by Deirdre Frost–
In the heart of Bordeaux region, the Médoc has many beautiful châteaux that adorn the countryside, but its main focus is its extraordinary wine production. In this rich, fertile land, the wine is the nectar of the gods that can be enjoyed by everyone. The main attraction is the opportunity to meet the winemakers of Bordeaux and to sample the rich, bodied wines that are irresistible to the palate.
Along the country roads, I view vistas of vineyards at every turn. The air is moist and cool – the temperate climate is still ideal for growing, with some vines still laden with grapes. The sandy soil, streaked with mineral deposits, also provides essential elements for growth. The Médoc has a subtle appeal with wine growers as they prepare to give their vines a chance to rest. After the harvest, nature is at ease, providing an opportune time to enjoy the châteaux and terroirs of the region.
As one of the greatest wine regions of the world, Bordeaux became known for its wine, which received its famous classification in 1855 when Napoleon III required the listing of 63 Grand Cru Classes of which 60 were from the Médoc. In its 8 appellations, there are five families of cru where each wine has its own identity and to belong to a family as designated by its classification. The remaining wines have their own classifications, including the wines produced from cooperatives. All of these AOC wines including Médoc, Haut- Médoc, and Margaux, are subject to production regulations from the planting conditions to the fermentation techniques.
Along the scenic Castle Road, I admire the views of some of the most famous châteaux of Margaux, Rothschild Latour and Mouton-Rothschild in the Médoc. Apart from these distinctive châuteax, other larger “houses”, such as the Château Dior, are also noted for attracting famous dignitaries to savor wine in exclusive settings.
Apart from visiting the châuteax, the sheer excitement of the Médoc is to look, feel, and smell a wine and then to deduce the grape and year of production. The first stop on the tour is at the Château Baudan, located about ten miles from Bordeaux. The Château, which takes its name from the village, is owned by a husband and wife team.
In the vineyards, they say, “the grapes are picked from various plots with “some vines over a hundred years old, while their best vines are about 35 years old.” In the huge steel vats, they ferment the grapes and filter the elements. The Château chooses its best vats to combine the qualities of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and other varietals to produce a blend by balancing the different characteristics of each grape variety. Blending different vintages brings complexity and cellaring potential, aroma, as well as adds a touch of vigor, body and characteristic color of a great wine. The proof is in the tasting room and savoring the latest vintage before taking a stroll through the vineyards.
For many wine lovers, wine making is like a passion that one can dream about while sipping a favorite elixir. That passion can be further fueled by taking a tour or lessons on winemaking at the Bordeaux Wine School.
After such an adventure in Bordeaux, it is not surprising to find that wine has a universal appeal that transcends all cultures. But in a real sense, it is possible to find an amazing heritage and to share the common values that allow for wine to be enjoyed on every level.
Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and other varietals to produce a blend by balancing the different characteristics of each grape variety. Blending different vintages brings complexity and cellaring potential, aroma, as well as adds a touch of vigor, body and characteristic color of a great wine. The proof is in the tasting room and savoring the latest vintage before taking a stroll through the vineyards.
At the second destination, the 18th century Château du Taillan is as
stimulating as the first stop, with its imposing park setting. Designated as an historical monument, the estate’s vast tract of land provides a stunning setting, overlooking the vineyards with views of Bordeaux in the distance. A feel of mysticism is felt upon descending the winding staircase to the cellars, which was formerly managed by monks who stored wine in the vaulted underground dating back to the 16th century. In many respects, the Château seems unchanged from monastic days, even though the wine operations are fully modernized. The Château has been purchased by a wine merchant and now it is currently managed by five sisters of the Cruse family.
Passing through this rich, fertile land, the emphasis is not only on the terroirs, but also, the people and their wine. In a tribute to the growers, they have followed the tradition of the land and have optimized the gifts of nature.