For the love of Saint-Émilion

Bonjour de bordeaux, woken up with big expectations of this winery tour, heard so many great things about the vineyards and the wines of Saint-Émilion. The sun is out and we’re craving the strong rays.

The weather has been a bit hit and miss so far, some days are great others are probably on par with the weather of Melbourne at the moment. We have still managed to get our tan on.

We hit the pavement of Rue Sainte-Catherine and are on route to Bordovino’s apartment for our private wine tasting lesson. We organised this because we think we are pretty good at drinking wine but when it comes to the finer details, we could definitely do better.

Bordovino’s apartment is an old heritage building, like most others in Bordeaux it has high ceilings, worn floorboards, limestone exterior and lots of iron and of course completely loaded with wine. The first thing I notice as we enter the wine room is a huge and very creative pendant chandelier made with (probably a couple of hundred) wine glasses. Stephan is our host and it’s clear from the onset that he seriously appreciates his wine and is willing to share this passion with us.

At the beginning, we were tested on our wine knowledge and surprisingly we both scored reasonably well.
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We went on to learn about the colour, smell and taste of wines. Now we can pretend we are experts when sampling wines, the whole sniff and swirl biso has meaning to us now.

We learnt predominantly about the Saint-Émilion region although we touched on the other regions across France. The main focus of our lesson was the Merlot from the right bank of Saint-Émilion and the Cab Sauv from the left bank of Saint-Émilion as these were the two regions we would be visiting on our tour this afternoon.

It was interesting to learn that French wines are labelled by the chateau they are produced rather than the type of wine or grape it is. It would be a matter of having to really know your wine regions in France when deciding which one to drink.

There are approximately 8000 chateaus just in the Saint-Émilion region that produce wine, that’s from growing the grape to labelling the bottle. There are another 2000 private wineries also in this region. That is incredible, you could imagine how much wine just this region can produce.

My main lesson was not to be fooled by the higher the price the better the wine; yes this is the case with some wines such as a magnum but not all. Apparently, it is a matter of individual taste as oppose to the price of the bottle.

In blind sampling a number of different wines, it turned out my preference was the wine with the lowest price #CheapDrunk. Overall we both now have a better understanding and a deeper appreciation of wine.

By lunch time we are pretty merry as the wine flowed all morning. We had lunch at the apartment with our teacher; it was a delicious vegetarian quiche. The French really know how to make a flavoursome savoury pastry.

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Wine room at Bordovino’s apartment

By now we are set to board the tour for the Saint-Émilion wine region, we are joined by six others – five French and one Kiwi lady from London. It’s a chirpy 45 minute trip through the small green towns. Our first stop is Chateau De La Dauphine, it’s a smaller winery with history dating back to 1670.

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Chateau De La Dauphine ~

This winery is in the process of transitioning to a full organic crop and production process to be more environmentally friendly; the transition will take almost three years.

We were taken through the chateau (castle) however the owner who resides permanently in this property was away on business. It’s a grand building made of limestone and is decorated elegantly inside.

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Dining space in the château~

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View of Saint-Émilion town from château de la Dauphine

We then went on to the ruins and Romanesque churches at the petite world heritage listed town of Saint-Émilion. There is lots of local produce lining the steep and narrow laneways of this town.

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From the roof top of Sainte-Émilion

We toured the Eglise collegiale de Saint-Émilion, an ancient old church, we said our prayers and made our donation to this pleasant place in exchange for a pair of sacred rosary beads.

It was time for another du vin (wine) so we headed off to the second winery ~ the Chateau Soutard which prides itself on being one of the regions largest vineyeards.

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Chateau Soutard ~

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Cellar at Chateau Soutard~

It’s a very modern and advanced vineyard, we are taken through the entire process from picking the grapes, to sorting, and then preparing the wine. At the end of the tour we enjoyed wine tasting and Bordovino’s treats.

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Taste testing cellar room at Soutard

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By this stage we are all turning into sleepy heads #MassivePartyAnimals, the break between wineries broke us and we had our first swig at 10am. The wineries were both extraordinary but the content was a little repetitive, we learnt the wine making process – twice!

Unlike other winery tours I’ve been on, Saint-Émilion offered less samples. In conclusion, I’d have to say wine tours are well convened back home, particularly in the Barossa Valley. I’m sure the Aussie drinking culture has shaped the way our tours are presented back home but they do put on ace winery tours. I must add that the French still know how to give their customers a great time.

Our advice would be to do the private wine tasting lesson at Bordovino’s Apartment as this was a great way to really understand the region. Just drive to the region separately and stay in a chateau for a night or two and map out your own winery tour.

Our tour heads back into Bordeaux, the trip is much quieter than the trip out. We are all a little wobbly and knackered.

We have a dinner reservation at Brasserie bordelaise, meant to be pretty swanky, offering good meat, good selection of wine and a nice brasserie style. It’s probably ideal to go home and freshen up before we attempt fine dining but ahhh that was a silly (or wise idea) because we don’t make it to the restaurant.

While Anton has a shower to freshen up, I decide to have a quick 5 min (also known as 8 hour) nap #OutLikeALog. Clearly falling asleep was a much better idea than dinner.. Oops!

A super early start planned for tomorrow morning anyway. Leaving Bordeaux by 6am to travel 6 hours to Paris so it was probably a pretty wise mistake.. X

Anna Owens is the founder of ownsit! A mama working in Community Development and Partnerships Education. Anna is a colour crazy, creativity enthusiast who loves to design, collect shoes, eat & travel.. x

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