the Basics of Bordeaux (Slideshow)

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Want to go on a vineyard tour? Take an electric bicycle tour in Bergerac, or a horseback ride in St. Emilion

Education

When embarking on a Bordeaux wine adventure, make sure you have a working knowledge of the local vintages first! Those looking for a thorough and entertaining education should schedule a class at L’Ecole du Vin de Bordeaux. This gorgeous building in the historic district of Bordeaux offers classes for both beginner and more experienced sippers. Learn the difference between the left bank and right bank, figure out what you’ll smell during those wine glass swirls, and learn how Bordeaux became, well, Bordeaux. You’ll also want to take a walking tour of the city and take in the beautiful (and very French) architecture, from the iron balconies to the medieval gates and gorgeous riverside views. 

Château de Rolland

One wine that you will (hopefully) try while you are visiting L’Ecole du Vin in Bordeaux is Château de Rolland. I know that Americans aren’t much for the sweet wines, but one thing you’ll learn at L’Ecole du Vin is how to properly appreciate and pair these lovely beverages! Notes of honey in this wine make it a perfect pairing for something salty like prosciutto or olives, and it is a lovely aperitif.

Château Des Vigiers

Continuing through the French countryside, stop at the gorgeous Château Des Vigiers on your way to Bergerac for a beautiful lunch, a golf game, and/or a glass of delicious wine! Portions of the château date back to the 16th and 12th centuries, and the suites have been recently renovated (they are stunning!) Try their Michelin-starred gourmet restaurant or, if you’re short on time, you can check out their brasserie for a quick bite. 


Local, Sustainable Cuisine

Adventurers in the know will try the Château Des Vigiers 2010 vintage at the château. The crisp, clean finish of this white wine goes exceptionally well with their delicious chicken salad (or everything on the menu… or by itself). All of their food is locally sourced and sustainable, and the chef even provides vegetables from a garden on the premises. 

Cyrano De Bergerac

Visitors to Bergerac, take note: you must learn the real story of Cyrano De Bergerac. If you don’t know it already, your guide will tell you! Bergerac is a picturesque city on the banks of the Dordogne river, replete with history, quaint cobbled streets, and weekly markets (where you can sample pruneax, or cheese, or maybe just everything. I recommend everything.) Ending your tour with a stop at Maison des Vins for a free wine tasting is a must, plus you can put together a box of wine to ship home!

Monbazillac

While in the Bergerac area, definitely make sure you taste one of the many wines produced at Monbazillac (and go to the château while you’re at it, it’s a medieval castle!). This cuvée Marie Louise 2005 was a nutty, sweet wine, perfect for sipping in colder weather. The amber hue was a gorgeous shade that I had never encountered before. 


Luxury Tree House Suites

When you arrive in St. Emilion, you’ll be struck by just how ancient everything is! Cobblestones, Romanesque churches, winding narrow streets... and of course, wine producers everywhere you look. This UNESCO World Heritage site is completely surrounded by vineyards and beautiful views, so make sure you take a walking tour (and a lot of pictures). After your walking tour, you’ll need a spot to stay for the evening, and know this: Anyone can stay in a regular hotel. You should definitely check out Château Franc Mayne and their amazing Swiss chalet-themed luxury tree house suite. Yes, it’s real. Yes, you want to stay there. And yes, the views alone are worth it.  

Natural Wine Cellars

Château Guadet is a must-stop in St.Emilion for a tour and a tasting. The winemaker will show you how the wine is made, where it is aged in barrels, and lead you through a labyrinth of underground caves where the bottles sit awaiting your opener. These caves are a byproduct of limestone removal, which folks built their houses on top of, creating perfect wine cellars. The 2001 vintage was especially lovely and the bottles are available for sale at the end of your tour. 

Horseback Riding

Finally, yes, you can walk around the St. Emilion vineyards. You can bike around the vineyards. But wouldn’t you rather ride a horse through the vineyards? Seriously, what a way to really get into the spirit of your trip! There are also windmills (moulins, as in Moulin Rouge), great views, and an opportunity to meet some locals. 


B-Winemaker

Once you’ve galloped your way through the vineyards, it’s time to sip something to distract you from the legs that will surely be sore on the morrow. The best solution is a trip to B-Winemaker, a wine experience that will leave you with the best souvenir possible: a bottle of custom blended wine. Your teacher has you taste Merlot and Cabernet franc, then helps you to customize a blend, fill and cork the bottle, put on a cap, and print a custom label. The adorable winemakers don’t hurt either, in terms of making this one of the most fun experiences in the area.