Thursday, October 25, 2007
Bordeaux Wine Harvest—September 22-23
As a traveler who normally shies away from group tours, I’m happy to report that this weekend was a resounding success:
Day One—We assemble for a morning lesson & tasting at the Bordeaux Wine School taught by the cheerful and articulate Jane Anson, a writer for Decanter. Our small group includes a writer and photographer from the U.K.’s Daily Telegraph , adding to the glamour of the trip.
We spend the day in the vineyards of Sauternes, learning about the noble rot that turns plump grapes into shriveled gems of sweetness. After a hearty three course lunch in a charming village restaurant, we tour another vineyard. Then we head home to briefly rest before an alfresco dinner in the stone-paved courtyard of Bordeaux’s elegant Museum of Decorative Arts. There we enjoy a little bites of cheese, meat, seafood, and dessert, all paired expertly with Bordeaux wines. The weather is fine, the food and wine are heaven, and the company is delightful.
Day Two—We rise early to ride through the mists of the Medoc while being entertained by our driver, Henri, a former sommelier to the French prime minister. We meet Marie Lurton, a member of the world-famous Lurton wine family, who challenges us to: Guess the Bordeaux Blend! I wrongly estimate that there is more Cab in a 2006 that turned out to be dominated by Merlot. It’s fun, educational, and alcoholic—what more could you ask of a game?
En route to the next stop, we have our first sighting of the harvest. The air is festive and the pickers include dreadlocked youths pitching grape bunches good-naturedly at each other. Then it’s on to Chateau Paloumey, where winemaker and owner Martine Cazeneuve takes us into the vines to show us how to read the sugar content of grapes with a refractometer.
We lunch at her beautiful, art-filled chateau (the building is more modern California than old world, but is called a chateau nonetheless). The scene: a high-ceiling room with stark white walls, unique china, custom printed menus that detail all the wines we drink, conversations in French, English, and a lot of franglais.
Full of blanquet de veau plus multiple glasses of rose, red, and white wine, we head back to the city of Bordeaux, sated and happy. So, cheers to the Lucien Gabillaud and Cornelia Blume of Vitivinitour for a wonderful weekend.